The Facebook Messenger offers a lot of features. How to choose the best one to engage users in every single interaction?
Content Display and Interaction
Don’t just think of where a conversation leads. Consider who starts the conversation and with what intent. Do you want to engage a user by sending the first message, displaying content and providing actionable buttons? Do users write the first message, turning to your chatbot for entertainment or in the urgent need of assistance?
These opposite directions and different intentions influence your choice of features, both for content display and interactions.
Two ways of visual content display: horizontal scroll or list template
The horizontal scroll or ‘h-scroll’
An h-scroll consists of several structured messages in a row. Structured messages are message bubbles containing text and up to three buttons for interactions below. Image, title and subtitle can be added. Up to ten bubbles with up to three buttons per bubble let you display a lot of information in media and text. The buttons provide a number of choices: further interactions within the chatbot or a conversion to the website.
Because there is no overview at first glance, the user has to interact to see all bubbles.
Its benefits can also be a downside: h-scrolls can be too packed with content and options if poorly concepted. This can easily happen when the h-scroll is used in a conservative way: giving an overview on five similar news-articles or several products to buy, using interchangeable buttons in every bubble. It imitates a menu by giving choices that in a web-interface would be displayed as a menu bar. This is obviously a bad user experience, not making any use of the chatbots qualities as a channel.
So should you simply cut down on the number of bubbles and buttons? No. Instead take advantage of the h-scroll’s unique benefits. Doing so, more bubbles are not only okay, but desired and enjoyed by your user. The unique quality the h-scroll provides is its horizontal line of storytelling. It resembles the way people read in western countries, from left to right. Use this habit: put cartoons into the bubbles as a narrative, split one image into three or more to create a panorama view, tell a story!
The h-scroll is also perfect for step-by-step tutorials and advertising. Users attracted by the first bubble are very likely to scroll to the others. They will then choose from the several options the different bubbles and buttons provide to either leave the chatbot and visit your website or continue the experience in the next conversation.
You have already seen examples for this creative use in facebook carousel ads.
The List Template
If you want quick overviews and easy selections, the list template is your weapon of choice. You will have to meet its limitations in content display compared to the h-scroll, though: The list template lets you display up to four items vertically. Each item contains 160 characters of text an image and one button. You can display one item prominently with a cover image and up to three smaller items below. You may even add a different kind of interaction to the cover item’s button than to those of the others. If you do not intend to highlight one of your items, just display up to four items in the same size. These item’s buttons are likely to cause similar interactions, for example allowing a choice between the items.
Additional to those buttons you can provide another one for the whole list template, below the items. It can lead to a different conversation or action.
The list template displays all information at a glance. No further interaction is needed for a complete overview.
The choices users have in the list template are limited, compared to the several buttons provided in an h-scroll. This makes the list template a fit for quick decisions. Think of selecting the colour of an item to buy or the decision between the top news and three further topics in a news channel. The button below could link to other conversations, e.g. other products or different news topics.
Use the list template if you want the conversations to be speedy. If users turn to the chatbot with a need, it is your shortcut to serving that need. The faster users get to their goal, the happier they are. So the list template can be the suiting reaction to a question or other initiative by users that calls for multiple pieces of content. If asked or asking for specific content, determined sets of answers are helpful. Fewer, but lean options make it easy for users to choose fast. The results — next messages and interactions — follow up immediately.
Why display content in the first place? You want users to take actions. Whether h-scroll, list template or a plain text-, media-, or structured-message: two ways to define the interaction between those messages are buttons and quick replies. They are your alternative to the complex use of Natural Language Processing. So after choosing the way of displaying your content, you will now learn how to find the best feature to make your user interact by comparing button-interactions.
Buttons as well as quick replies are an actionable and fast way of interacting. Well chosen, they are helpful in making quick decisions and engage the user to play back and forth in a smooth dialogue. Each feature has it’s own benefits and limitations.
Combined with the wrong message or linking to confusing interactions, buttons will not be appreciated by your users. Learn what they can and can’t do and use them accordingly to script an interaction that feels natural.
Buttons trigger an interaction at the end of a structured message. This type of message contains up to three buttons, each linking to one interaction, e.g. the next message or a new conversation, subscribing or unsubscribing users, allowing user feedback, or containing an external URL. Each button consists of text describing its command and can be funnier with emojis, if that suits your chatbot.
Like the h-scroll, if used wrong, buttons can offer either too many different or boring repetitive choices. Several bubbles with different pictures but the same button-interactions below can be boring (how about using the list template instead?). Eight bubbles with eight times three buttons to choose from make users forget the first options while still browsing. Leaving all choices to the user is not a benefit, but a pain. A bot creator has to figure out the right preset of choices in every interaction. Better use three different interactions narrowing down the choices step by step than offering one with too many options and directions to choose from.
Also decide if you want the user to continue with the bot conversation or rather link to an external website.
Buttons and the different actions and several directions can widen the scope of a conversation. It may not always speed up, but users will enjoy their freedom of choices. With every click they make a decision towards further conversation or following a link out of your chatbot. Once made, this choice does not disappear, the button(s) can always be found in the conversation, right under the structured message they are part of. Users can return to this message and undo their choice by clicking a different button.
This distinguishes them from another class of buttons: