Chatbots and web-assistants are both classes of virtual assistants. Although both are fully automated and aim at helping users, there’s a huge difference between them. In this article, we’ll go through this difference to find the strength and weakness of each one.
How they work?
For chatbots, as its name suggests, they tend to make a chat-like conversation with the user. This conversation can be through a messaging application (like Facebook massager) or through a voice conversation (like Apple Siri). Chatbots rely on Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand what the user is saying. So, the user is free to say anything and the chatbot may understand it or not. On the other side, web-assistants rely on the questions defined by their authors. The answers of these questions will be used to understand the user needs. Web-assistants can show questions based on the answers of other questions, so it can be like a conversation with the user. However, unlike chatbots, the conversation flow in web-assistants is fully designed by its author.
Understanding the user
If you used a chatbot before, you’ve likely received generic responses to chatbot misunderstandings. This type of responses represents the main weakness of chatbots. Almost all NLP services fail to convert the user speech to intents and entities.
On the other side, web-assistants can never misunderstand their users. They can collect their answers using variety of controls; most of these controls can never led to misunderstanding (like list box, image buttons, etc.). Even those controls which allow users to type any text can have constraints. For example, if you are expecting an answer to be a number from 1 to 100; if the user answers with any other value, then he/she will be prompted that it must be a number not less than 1 or greater than 100. You can read this article to understand how these controls can be more efficient than chatbot conversations.
How to build?
The fastest way to build a chatbot is to write the code which will hold the bot logic and use any online service for NLP. There are many online service for NLP like Google’s api.ai, Facebook’s wit.ai, Amazon’s Lex, and Microsoft’s LUIS. Some of them are free (like api.ai and wit.ai) and some others are not (like Lex and Luis). You need to have solid software development skills to build a chatbot. In addition to the skills, you must have some hardware, like a server, to host your bot app.
On the other side, there’s only one platform for building web-assistants from A to Z; this platform is Advicenode. Anyone around the world can use it to build one in few hours. Building a web-assistant neither requires any technical skills nor needs any resources. Advicenode hosts and maintains all web-assistants for free. Moreover, building a standalone website for your web-assistant is just a piece of cake.
The purpose of chatbots and web-assistants is quite different. Chatbots are built for supporting online services (like reservation, ordering, etc.). They’re new channels for using existing services. So, instead of filling a form for ordering a pizza, you can use the chatbot instead for making such an order. On the other side, web-assistants are built to advise people and solve their problems. They can be used to solve personal problems as well as complex business problems. For example, web-assistants can be built to perform financial valuation, investment advisory, strategy consulting, etc. It can also advise and guide non-business users for product selection, trip advisory, medical advisory, etc.
Responses of chatbots are very simple. It can be few sentences, set of clickable cards, or a picture. On the other side, the response of web-assistants can have lots of text paragraphs, pictures, tables, charts, and clickable cards. Their response can be displayed into a single page or multiple ones. In some cases, users can download these responses to read them later.
Chatbots can be used through new applications or through any of the existing ones (like Skype). On the other side, web-assistants can be accessed via their websites (if exist) or through Advicenode.
Chatbots and web-assistants are quite different. Both are for automating tasks done by human; however, the purpose of each one isn’t the same. For sure, building web-assistants is much easier than chatbots and doesn’t require any technical skills. However, depending on the function you’re trying to automate, you may find any of them more fitting to your needs and requirements.