Prototyping and Testing Chatbots

Dr. Carl DiSalvo
Nick Vernon

Chatbots are one of the newest media in consumer-facing technologies. A chatbot can be defined broadly as any service that users interact with primarily through text. More and more companies and organizations are choosing to communicate with their users through bots. There are a couple reasons for this: one, the barrier to entry is relatively low since users don't have to download a new app or learn a new UI; and, two, since chatbots communicate primarily through text, a bot affords an organization the opportunity to add personality to their brand. With advancements in artificial technology, chatbots are increasingly becoming more personal, and as such, they are now solving some problems better than apps. But, how do we know when to use a chatbot, instead of an app? And how should we go about building and testing a chatbot? Little research has been done in the Human-Computer Interaction field around prototyping and testing chatbots, and this is my attempt at breaking the ice. Through a case study on civic chatbots, I've developed a set of heuristics and interactive prototypes, which I hope will start new conversations around bots.


The Public Design Workshop is pedagogical structure created to explore new ways to teach, learn, and do social design within the university. We explore how design contributes to the construction of publics, articulates contemporary social and political issues, and fosters new forms of engagement with technology. We do this through participatory workshops & events, speculative design, and theory & criticism. We design events, workshops, objects, and systems. We also do theory and criticism.We are always open to new collaborators.Current topics of interest include: food and food systems, hackathons, infrastructure, visualizations, tools, and maps.