How to bot... a UX teardown of the Botcamp application


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The featured image for this blog post.

Last night around 3 a.m., I was doing some research into chatbots and the bot ecosystem. Why? Because yesterday I started working on building a bot for an upcoming blog post and I have an addictive personality. I was thinking a lot about creative ways we could expand and eventually monetize our bot and on a whim I decided to apply with one of those ideas to the Betaworks Botcamp program.

Botcamp is a 10 week accelerator program for startups focused on building bots. The program provides seed capital, resources like office space, and access to an incredible network of early adopters and mentors from companies like Twitter, Slack, Facebook, etc. Just go read the full list on their website; it’s super impressive.

Naturally, you apply to Botcamp through a chatbot (how many times am I going to use the word bot in this post?*). So today I thought it would be fun to do a quick UX teardown of their application.

First, I want to make it clear that this is all in good fun. Betaworks is an awesome company that does really impressive work, and the overall application process was super easy. Also one caveat, the Betaworks application is built on top of Converse seems like an awesome tool to build a simple automated chat workflow, but I’m admittedly doing this teardown with no knowledge of its limitations.

Also yes, this is my actual application. Feel free to steal it (or mock it) if you want.

The Teardown

Right off the bat we run into a negative experience. Until the conversation begins, we have no way of knowing what commands or keywords we need to use, so using the wrong phrase is almost guaranteed. A better first impression might be something as simple as “Oh, hi there!” Instead of, “Sorry, I don’t know that phrase,” which makes me feel like I messed up.

Takeaway: Pay extra attention to the first interaction you have with your user.

That said, the instructions for how to proceed are clear, we aren’t overwhelmed with options, and they do a good job of building on the camp brand.

Takeaway: Provide the user a limited set of commands at first, and let them discover more as they need them.

There’s an easy missed opportunity here to make the interaction feel more personal by including my name that I just provided.

Takeaway: When possible, personalize your responses, people always love hearing their name.

It’s interesting that it doesn’t require my response to be a link. I appreciate being able to proceed with the process without providing a link, and maybe this isn’t super important. But I immediately wonder if my application will be tossed out of I don’t have a link to a prototype.

Oh well. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Again, I’m a little surprised that this goes on without asking for any more information. Was I supposed to respond with information about who my co-founders are? If so, validation would again be helpful without the visual cues from a standard web form to tell us what is required.

But the flow of the conversation feels pretty natural so far, so good job there! 👍

“Oh, nice” feels a little subdued. I just finished the longest part of the application, throw me an exclamation point or emoji, or just leave it off. But I’m being super nitpicky here.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to go overboard with positive encouragement (within reason).

There’s my exclamation point! And oh boy, an Easter egg. Now we’re talking.

I wonder if I correctly guessed the command or if it would have responded the same way to anything.

Your jokes are almost as bad as mine Campbot…

Annnnddddddd… you leave me with that damn default “Unknown Phrase” response. One more condition, and you can close it out with a “Great talking to you!” Then provide your default instructions for what to do next, and you leave the user with a much better taste in their mouth.

Again, I’m being nitpicky, but the default “Unknown Phrase” response is the least pleasant interaction of any bot interface (and I see it all the time) so the more you can limit it the better.

While we’re being nitpicky does choosing to apply to Botcamp again overwrite your current application or create a new one? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Campbot is a nice, simple, fun alternative to your typical accelerator application that perfectly fits with the Botcamp brand. 

The right use case for (most) chatbots is one where we have context. We have an idea of who the user is and what they want, and we can get the input we need without having to create a complex system of options that is going to be difficult for the user to learn and remember.

Campbot is a perfect example of this. It’s just taking the idea of gradual engagement that designers have been applying more and more to forms in traditional interfaces and translating it to a text-only interface.

Next week, we’ll be diving into how to build a bot of our own by building a slackbot that posts a breakdown of how our team is spending our time each morning in slack. Then, over the next month, we’ll be testing this idea and will report back on the results. If that sounds interesting, let us know in the comments below!

*I used the word bot 22 times in this blog post… make that 23.