Ever since I wrote my post What is Conversation Design and How To Design You Chatbot, I’ve been receiving emails and DMs from people wanting to know more (hey, I did ask for that at the bottom of the article). I‘ve been enjoying connecting with people from different experiences, and really excited to see the future of the field, especially the talent, develop. It also made me think a bit more about my process, the type of designers I’d want to hire, and what I’d recommend for those just starting out. Here’s my list:
- Read this book. Designing Bots is a digestible, comprehensive guide to what works and what doesn’t. It takes a look at bot anatomy, best practices, use cases, bot personality, and steps to building a Facebook and Slack bot. Written by Amir Shevat, Head of Developer Relations at Twitch (formerly at Slack) who wrote his first bot in 1999, and was responsible for teaching developers the best ways to build bots for Slack. Talk about experienced. This books is basically my bible, and it really helps new conversation designers get up to speed quickly.
- Use a few bots (okay, a lot of bots). One great way to figure out what kind of designer you are is to see what’s out there. There are so many Facebook, SMS and Slack Bots in the wild, all with different uses and (we hope) different personalities. Similar to when you’re creating a brand personality on social media and you check out who’s doing it right and who’s not, seeing best practices in practice will help you notice patterns and see where you could improve a conversational experience. Right now, a few of my favorites on Facebook are HGTV, Golden State Warriors and eBay Shop Bot. On Slack, try Poncho, Lunch Train and Niles. And for SMS, try BarkBox by texting DOODY to 79987. I’m not making that up.
- Pick something you actually want to use. Assuming you first bot will be by you, for you, pick something you are interested in. What do you already have the answers for? For example, I created a Facebook bot for my workouts, since it was something I already had all written out, and I was sick of looking at PDFs on my phone at the gym. Since it was something just for me and not a client, I could also get as wild as I wanted to with the personality, which we all know, is very wild. Writing what you know, especially in you first few bots, will make it easier to find your flow, and be able to experiment creatively.
- Create your personality guide. This is a new one for me. As I begin working on a lot more “fun bots” for personal use, and new projects for Black Ops, having a distinct and documented personality for every single one has become more and more important. I built a Canva template to sketch out the personality and functions of each bot, and I like to think of this as the guiding light for designing the conversation. I always try to create a “character” for social channels and bots I create, but having it documented with real personality attributes and inspirational images makes it that much easier to know what they would say, and how they would say it.
- Find your flow. You did all of the background work, and now it’s time to write! There’s many different ways to draft a script, some people use word documents, I use a Google Sheets template, and there are a few mock up sites like Bot Mock and Bot Society that lay it out in a more “real” way.
Build your prototype. No coding experience needed. For simple Facebook bots (which is what platform I’d recommend you start with), Chatfuel allows you to write and publish a bot fairly easily. I wouldn’t recommend using this for any clients or major projects, but if you’re looking to go from zero to bot quickly, Chatfuel is an easy, beginner friendly way to get there. It’s also important to note that these bots will say “Made with Chatfuel” for free accounts so again, not for clients, just for fun.
Use it. Keep using it. Like you did with step 2, the best way to learn how to write a bot is to use them. Testing and using your bot in real life will allow you to make changes, figure out where a user (yourself) get stuck, and improve your strategy.
♻️ _Repeat _♻️ Keep building them on and on and on forever. And share them with me! I love testing new bots, so feel free to tweet me your links at @internethillary.