If you’re building a conversational bot…Don’t

To all the smart people out there building or thinking to build conversational bots to order Pizza, buy clothes, reserve tables at restaurants, book flights or get something from someone…I have an advice for you. Don’t do it.

Your conversational app will not be very innovative or usable. Ordering a pizza using text messages is not really improving something. I can call to my local Pizza Shop and get my order in less than 30 seconds, or go to JetRadar and book the cheapest available flight in less than 1 minute or open Yelp look for the best Sushi Restaurant, check the menu, place a call and reserve a table in less than 2 minutes…

Just because Slack is cool and typing commands makes us feel like hackers, doesn’t mean that we should build a command line for everything…There’s a reason why modern operating systems don’t look like MS-DOS and why we use computer mouses and touch devices to interact with computers/phones. Believe it or not, someone created those things because interacting with a computer by just using a keyboard is kind of hard.

Want to build an amazing conversational bot?

  1. Don’t wrap a usable experience with an unusable one.
  2. Understand that users don’t want to type and even if they do they actually want to chat with family, friends and colleagues, not necessarily with a bot. So maybe try to create something that helps people to run some errands by chatting with others on their behalf. We would type less and enjoy more.
  3. Find real problems that are not related with commerce. There’s a huge world out there with really bad problems. Maybe we should build a bot for emergencies or a bot for education (Around 70% of the phones in Africa are “dumb” phones with only SMS capabilities. They could really benefit from some of these bots).
  4. By all means build something. But please, build something meaningful.