Designing a fake chatbot

Posted 4 years ago

It’s hard to avoid chatbots these days. A lot of the mainstream media have jumped on the bot bandwagon and are already predicting the end of apps in favour of bots. Although I doubt this is true, I love the premise of natural language interfaces replacing old hat design patterns.

Chatbots feel like information architecture boiled down to something completely accessible – a tool that can be used by everyone from the tech industry to your Nanna who just got an iPad for Christmas.

 

Expressing yourself with a bot

I noticed a few designers using chatbots on their personal websites, which I thought was an awesome way to express yourself in a simple, digestible format with only images and text. As smartphone addicts, we’re glued to instant messaging so chatbot interactions feel very personal despite their automation.

 

Introducing my hand-built bot

I recently released my new about page which transformed my vanilla bio into a semi-interactive chatbot. I spent more time than I’d admit getting the nuances of the chatbot correct – from the copy and emojis used to the delay between typing a message and sending the message.

Considering the popularity of bots at the moment, I figured someone had already built a basic version in plain Javascript. I couldn’t find anything dead-simple enough online so I considered the logic involved in an online chat and set out to build a prototype.

 

Fake it ’til you make it

The design of my bot is dead-simple and in no way could it be called artificial intelligence, but the message behind it is sincere.

First an iOS style text message appears to the visitor and then they’re prompted with two possible responses to the message. Selecting one of these responses pushes you down one of two paths. As scalability wasn’t a factor, each path consists of only 5 or 6 responses and then the conversation ends.

My chatbot is not even comparable to the incredible technology out now but simply replicating the functionality allowed me to fake my own digital doppelgänger.