3. Design Thinking for Chatbots

Design thinking is a human-centered method that aims to understand the user’s problems and generate ideas to solve them. It can be used for digital products and services, but also chatbots. Follow our lesson, learn the fundamentals of design thinking, and find out how to apply it to build user-friendly chatbots.
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  • Kaia Madalinska Brand Ambassador

    Kaia Madalińska

  • Daria Zaboj product content specialist

    Daria Zabój

Video transcript

Video transcript

Design Thinking for Chatbots - How to Develop a Great Chatbot Idea

Hi! I’m Kaia. 

Have you ever wondered what makes chatbots successful? Is it just the design, the platform, and the technology we use? Or, perhaps we need to add something else to make our chatbot more helpful, user-friendly, and effective. 

During this lesson, we'll dig deeper and show you how to develop a great chatbot idea using the design thinking framework. 

Let's get to work.

What’s design thinking?

Design thinking is a hands-on approach to developing products, services, or processes that focuses on users' needs and perspectives. It's based on testing hypotheses, building prototypes, and gathering feedback.

The design thinking method was first introduced at Stanford University in the '70s to teach engineers how to think like designers. It aimed to help them solve complex problems in a more human-centered way.

Today, design thinking allows both designers and non-designers to generate innovative ideas that can solve many problems.

This framework supports making decisions based on evidence and users' actual needs instead of guesswork. Yet, it still has technological limitations and business goals in mind

Design thinking can solve many problems like technological challenges, social issues, and even global problems.

And because this method has such broad use, you can use it as a helpful tool to create an effective chatbot for you and your customers.

The design thinking process is divided into 5 stages which are:

  • Empathize

  • Define

  • Ideate

  • Prototype

  • Test

We'll now go through these stages to show you how they can help deliver a better chatbot project.

Imagine running a travel agency, and you offer long-distance trips. Your customers can use your mobile app to find helpful information about their travels. However,...... as your company grows, you're getting more and more support emails, requests via social media, and calls regarding these plans, even at night. 

You decided to use a chatbot to answer these requests. We'll now see how design thinking can help.


Let's start from the very beginning —the empathize stage. During this phase, you step into your user's shoes to find out who they are. 

You define what problems they face, what causes those problems, and what users want to achieve.

To learn that, you need to do thorough research, for example:

  • You can create user journey maps to see when the problems might occur,

  • Build analogies by comparing one problem to another, like for instance (“finding something on the phone on the go is like searching for a needle in a haystack."

  • Or talk with your support team,

  • You can analyze requests coming from all your channels to find out what questions your customers ask, when exactly they ask them, and what language and tone they use.

If you find out that your customers are stressed and in a hurry, you can use calming language in your chatbot to calm them down.

Plus, you can even talk with extreme customers who either often connect with your support or those who never ask for your help. This would give you a better understanding of the pain points of different types of customers. 


Now that you've gathered all the necessary information, it's time to start the define stage.

At this point, you carefully unpack your findings and turn them into the users' actual needs and wishes. This will let you create your problem statement.

A problem statement is the exact description of an issue you want to solve. It also presents a goal or a state you want to achieve by solving it. 

Remember that while defining your problem statement, you need to focus on the users' needs and provide guidance on addressing them.

To create your problem statement, you can use the 5 Ws and H framework that consists of 5 questions:

  • Who is the person experiencing the problem? - in our case let's say it's Anna, a stressed traveler.

  • What problems does the user want to solve? - She wants to quickly find information regarding her travel while abroad.

  • Where is the user while they want to solve the problem? - She's abroad while traveling, using her mobile phone.

  • When does the problem occur? - Anna gets frustrated when she can't quickly find specific information regarding her trip and flight by using her phone.

  • Why solving the problem is essential? - Anna gets nervous because she’s in a hurry, and she finds it difficult to search for information on her own or reach out to customer support while being on a go.

  • How does the user reach the goal? - Anna would love to use the phone to find important information easily and when she needs it by using her phone.

So an example problem statement for this case could sound like this: 

Anna is a tourist who needs to quickly find specific information regarding her trip on her phone because she is in a hurry and she's stressed that she might have got lost abroad.


Now that our problem statement is ready, it's time to start the ideate phase. This is the stage where you need to generate all possible ideas where your chatbot solves the user's problem. 

For example:

  • it could provide information via website or app, 

  • it could share links and infographics, 

  • You can suggest what types and formats of responses it might send: like text, buttons, or videos. 

The golden rule of this stage is not to judge any idea that appears, as even the craziest one may end up being the perfect solution.

During the ideate phase, you can use plenty of techniques to generate ideas, such as mind mapping that can help you visually structure your ideas or the worst possible idea where you seek the worst solutions. This technique proves to relax users and boost their creativity.

It could also help if you analyze how other brands use chatbots to provide real-time customer service.

And what's essential — while generating ideas, it's important to keep your brand's tone and voice in mind. Customers prefer companies whose communication is natural and personalized. And these are the traits you should look for in your chatbot.


Ok, you have finished the ideation phase, and you now have plenty of ideas about what your chatbot could do to help the user find necessary information. Now, you need to narrow them down. You can evaluate them based on the following conditions:

  • Which ideas are technically possible? 

  • Which ideas solve the problem and provide the best user experience? 

  • Which ideas can you afford and which are too expensive?

Going through the following questions will help you decide which idea has the best chance of success. And when you choose it, you can start prototyping your chatbot Story draft which is a conversation scenario. 

So let’s say your research and analysis showed that the best way to solve Anna's problem is to build an FAQ chatbot — called the Travel Companion. It can be based on buttons and provide all the necessary information without the need of visiting any external pages. 

Your chatbot will answer the most-searched questions immediately, and it’ll be available on your app, but also on a website, and Messenger. 

To create your prototype, you can start making a Story draft. You can use tools like Miro as they can help you map out all the Story steps visually.

However, the best prototype is the one users can interact with. Therefore, when your sketch is ready, you can turn it into a working chatbot using a platform such as ChatBot that lets you build ready-to-launch chatbot prototypes without coding.


Now that your chatbot is ready, you can finally start testing. 

The testing phase lets you verify whether your chatbot works as intended and can solve the user’s problem. 

You can run your tests within your team, or even better — engage some users. 

It's essential to test your chatbot before the launch because this can help catch all its weak points so you can improve them before it connects with all the users. 

You shouldn’t skip this phase because if you implement a chatbot with poor UX and structure, your customers may lose confidence in it, and it'll be difficult for you to rebuild it even if you make significant adjustments. 

Ok, let's wrap up what we learned during this lesson:

  • Design thinking is an approach to developing products, services, or strategies that focus on the user and their needs. It can help you come up with a chatbot idea and it’s divided into 5 stages:

  • Empathize — where you learn about the users and their needs.

  • Define — where you specify the actual problem you want to solve.

  • Ideate — this stage allows you to generate ideas for your chatbot.

  • Prototype — this is when you build a functioning prototype.

  • and Test — this allows you to test your prototype and check with your target audience whether it addresses their needs.

That's all for this lesson. If you want to find out more about chatbots, and learn how to create effective chatbots without coding, watch our Academy lessons.

See you!

In the next lesson

4. Chatbot Channels

Learn what the differences between popular communication channels are, and choose the best one to launch your chatbot.

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