The Bot Revolution has stalled. The experience needs to get better.
Editor’s note: This guest column was written by Applause co-founder and general manager of emerging market products Roy Solomon.
Bots are all the rage this year.
Often called “conversational agents” or “dialog systems,” researchers and programmers around the world are creating assistants. The new army of bots help people with tasks like travel arrangements, finding food, live music and more. The biggest technology companies—Facebook, Google, Microsoft—are investing in bots.
Despite the hysteria, bots are already viewed as a disappointment. In a recent article in The Financial Times, bots were described as, “the most over-hyped technology of 2016.”
Conversational agents have not quite made it. If we placed bots on the Gartner Hype Cycle, they would have moved from the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” to the “Trough of Disillusionment” in less than six months. Every push by bots to infiltrate mainstream technology has met with strong resistance.
People don’t know how to use bots. They don’t like using them or simply feel that they did not work well. Systems that seem smart one minute, fall completely flat the next minute.
Because of these issues—real or perceived—there is a possibility that bots will soon make an ungraceful and premature exit from the technological lexicon.
Not all is lost for bots. A number of companies are proving that, by incorporating some key user experience principles, creators can ensure that people will continue to use bots in 2017.
Here are three key usability principles to improve the digital experience of bots.
- Clearly Explain What The Bot Can Do For You
The purpose of any product must be clear to the user. If it is not, people will not use it.
For instance, The Horoscope Bot description (right) explains exactly what the bot has to offer. Interested people understand the value proposition (horoscopes) and are more inclined to install it.
- Be Intuitive, Especially For First Time Bot Users
Familiarity boosts confidence. If you accomplish a task with a product that seems familiar and similar to other products you are used to, the prospect of employing the new technology is not as daunting.
Using a bot for the first time is chartering into unknown territory. People may not have any idea about how they should interact with this strange new thing. That uncertainty reduces the likelihood people will use it.
Copa Airlines’ Ana bot is a virtual assistant that, “lets you ask questions using everyday language.”