Why chatbots are good news for copywriters – and designers

Author Beckie CrumPublished 3 Min Read

Hey, you see that sad-looking person, quietly minding their own business, most likely reading medium.com articles in the corner of the room?

That is your copywriter. Why not go and say hello to them?

They may get a hard time at your design-and-tech-led digital agency – or more likely are just ignored. They’ve heard it all before. ‘Oh the designer just wrote something in and it’s gone to the client’. ‘Oh we used the UX copy’. ‘Oh we know it’s not great but it’s too late to change it now’.’ Or even ‘the words don’t matter’.

But at last things are starting to change. Because: chatbots. 

Designers are thrilled by chatbots, and many can’t wait to start writing their own. Great – but guess what? These short snippets of conversation may seem simple and easy to create, and yes, anyone can type. But building a successful conversational flow, one that is simple and clear but is also subtle and nuanced, flexing the tone appropriately to the situation may be more difficult than you think.

Your copywriter on the other hand has been doing this for years. They know intuitively how to have a written conversation. Most importantly they can put themselves in their user’s shoes – it’s the most important skill any good copywriter has. They have a finely honed instinct for how to reassure, when to signal what’s going to happen next and why it’s necessary to make clear what goals can be achieved. They know when to have fun, when to keep things quick and functional, and when the only possible tone is a serious one.

Twice the brainpower – twice the fun

Chatbots are your copywriter’s chance to shine – and the agency’s chance to understand how designers and writers can work together in perfect harmony. I’m amazed how many designers are just not used to working with copywriters either at all – or for anything other than ‘See this space? Can you put some words in it?’

The idea that copywriters can add significant value, or even be at the heart of the creative process seems to be something only experienced by designers who have spent time in traditional ad agency set-ups of art director or designer-copywriter creative teams – which there’s a lot to be said for when it comes to quality of creative output, as opposed to just churning digital work out in the fastest way possible. 

Shock horror, in these set-ups, sometimes the art director suggests the words – sometimes the copywriter suggests the image. But what both quickly learn is that they are equal partners and fellow creative. And that by working together the results are better than they could do on their own.

Of course each person has their own distinctive part to play, but it’s satisfying teamwork. When we’re prototyping for a simple chatbot, we like to rough out the flow in post-its together working out the logic as we go, changing and refining along the way.

Then I’ll take the post-its and turn it into a written script, keeping the conversation moving, and trying to ensure that the user can get to their answer in the quickest, easiest and most satisfying way possible.

But there are always improvements to be made. As the designer pulls it into a prototype, we start to see together where there are unnecessary steps, or where the conversation veers annoyingly off point. We also start to refine language, tweaking and checking together to make sure that responses are as perfectly judged for the needs and emotions of the user as we can make them.

At this point we work on content together – swapping step-by-step instructions with video content if we have it or can make it, adding in images and animations if they’re helpful or just to make the user smile. We’ll also look at adding emojis. Emojis may seem like a blunt instrument but actually they make us – and our chatbots more human. They’re a short cut to emotion, which is great in the digital sphere where you can’t rely on non-verbal cues.

Chatbots really are a team effort. I haven’t even touched on the strategic, CX and business analyst input that takes place before we get to work but there’s plenty – every successful Chatbot has to be built on solid foundations. And they’re enjoyable to work on because whether your little bot is giving healthcare advice, delivering a fun weather report or just keeping you entertained when you can’t sleep, you know that someone somewhere will enjoy the information you’re giving them and the connections you’re making.

So, if you’re a designer who hasn’t much worked with a copywriter before, now’s your chance to give it a try. Get together and you may find yourself in chatbot heaven.

Beckie CrumShare article |
Beckie CrumShare article |