Most of the time, when you’re visiting a website and seeking for help, a small box pops up on your screen to answer any questions you may have. This is called a chatbot. But have you ever wondered if the agent you’re talking to is a human or a robot? Sometimes it’s hard to tell. Thanks to AI, chatbots are becoming increasingly popular among various companies. They enable businesses to speed up their response time and to offer 24/7 customer support. Plus, replacing human agents with bots can considerably reduce customer-service costs.
What Are Chatbots?
A chatbot is an AI-driven service that acts as a human in order to simulate a human conversation. In other words, chatbots analyze user messages, infer what they mean and try to provide a correct answer to their questions. There are two main types of chatbots:
- Customer-service bots: These chatbots answer your customer’s questions at any time of the day. They provide customers with consistent 24/7 customer service and never keep a single user waiting. A few examples of these chatbots include Vonage Vee, adidas Women, UPS virtual assistant, etc.
- Interaction bots: In contrast to the previous type which only offers off-hour customer support, these chatbots do way more than that. They don’t just answer your customer’s questions. In fact, they help them through the buying process. These chatbots are usually integrated within a social media platform (Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Twitter, etc.) or within an application. Let me give you some examples. Hipmunk is an interaction bot available on Skype, Slack and Facebook Messenger that helps you find the best flights and hotels. Domino’s Pizza bot is an interaction bot which allows users to order pizza. Also, Duolingo offers a native chatbot in its app to help users learn conversational skills and practice what they’ve learned.
Tips for Enhancing the Usability of Chatbots
Generally, people prefer interacting with an actual human being rather than a robot. Because they cannot engage with bots the same way they do with real people. Chatbots can only understand sentences with certain keywords and can’t answer specific questions. That’s why, some businesses let their customers think that they’re chatting with a human not a robot. But this is not good at all. If a person knows that he’s talking to a robot, he’ll change the way he speaks. He’ll use sentences with simple structures and ask direct questions.
Due to the advancements in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, chatbots are becoming smarter. But they’re not usable enough. Jakob Nielsen has introduced 10 heuristic principles for enhancing the usability of a product. Here, we explain some of these tactics so that you can make your chatbot much easier to use.
1. Visibility of System Status
The system status should be constantly visible to the user. Users need to know what the bot is doing and whether or not it’s processing their requests. This will lead to a more interactive communication between the user and the chatbot. But keep in mind that displaying too much information is confusing. So, try to show what really matters to the user.
2. Match between System and the Real World
The chatbot should use simple sentences so that the user can completely understand the process and follow the information given by the chatbot. Using technical words makes everything more complex. In addition, the system should be designed in a way that conforms to real world conventions. Showing the available options at every stage of interaction with the bot and displaying buttons instead of commands make you closer to the physical experience.
3. User Control and Freedom
No matter what kind of app or website you’re designing, creating a “back” or “cancel” button on the screen is a must. Due to multiple factors, a user may click the wrong button or choose the wrong option. You don’t want your users to get stuck somewhere they didn’t want to. An extra step allows users to go back and correct their missteps.
4. Error Prevention
It’s pretty normal for users to make a mistake. A chatbot should be smart enough to detect these mistakes and prevent potential errors. Typos or misspelled words are common types of mistakes made by users.
5. Recognition Rather Than Recall
A basic principle of UX design is to make everything much easier for the user by minimizing user work. Thus, a usable chatbot doesn’t make users remember stuff. Instead, it focuses on recognition by displaying the available commands. So, all they have to do is recognize what they want.
6. Flexibility and Efficiency of Use
You should create a chatbot that is usable for both novice and experienced users. To do so, create some shortcuts to accelerate the interaction with the chatbot. Shortcuts enable experienced users to immediately achieve their goals by skipping the unnecessary steps.
7. Aesthetic and Minimalistic Design
Making small talk with the user helps you establish a strong identity. But try not to show too much irrelevant information because it’s confusing and causes the user to lose focus on important data.
8. Help and Documentation
Every website or application needs a comprehensive documentation to help users with their questions. A usable chatbot should be able to answer user queries and provide useful information. However, sometimes users might ask very specific questions. Most of the chatbots cannot give answers beyond what they’ve learned. In this case, it’s better to switch to a human assistance to help them.