A few years back, Siri made a huge splash among Apple’s smartphone users. Somehow, the idea of a personal, albeit digital, assistant that could follow instructions seemed really cool and exciting! People couldn’t wait to try Siri out on their Iphones.

Siri is an example of a chatbot, which is a computer program that simulates human interaction. Another example is Cortana, which Microsoft describes as an “intelligent personal assistant” for Windows phone users. While chatbots seem to be doing well in the smartphone arena, will it also click in the World Wide Web?

Do Chatbots Work?
Adrian Zumbrunnen, a UX designer from Zurich, Switzerland, decided to see for himself if a chatbot would work on his personal website. Instead of having his visitors click on the navigation menu, he designed a chatbot that asks them what they would like to do. The chatbot then provides relevant links, gives the option to send an email to Zumbrunnen, and even cracks jokes. The result? The chatbot was a hit! Within 48 hours, Zumbrunnen received more than 250 emails through the chatbot, and traffic on his site was up by 1000%!

A “Virtual Surrogate”
According to Zumbrunnen, through the chatbot, he could express his own character and personality. Put simply, he created a “virtual surrogate” of himself that could interact with visitors in a way that a traditional website could not. It was as if visitors were talking to him personally, and not just browsing through his site.

Aside from Zumbrunnen, other, much bigger brands are also trying out chatbots. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg remarked that chatbots are the key for businesses to reach out to Messenger users. Likewise, Microsoft announced that in the future, the operating system would be “conversation as a platform,” and not the traditional Windows that people around the world have become familiar with.

Making it Personal
What makes chatbots a hit? They make online interaction more personal. They provide each visitor with a customized conversation based on their personal needs and preferences. The experience may be likened to a personal shopping assistant in a department store — friendly, accommodating, and always ready to provide what you are looking for.

With all these exciting things going on, will chatbots be the next big thing in web design? Only time can tell. For now, designers may want to consider experimenting first to see for themselves. If a chatbot could attract more visitors and enhance their experience, then it just might be a great addition to their websites.