App Developer Challenges: Writing Helpful Bot Dialogue

November 4, 2016 - 3 minutes read


The chatbot trend has been burning for a while now, and one of the biggest challenges facing app developers who jump into the fray isn’t entirely a question or programming. Instead, it’s a question of writing.

Dialogue isn’t simple, and the trope of the anti-social hoodie-and-flip-flops San Francisco app developer doesn’t exactly lend itself to designing killer conversations. Specialized companies have cropped up to meet this demand, but startup founders and app developers don’t have to break the bank to come up with personable, helpful chatbot content. Especially if chatbot functionality isn’t central to the app, following standard writing best-practices can help make sure your bot endears itself to users rather than scaring them away.

Write like you’re a human

The golden rule of writing isn’t to have a big vocabulary, or even spell properly: it’s simply to write like you’re a person. It’s easy to go into “customer service” mode when programming conversational apps (or just writing emails to customers for that matter), but paying attention to the tone of your sentences will pay off in the long run.

To test yourself, just read what you’re writing out loud. Is that how you’d talk in real life to a friend? If not, how would you say it? Chances are the way you would speak a phrase is better than the way you would write one for a robot. Needless to say, the language you use to explain concepts to fellow app developers in GitHub comments probably isn’t the best choice either.

Brevity, Specificity, and Personality

App developers are coders: they aren’t scared of complexity. Your app’s users, however, are probably terrified of it. The best way to keep things simple will be to make sure every message that reaches them through the interface is short, specific, and expresses your brand’s unique personality.

Check out Mailchimp’s content style guide for a great example of how a brand can take this philosophy to the nth degree and craft incredible, useful, consistent customer experiences.

App developers who follow this advice are sure to see much higher success as they dive into the expanding world of chatbot development.

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