Chatbot Development, Frameworks and Tools

How to Design and Write a Chatbot in 10 Steps

Before you’re ready to have automated conversations with your customers at scale, you should ask yourself how exactly do you take your idea and turn it into a real chatbot? Here are the 10 steps you should take to go from idea to working chatbot prototype that’s ready to be built.

By Hillary Black
September 21, 2020

One question that comes up a lot when a business or organization wants to create a chatbot is how exactly do you take your idea and turn it into a real chatbot? Before you’re ready to have automated conversations with your customers at scale, there’s a process of strategy, conversation design, and testing that needs to happen. Here are the 10 steps you should take to go from idea to working chatbot prototype that’s ready to be built.

1. Define the purpose.

This is the most important thing to determine for your chatbot. Why are you creating a bot in the first place? If you are taking an existing interaction or process and automating it, what is that current experience like, and how could a bot help the customer or improve the process?

2. Define the goal.

Now that you understand the why, what will this bot do? What is the valuable outcome that a user will gain by interacting with it? It is essential to define your chatbot strategy before the writing begins, so you know exactly what the bot will do and why that goal is important.

3. Outline the steps.

With that end goal, work backward to determine all of the steps necessary to reach that goal. You can likely gain the information from the business website, sales materials, interviews with customers or sales agents, etc.

4. Define the audience and personality.

In order to design an experience that converts, it's crucial to know what the user wants and what their sentiment will be during the interaction. To connect with the audience, you have to know them! How do they buy? What are their challenges? How familiar are they with your topics? These are all questions you will need to answer.

5. Map the flows.

Create a visual guide of your steps, and fill in the ways these connect to each other. The main goal with creating a flow map is to visualize how a user would go from entry to exit and where they might want to—or be able to—cross paths into other flows. There are several tools you can use to easily create a flow map that represents your chatbot user journey. My two favorites are draw.io and Lucidchart.

6. Write the key flows (Hello, Main, Outcome).

With these conversations design best practices in mind, it’s time to write! Begin with the most necessary parts of your chatbot conversation, and write the beginning-to-end "ideal" experience. This will also help you discover offshoot flows you need to add. I’ve created an online template for writing all of the dialogue for your chatbot, including these flows, but you may want to write yours in another internal tool or document, depending on your specific needs.

7. Write the secondary flows (other answers to main questions, about, contact, etc.).

When writing the main flows (and in your flow map), you will notice there are many points where flow needs to extend to offer another path, if a user selects a different answer. After you create the main flows, go back and fill in anything that is currently a dead end and make sure all of your flows connect.

8. Create a demo/prototype.

Turn your 2D writing into a working, 3D conversation. Creating a video mockup or working example of a chatbot is the best way to illustrate the experience and demonstrate it for your team. Use a tool, like Botmock or Botsociety, to easily create a working demo so you can see how the conversation really flows.

9. Edit the experience.

After using your prototype and sharing it with your team, you've likely uncovered messages that are too long, along with dead ends or pathways that don't make sense. As necessary, go back and edit the copy to make sure it’s as effective as possible.

10. Test the experience.

You can continue to test the experience in a prototype mode or in a production-ready bot. Repeat this as necessary. There are a few different ways to test a chatbot (or a prototype) before you release it out into the world. There is role-playing, usability testing, or getting user feedback from other chatbot professionals online. Once you have an experience you are happy with, it’s a good idea to test it with a small group of customers and scale up to something that’s available for everyone to use.

Once you have completed these steps, you are ready to build and release a chatbot. You should feel confident that the experience will be enjoyable for the customers and help the business reach its goals.

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