5 Oswald chatbot UI / UX best practices

Chatbots 5 min read

Creating a chatbot can be a time-consuming task, but using the following best practices, you will save yourself a lot of trial and error. As chatbot developers, we have bumped into several ways to optimize your chatbot. Let's dig in!

1. Personify your bot

"Personality begins where comparison ends." - Karl Lagerfeld

Keep that in mind, because it does not only apply to fashion. If you want to differentiate from other chatbots, or other companies in general, make sure your bot has a certain personality that matches your organization. First of all, start by putting a name and a face on your bot. If you're having trouble with figuring out a personality, you can use a Chatbot Design Canvas to help you with giving your chatbot the personality that it needs. This will help them find their voice.

For example, the profile image you pick for your bot helps create certain perceptions in the user's eyes. So, what works best? The answer is simple: profile images of faces. This doesn't mean that it has to be a human face, but just something the user can actually talk to. For example: our Oswald has a face, but it is still an inanimate object. We even created a whole family, with each member having its own face, name and personality, as you can see below. Another tip for creating a personality: you can easily create your own (free!) bot personality via the blobmaker.

The Oswald chatbot family
The Oswalds - each bot has a personality

2. Don't trigger tl;dr

If your messages result in a 'too long, didn't read' reaction when customers are using your chatbot, you will need to change the length of your messages in order to make sure users read everything you say. Never fall in the TMI (too much information) trap. When a user has to scroll up to see a part of the message and they decide not to scroll, they might miss a vital piece of info. The overall guidelines for the maximum amount of characters are simple:

  • No more than 90 characters per message: this is the equivalent of three lines on a mobile device
  • The optimal amount of characters is less than 60 characters per message, which is about two lines on a mobile device
  • If you send multiple sequential messages, they shouldn't add up to more than 140 characters at a time: the Twitter rule

So remember: if your audience has to scroll up, this instantly triggers tl;dr. Keep these simple rules in mind and avoid a piece of information being ignored or simply missed.

Chatbot message length
TL;DR - the optimal amount of text

3. Test your chatbot

Testing your chatbot on different devices is a must-do. This way, you can further avoid 'tl;dr' as you can make sure your users don't need to scroll to read all of your messages. When testing your chatbot, you need to keep in mind that users often have their keyboard pulled up in mobile devices. This results in only half of the phone screen being available for messages. Make sure your first message fits on half a screen. This means you need to test for Android and Apple mobile devices and also on laptops and tablets.

4. Emphasize that they are dealing with a bot

When a user starts a conversation with your chatbot, they must be aware that they are not talking to an actual human being. If they are not aware, they might not forgive you for certain mistakes, like not knowing something or phrasing something in a certain way. When the customer knows he or she is dealing with a bot, it makes them a bit more forgiving. So, at the beginning of your conversation, just simply mention 'Hi, I'm James, and I'm a chatbot'. Doing that could avoid a lot of frustration.

Chatbot emphasizing him being one
It's as simple as this!

5. Be funny, but not too funny

Only use wit and humor when it's appropriate. If you're building a chatbot for an insurance company, it probably isn't the best idea to build a funny bot, because the matters discussed are probably pretty formal. However, if humor is appropriate, make sure to use it. This further extends the personality you're trying to create for your chatbot. In addition, don't be afraid to use emoji's, stickers or even gifs if that fits your brand and chatbot personality. This only further expands the likability of your chatbot and will increase customer satisfaction. When your chatbot doesn't know the answer, he could result to wit and humor which (hopefully) makes the client less frustrated.

If you implement these 5 best practices, the customer experience you deliver will improve and people will be happy to use your bot more, which results in less human takeover.

Other important practices

Some other practices you might want to consider implementing:

  • Increase the wait time with each additional message. This gives users the time to read the first message. It's very distracting for users when sequential messages are sent too quickly and if they have to read a lot in a short amount of time. To indicate that another messages will follow, use typing indicators.
  • Use all the data you can access without the user having to manually send them. Examples of such data are geolocation, time and date. Adding this to your bot and adjusting your conversation, and therefore your answers, accordingly, increases the ease of dealing with a chatbot.
  • Be honest when the chatbot doesn't understand something. Indicate that it doesn't have an answer when it has reached its limits. Then, offer an escape hatch like human takeover or an FAQ.

A time will come when users won't even notice that they are talking to a chatbot, but for now, just implement these practices for a good user experience. If you want to know more about chatbots, check out our site.

oswald chatbots mobile NLP
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