Chatbots have become very popular over the past two years. They have found their spot in businesses of all sizes, ranging from Fortune 500s to startups. Their most common use case is to help companies streamline their communications with customers and build better relationships. So, it’s no surprise that you are here trying to learn as much as you can about chatbot creation.
Since creating a bot from scratch is a complex task, especially if you are not using a chatbot platform, you will need to cover some grounds before you start your journey. This is why we are here to give you 5 important things to consider when creating a bot from scratch. For your convenience, we will cover the process of building one from scratch with and without using a chatbot platform.
You Will Have To Master A Few Technologies
Before we dive into the specifics. we have to introduce you to the technologies that stand behind chatbots. First of all, you will need advanced knowledge of AI, machine learning, and Natural Language Processing. You absolutely have to know how to design algorithms to help your chatbot understand the users’ input.
Then, you will have to go through the API’s of the channels that you have to integrate it in. For some channels, you will have to master specific programming languages to make your bot integratable. The most commonly used programming languages for chatbot development are NodeJS, Python, PHP, Java, Objective-C, and C#. For instance, the Facebook platform is chatbot friendly, as it supports chatbots developed in any programming language.
If you don’t want to develop NLP logistics from the ground up, then you will have to learn to use some of the available platforms, such as Watson Conversation, API.AI or WIT.AI. Some of these are more advanced than the others. This is why you should take your learning curve into consideration.
On the other hand, if you decide to use a chatbot platform, you will be able to build bots from scratch without knowing any of these technologies. Don’t get us wrong, they are there, used to power the chatbot platform. But, chatbot platforms are designed to surpass the user’s lack of technical knowledge.
Consider Your Goals
The next item on our list is the goal. Ask yourself a simple question – “What is my chatbot going to do?”. This will help you construct the conversation flow for the best user experience possible and it is incredibly important, as it will help your chatbot appear more human and more helpful.
You also have to consider the channels where you are going to integrate your chatbot. Every specific channel, including Skype, Slack, Facebook, Viber, Telegram, and others, has its unique set of functionalities. You will have to take all these functionalities into consideration in order to enable your chatbot and users to completely take leverage of all the available options.
This is where chatbot platforms really excel. Each one of these platforms has a list of supported channels in their specifications. This means that chatbots built this way can be completely integrated to the supported channels and used with all the available functionalities.
Creating A Chatbot From Scratch Takes Time
When you take a look at the technologies that stand behind chatbots when developing a bot for specific uses and for specific channels, one thing is very clear – creating a chatbot from scratch will definitely take a big chunk of your time.
You will have to develop your chatbot, add the required code for channel integration, connect your bot to external databases, and fine-tune your conversation flow. After you are done, you will have to put your chatbot to the test, and then go back to make adjustments and apply hotfixes.
Chatbot platforms, in contrast, are ease of use. They help people create chatbots very efficiently. Some of them even come with dozens of prebuilt chatbot templates that you can use, or you can make your own adjustments. Creating a chatbot in this fashion is much quicker, and, as you will see, way friendlier for your budget.
The Budget Might Become A Problem
We can’t go on without considering the cash problem. Creating a bot from scratch is a project that has to be supported with a healthy budget. You will have to hire a few specialists to get the ball rolling, and for that, you will have to set substantial resources aside.
The problem is that chatbot development may take a while, and what if your budget drains midway, and you are left with unusable chunks of code. Developing a chatbot can take well above 500 hours of hard coding work, which may end up costing you more than $20,000. Keep in mind that this chatbot is only integratable with Facebook’s Messenger. Making it integratable to other channels will add even more costs.
Chatbot platforms are budget-friendly, and some of them even offer free chatbots.
Choosing The Best Chatbot Platform
As you might have picked up, the common denominator in our article is the advantage of using a chatbot platform. Unless you are in need of a completely custom chatbot solution, chatbot platforms will enable you to create one fast, even if you are on a budget. The only problem is that there are many chabot platforms available online, which makes it very hard for people to pick the best one.
In order to pick the best chatbot platform, you should take the following things into consideration:
- Ease of use
- Number of supported channels
- Access to prebuilt chatbot templates
- Customization options
As you can see, there are two paths that you can take on your journey to create a bot. But whether you choose to create one by coding it from scratch, or you use a chatbot platform to build it from scratch, you will have to consider the chatbot purpose and how it reflects on your customers’ needs and your business goals. There are many platforms out there, my own preference is for SnatchBot, mainly for the multiple channels that it supports, but also for ease of use.