The A to Z of Chatbot Design: How to Plan Your Chatbot

As human beings, when we encounter someone or something for the first time, we form an instant impression within one-tenth of a second. When we meet a person, it’s their personality that makes an impression from the first meeting. And since chatbots are the digital equivalent of a human representative for a business, it takes just as much time to form an impression. From its layout and name to the language it uses, the chatbot design is integral to driving a lasting connection with customers. 

Building Versus Designing a Chatbot 

But, hold up!

Designing a chatbot is not the same as building one, though some people confuse the two. Building a chatbot involves the technology required to create the chatbot’s capabilities. You may need to code or use a pre-existing algorithm to create the chatbot barebones, figure out the extent of AI and NLP processes, etc. Building a chatbot can be an expensive and laborious process. 

On the other hand, chatbot design is all about articulating the details that will impact the user interface, i.e., what your customer sees and interacts with. It happens once you have a chatbot solution integrated into your website. Chatbot design involves making decisions about how the chatbot will look, the menus, choices, and buttons that will show up, the script for the conversation, and other such customer experience intricacies that offer value. 

For businesses that do not want to get into the technical nitty-gritty of chatbot building and want to focus on the conversational interface instead, buying a pre-built chatbot is the smart idea. Pre-built chatbots integrate with your website, mobile applications, or social media platforms like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp. They are also low-cost and can be set up within minutes. (Yes! You read that right.)

The Pre-Design Decisions 

Before jumping into chatbot design and conversational interface details, there are certain business decisions you will have to make about your chatbot. 

1.Decide on the chatbot’s purpose.

For one, you have to decide the purpose of your chatbot. Do you want to integrate sales functions, generate leads, and gather market information through chatbot messaging? Do you want to automate routine HR functions? Do you want it just for customer support? Identifying these key purposes will help design the functionality of the bot and also track whether the chatbot is delivering the expected results.

2. Identify customer conversations to automate

After deciding its purpose, you then need to match your chatbot’s functionalities with customer needs. Market research, identifying patterns in customer behavior, and directly talking to your customers to understand their needs and preferences can make it easier to design your chatbot. For instance, a study from Business Insider found that 45% of customers don’t differentiate between a human agent or a chatbot as long as the service is quick, accurate, and effective. This means that perhaps your chatbot’s design should help with speedy support rather than engaging in lengthy conversations. 

Depending on your bot’s purpose and customer needs, you can then decide on the kind of bot you want. You can choose two types of chatbots for your business: rule-based chatbots or AI chatbots. 

  • Rule-Based Chatbots follow a pre-designed workflow or a set of rules to lead conversations. Based on the rules and the problem presented, the chatbot then provides solutions. Rule-based chatbots automate routine and repetitive tasks. They are highly customizable and integrate across platforms. These bots can use simple or complex rules and even redirect conversations to agents. However, rule-based chatbots are limited by the rules or information you feed them. They cannot answer questions outside the box.  
  • AI Chatbots are ‘smart’ bots because they use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP) to provide intuitive solutions to customers. AI chatbots can understand the context and intent of conversations. They use past and present information to offer relevant solutions in everyday human language. For instance, Freddy Answers by Freshworks is an answer bot that can be used for FAQs. Freddy picks up on specific trigger words to lead intuitive conversations. Like other AI chatbots, Freddy learns with every interaction and can train to perform better with every new conversation. 

Freddy Answers

3. Select key pages to apply bots.

Next, you need to decide where you want to position your chatbot. For instance, customer service chatbots that answer FAQs are best integrated into high-traffic pages like your website’s landing page or products page. These chatbots may also work well as omnichannel support bots, providing automated customer assistance via social media platforms like Facebook Messenger. Sales bots can be placed on high-conversion pages. 

A chatbot’s design will depend upon its purpose, audience, and placement. Getting these fundamentals right is essential for making design decisions, ensuring that you have these sorted out before you go to the design board.

Chatbot design steps to follow

Designing your chatbot’s user interface does not have to be complicated. As already mentioned above, companies offering pre-built chatbots allow you to get your bot up and running within 30 minutes! If you understand your business and target audience, creating a chatbot design can be relatively simple. 

Here’s a 7-step process that your team can use to get the design just right for your business:

1. Create a Personality

Research indicates that consumers want to message with chatbots to mimic human conversations as closely as possible. Giving your chatbot a personality can create a human-like persona for them. Since the chatbot represents your business, keeping in mind your business goals and corporate identity can be useful while crafting the chatbot’s personality. Some of the things to think about are:

  • Name: Naming your chatbot makes emotional connection easier and also helps with brand association. For instance, when someone says Siri, you automatically think of Apple. 
  • Characteristics: Think of what traits you want your business to reflect through your chatbot: polite, witty, professional, or laid-back. 
  • Background Story: Give your chatbot a background story, like the location of origin, to make the association more effective. 

Chatbot design personality

Example of Freshworks’ Freddy Bot.


2. Get the Tone and Language Right

Outlining a chatbot personality is one thing, but bringing it to life is another. When trying to make your chatbot’s conversational interface human-like and easy, language is critical. Decisions like whether you want your chatbot to converse in a standard tongue or be multilingual and whether you want conversations to seem professional or breezy can impact the user experience. 

Also, language decisions will depend upon the platform where your chatbot will appear. For instance, a retail company’s chatbot could use emojis and abbreviations, while a banking website’s bot may need to be a little more formal. 

3. Choose the Workflows and Scripts 

Determining workflows and chatbot messaging scripts are among the most important aspects of chatbot design. Your chatbot design team will need to outline a rough script for discussions within your chatbot’s scope. This will involve drafting responses to different scenarios. Bring your UX/UI designers into the discussion to get their perspective on how to create a workflow that fits your website’s flow. Alternatively, if you have a Knowledge base (Kbase) on hand, integrate it to your chatbot. The bot will learn directly from the KBase and offer customers the answers they are looking for.

For example, a customer service chatbot could provide a menu of the most common customer queries after greeting the customer to help move the conversation forward with minimum effort on the part of the customer. Following this, a conversation flow of solution options needs to be scripted for each option. In case the complaint is not listed, the bot could provide an option to redirect to a customer executive. 

4. Pick Tools and Elements

Whether your chatbot is rule-based or AI-driven, there are many tools and elements you can incorporate into your chatbot’s design to improve user experience. A quick reply tool can allow your customer to provide an instant response with a single click. Menus, buttons, cards, and even emojis can be response tools integrated into your chatbot for a hassle-free user interface. You can also add calendar integrations to directly book appointments with customers. Businesses like Klarna offer payment options using chatbots. Identify tools that can scale capabilities this way you are automating routine processes. 

5. Make way for hand-offs

No matter how smart or advanced your chatbot is, there will always be some queries that it may not be able to answer or is outside its scope. In such cases, you need to think about how to serve your customers best. A chatbot design should include different redirection options. This could be handing over to a human agent or redirecting to a complaint form where the customer can explain their concern in detail. A support executive could then take over from there. 

6. Incorporate Performance Measurement Metrics

Apart from messaging and conversations, the chatbot’s design should also make it possible to evaluate its effectiveness. Once the chatbot is up and running, you should monitor whether it is meeting the purpose for which it was created and how customers perceive it. A chatbot that clocks metrics like average resolution time effectively closed tickets and average deflection rate can help determine its success. 

7. Follow-up on bot performance

Based on the feedback you receive from customers, as well as your performance metrics, you may need to modify your chatbot to make it more effective. For instance, if you find high chat abandonment at one particular stage in the chat flow, you should be able to modify the chat script without throwing the whole flow out of balance. 

Designing a chatbot doesn’t have to be a tedious process. Customers who use Freshchat can have a chatbot go live in 30 minutes. With Freshchat you can navigate an easy and user-friendly process that will get you asking the right questions and help you reach the customer in no time. Try out Freshchat’s chatbots today!