Design the Future
January 19–20, 2016: Training
January 20–22, 2016: Conference
San Francisco, CA

Your friendly robot companions: Design for messaging and chat

Ben Brown (Howdy)
3:45pm Friday, 01/22/2016
The new fundamentals
Location: The Chapel
Average rating: ****.
(4.00, 8 ratings)

Thanks to their extensibility and the power and flexibility of messaging as a UI system, modern messaging apps are more than just chat rooms. Anyone who has spent time in an app like Slack can tell you this. The messaging app is an operating system for a whole new class of apps. As this class continues to grow, a huge market will emerge for apps that run on this OS . These apps will build on and enhance the messaging app as we know it today in ways that their designers never anticipated.

These apps will use text messages as their primary user interface. They will be available on all platforms and kept instantly in sync. They will provide all sorts of features that might otherwise live in a web, desktop, or mobile application through a consistent, friendly, conversational interface. And they’ll do things in subtly different ways, creating opportunities for time and cost savings, better communication and transparency, and a host of other benefits.

We call them “bots.” They’ve been around for a long time, but they are finally breaking into the mainstream. The opportunity is huge. Designing for messaging will become a discipline as important as responsive design and will incorporate skills as diverse as copy writing, business analytics, and API programming. And you thought microcopy was important now.

Ben Brown delves into how designers and developers are beginning to create these apps and discusses some key questions that guide this process, including:

  • What tools and processes exist or need to be developed to support these apps?
  • What are the baseline expectations for bot behavior?
  • How will we construct, store, execute conversational UI systems?
  • How can bots be made discoverable? How do you know what they can do?
  • What about AI, natural language processing, robotics, and voice?
Photo of Ben Brown

Ben Brown


Ben Brown is a veteran software designer and developer. Over the past 20 years, he’s been involved in almost every aspect of technology, from infrastructure to financing. Ben cofounded, a tool for building customized artificially intelligent digital coworkers that live in messaging apps and chat rooms.