What Is a Chatbot? How Do Chatbots Work?

Chatbots: Definition, Functions & Use

Contents:


What Is a Chat Bot

Software that does exactly what humans do… This idea isn’t new, and, maybe there are fewer and fewer people to be impressed by chatbots, however, you can’t even imagine how powerful the chatbots of today can be. 

Extensive use of various messengers where users hang out much of their time boosts the chatbots popularity. Digital friends and assistants, chatbots now perform a plethora of functions from educational and therapeutic to travel or meeting planning. 

But what is actually a chat bot? 

Simple (or not as simple as you can imagine) software that stimulates interaction by imitating human written or spoken speech.

Screenshots of the conversation with the cleverest AI chatbot-Mitsuku
Mitsuku bot is the Loebner Prize winner (the annual AI competition that awards the most human-like bots), highly rated by Chatbots magazine, one of the most authoritative sources of information on chatbot applications.

By 2020, over 50% of medium to large enterprises will have deployed product chatbots

Van Baker, research vice president at Gartner

The meteoric chatbot rise resulted from the desire of the brands to improve communication with end-users. Actually, it has changed the communication drastically. Visiting the biggest e-commerce platforms, a user may get an immediate response to the question at any time without waiting morning to come, for example. 

Moreover, the enormous number of tasks can be addressed through the interface consisting of numerous elements. The list of such tasks starts from the routing ones (booking, takeout) to job-related tasks. By replacing the interface where a user should take several actions to reach the goal by a chatbot, you’ll make users’ life easier, thus, enhance the User Experience of your website or app and decrease its bounce rate that seems to be a sound idea.

In addition, chatbots may replace the live chats so that cutting the costs or focus resources on getting more significant problems solved could be possible. Of course, the situation when a chatbot is unable to meet the customer demands or resolve challenging issues is rather possible, thus, as a chatbot owner, you should definitely leave a user the possibility to send a request to site’s support. 

Gartner forecasts that by 2020, over 85% of customer interactions will be handled without a human.

That is why a business owner/ CTO/ manager should consider the possibility of chatbot introduction to improve the customer service and make the information accessible 24/7. All the more value of global chatbot market is going to increase significantly in the future: 

The graph predict the rise of chatbot market
The global chatbot market is expected to reach USD 1.25 billion by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 24.3%, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc.

How Do Chatbots Work

After defining chatbots, understanding the major principles of their work would be a great idea. As chatbots could be conditionally divided into two big categories: simple chatbot (question-answer chatbot or conversational agent) that recognize the most frequently asked questions basing on pre-prepared commands, and chatbots that use all the potential machine learning gives to imitate a human interlocutor as precisely as possible. 

The first category includes different chatbots for business (the ones you usually can see on websites that offers all kinds of products). As a rule, communicating with such chatbots, a user gets the list of standard questions, to which a chatbot may reply using the recognition of the prescribed keywords. 

Chatbot with the prescribed lines
Chatbot that uses a set of canned questions and answers.

The second category can be represented by the well-known voice assistants Siri (Apple), Alexa (Amazon), Google Assistant, etc. that may actually give rise to a whole new epoch of the internet search, making it more human-like.

Compare two search requests: 

“Gas station near me” (that a person will probably enter into the search engine);

“Siri, show me the nearest gas station, please” (that a person will probably tell a voice assistant with an intention to find the gas station).

You shouldn’t be a SEO expert to see the difference between these two requests. So, smart chatbots are able to recognize a human intent disregarding the form of the user’s input. 

This comparative characteristic is intended to make the difference between simple and smart chatbots clear: 

Simple chatbotsSmart chatbots
Are based on…pre-written keywordsAI
Learn from conversation
Use prescribed conversations steps (are strictly limited)
Recognize user’s free form input
Process user’s input despite the mistakes of all kind
Can be easily implemented

Despite the numerous differences, both simple and smart chatbots (except for the ones that offer only prescribed lines to a user) have the same work structure:

Simple chatbot receives user's input, recognizes the intent, and pick up the most appropriate response in the database
Simple chatbot structure

Main Chatbot Features

As you can tell, chatbots of today are all different depending on the functions their creators had an objective to include. However, all (good) chatbots without exceptions have several common traits.

So, what should good chatbots do?

  • Simplify our lives. The main objective of both simple and smart chatbots is to save the user time by shortcutting to a goal. In case if user intent is to find out whether the e-shop delivers in certain countries, a chatbot will give this info right away so that a site visitor should not waste time trying to find the proper paragraph on the website containing this info.
  • Give the impression of human touch. No matter are you talking to a simple or smart chatbot, the main objective of both is to give a user an impression he/she is communication with a human being, so chatbots should be more personalized than any of the apps you’ve dealt with before. 
  • Provide extended support to their users. As users turn to chatbots in order to make their life easier, the existence of proper documentation and the possibility to get timely assistance through a chatbot itself (e.x. “Help”, “How it works” sections) are of high importance. Moreover, giving hints about additional functionality to a user through the chatbot itself is a great idea as well.
  • Interact in a short and simple manner. Users of today have less and less time to be wasted on the investigation that is why the quicker chatbot meets customer needs, the more satisfied a user becomes. 

What Can a Chatbot Do?

1. Hold a conversation

This is probably the main reason for chatbots creation. But why are people so curious about communicating with AI chatbot instead of talking to their own kind?

  • High response rate. Chatbots mission is to satisfy human curiosity right here right now, thus, it’s always easier to turn to a chatbot in order to get an immediate response. 
  • Entertainment. Why not chat with a chatbot when you have to kill another hour? Especially if it is able to give you a few funny tips imitating being a human. 
  • Novelty. Chatter bots are a relatively recent invention so that a man is still curious about a chat bot meaning and working algorithms. Even more curious is he to gossip about the boss and see a chatbot reaction to the funniest meme he’s ever laughed at.

2. Increase end-user engagement by improving customer service

Chatbots can provide the answers to the frequently asked questions immediately so that you shouldn’t wait for the support agent to come or stay up all night thinking of whether this e-shop provides delivery in other countries or not. Of course, in most cases, a user may get his information on the FAQ page, however, justified by highly competitive e-commerce environment, a user prefers to go on another site instead of wasting time to find answers on his/her questions. In this way, chatbots may help increase the conversion and boost user engagement. 

3. Reduce a set of routine actions a user performs to only one command

From 4 actions to one request:

Bran wants to buy a car. A used one to save money, but he also wants to check the information about used cars warranties, as his friend once told him that used car with warranties is better than without it. He types his request into a search engine and finds one of the numerous sites:

Chatbot may simplify your routine tasks
One of the features a chatbot could do is to simplify the working process of a human being.

The Bottom Line

This post was created to define chatbot and find an easy way to show how a chatbot works. The Jellyfish.tech team tried its best to make a definition of a chatbot clear and simple for you. Don’t hesitate to drop us a message if any questions arise, and our expert in chatbot development will be happy to share his knowledge with you. 

You are welcome to share any your experience connected to chatbots starting from your ideas in this regard to why you have chosen one or another chatbot type.

Why Modernize Your Legacy Software?

Legacy System Modernization: Grow Your Digital Business

Legacy systems modernization is one of the hard but still effective ways to improve your customer acquisition strategy, re-engage the returning customers, and cut costs. The technologies come the long way even in the last 5 years, constantly picking up the pace.  Thus, staying one step ahead of young & bold competitors becomes impossible without the persistent strive for improvement using all the possible options.

Software life cycle graph from release though EOL/EOS date
Source: Product EOL/EOS 2018 Report

Technologies that were on top five or three years ago become increasingly irrelevant as well as the decision logic and architecture patterns. Customers, inspired by the best user experience practices and stunning web designs require more and more, frequently preferring the brand-new products over the legacy applications.
This is one of the reasons to consider the option of modernizing your old software.

Contents:


What Is Software Modernization?

Let’s start by figuring out the concept of legacy software. The phrase is defined as outdated methods, technologies, and applications, in general. Thus, legacy app modernization means the replacement of an obsolete software product by the modern one, using the latest tech trends and the properest stack to upgrade your old project. 

Usually, the support of such projects consume a large part of a budget, and the other part is spent on adding new features to meet the customer demands. Thereby, new features are added into the legacy code turning the complex systems into sophisticated ones, interfering with making a decision on application modernization.

IT product spendings graph
Source: Whitehouse.gov

In addition, the more you delay taking the final decision, the more complicated it becomes for the team to modernize the application.

“Legacy software is used everywhere”, you may think, “so there is nothing bad in it.” Nothing good either. According to the statistics, now you have the great chance to get ahead of your competitors by modernizing your old systems, while they will be spending much of their time and budget on supporting the legacy application without creating new opportunities for their product.

Reasons for Legacy Modernization

Better Maintenance

The more up-to-date the application is, the easier is to support it. 

Legacy software maintenance consumes much time, budget, and human resources, and what’s worse, their amount will be increasing. 

The cause lies in the monolithic architecture the most legacy software relied on during the development. So, it’s impossible to modify the parts without modifying the whole. It’s evident that modifying the whole requires much more resources. 

Monolithic architecture complicates the process of application modernization

Besides, the real problem of many legacy applications that prevents the teams from optimizing the maintenance process is a lack of modular architecture that enables making changes and adjusting the specific functionality and scaling the project parts that need it the most. 

In a perfect world, the monolithic architecture requires changes to cater for the flexibility of an application. 

Unfortunately, even if your application already contains multiple modules, it can be still considered as legacy software and needs modernization. The next step to turning the functionality into the independent easy to maintain units is the technique of microservices.

This architecture style enables building, deploying, and supporting the autonomous services in isolation from the other system parts without the necessity to interfere in the whole. 

Microservices makes it possible to modernize application segments

Exactly these microservices will considerably simplify regular software modernization in the future.

Cleaner Code

The cleaner code is, the easier is for the developer to work with it. 

Theoretically, the code quality should be such as to enable a developer who knows nothing about the project to open the code and understand its functions. 

A project doesn’t even have to be on the list of the legacy applications to have the code that is far from being perfect due to various reasons:

  • High speed of project development (when the main objective is to outperform the competitors, launching the product faster than the rest of the world);
  • Insufficient skills of a developer;
  • A great number of successive developers who worked on a project;
  • Lack of specifications.

Indeed, legacy app modernization will help you get rid of the most frequent errors:

  • Comments (the well-written code does not require an additional explanation).
  • Code clones resulted from the weak communication between two or more developers who are working on similar tasks or the rush. 
  • Dead code (code that doesn’t perform any functions but hasn’t been deleted for certain reasons). 

Greater Collaboration

The better is the performance characteristics of an app, the easier is for the user to collaborate within the application. 

High load speed, absence of bugs, data security, an option for a user to quickly understand how the application is working or at least the user manual based on the clear app documentation will make the process of collaboration easier. Not to mention the better user experience and application appearance that are the icing on the customer cake.

Clear Project Documentation

The clearer the app documentation is, the easier it will be for a new team to develop or maintain the project. 

Most often, the lack of project documentation, its incompleteness or sophistication become the related components of the legacy systems for numerous reasons.

  1. In many companies, this legacy application became the first major project executed without much experience in creating and managing documentation (or controlling this process). 
  2. Frequently, the speed of project development is a priority to get a competitive advantage, so the documentation management is overshadowed. 
  3. Legacy code entails legacy documentation that should be modernized together with the app. 

Why the documentation is a crucial part of the project? The main purpose of project documentation is to make sure that in the case of emergency one team of developers may leave the workplace, and another team is able to take their place without losing time and compromising on code quality.

Stronger Security

After all, the legacy systems can’t be competitive with the up-to-date software in security issues. Obsolete software products are much more vulnerable to all types of cyberattacks, increasing a user’s chance to become a target of cybercriminals. In this way, by using and proposing to use such systems, you put your customer security at risk. 

Simpler Integrations

Integration with third-party services is a must for applications of today. Of course, five years ago the platforms we built didn’t include the integration possibility that’s why to move with the times, you should add this feature. 

Legacy application modernization brings better security, cleaner code, easy cloud integration and improves cooperation

Time to Modernize Your Legacy Software?

Legacy systems modernization allows you to discover new opportunities and grow your business by bringing in technical partners and key customers.

Don’t know where to start? Check out the manual where we discuss the major steps to take on the way to software modernization. Hope this will help you to properly plan and control this process if you already have a dedicated team of web developers.

If no, you can always schedule a call with our specialist to get an estimate of your project and pick up the custom strategy for your product.

Legacy Modernization Services: Trends and Strategies

Legacy App Modernization Services: Strategy

So, the idea of legacy software modernization has been put in your head. What’s next? Get it out or let it grow?

First, you should understand how much time, budget, and human resources will be taken to reach the objective. To help you assess the scope of the problem, Jellyfish.tech shares the most common strategies and steps to software modernization.

Even if you aren’t directly involved in the transformation and consider legacy application modernization services agency, you are still expected to be aware of key strategies that may be applied to “revitalize” your product. In addition, we hope this information will make planning and governing the process of app modernization a little simpler.

Contents:


Steps to Legacy Modernization

Architecture Audit

The best option to start modernizing the software is the audit of the high-level application architecture, components, and functionality. The audit helps detect system bottlenecks, manage the risks, and recommend the most appropriate solution based on the customer requirements that should be met during the legacy software modernization. 

The application architecture is worth being examined at least to understand what code should be analyzed during the next step. Of course, if the quality of the application is low, it’s possible to identify the majority of mistakes already on the stage of the architecture audit.

Code Audit

A comprehensive code audit to detect code errors, identify and analyze the vulnerability of the code, forecast and prevent the detected vulnerability in the future.
In addition, we shouldn’t forget about technical application support. Unfortunately, no exact statistics are available, but most researchers are positive that approximately half of all time allocated to maintain the application is spent on reading the already written code to add new functionality, fix bugs, integrate into new environments, etc.
That is why cleaning up the code mess is a must-do during the legacy software modernization for app modification and expand the functionality.

Performance Testing

The main objective of the performance testing is the identification of the application’s stability, work performance, and amount of resource consumption, and other attributes of quality in different use scenarios and loads. 

Such tests allow detecting the flaws and system bottlenecks to define and prioritize the application parts that should be scaled during the modernization, as well as the modernized system work performance requirements. 

After the legacy system has been analyzed and weak points have been detected, we can move to modernization that may include the following steps: 

Refactoring

Refactoring is a process of amending the application system in such a way to change only the internal code structure making it simpler and clearer without influencing the result.
This activity is aimed at streamlining, structuring, and systematization of chaotic (for certain reasons) code, debugging, and improvement of the application performance.

Unit Tests

Automatic unit tests are a crucial part of the software modernization process. It would be better if the application is upgraded in the format of short iterations accompanied by writing and running unit tests. Their value lies in detecting the errors right away and ensuring the application’s efficiency. 

In the perfect world, developers would run these tests each time when compiling to keep the process of app modernization under control.

Major steps to legacy software modernization

Strategies to Modernize Legacy Applications

Monolithic Architecture to Modules

In general, most legacy systems are monolithic applications. This fact makes difficult to modernize the app components whether it is scaling a certain part that requires it the most, or adding the functionality. 

Fact remains that monolithic architecture doesn’t allow changing a system part in isolation. Modifying the functional unit is impossible without modifying the whole structure of the system. Replacing monolithic applications by modular ones precisely for adding flexibility is one of the solutions the modernization is aimed at.

Cloud-Based Integration

Cloud computing promises a bunch of benefits for businesses, including the possibility of continuous integration and delivery during the process of legacy app modernization.

The concept of continuous integration & delivery (CI/ CD) offers as its name suggests, the assembly line of code testing and delivery with the opportunity to continuously merge the recently written code in the mainline one. In other words, a developer submits only the small application segment, accompanied by unit tests (as it’s been mentioned above) to make sure the code fulfills the functions envisaged. 

CI/CD are the vital steps to modernize your legacy application that simplify further support and cycles of updates.

Reverse-Engineering

The software documentation that is a basis of building the modernization strategy when working on legacy tech projects can often be incomplete, obsolete, or absent. Based on our experience, reverse-engineering is the best practice to apply in such cases. 

The main objective of the reverse-engineering process lays in researching the application design to understand its work principles and mechanisms and find the undocumented features for further project modernization.

Legacy Application Modernization Services: What Strategy to Choose?

Working on legacy software modernization is a long and complex process that requires the team to conduct extensive research on the market and technologies available.

And if the market research could be done in-house, it’s better to leave the project estimate and legacy application audit to the dedicated team of qualified developers, especially if your product is live and has a certain number of users. Choosing the right legacy software modernization strategy is a fundamental decision that shows the direction to further development. 

The wrong direction will mislead your technical team even if each of them is a real professional with proven experience. This is exactly the reason to search for the consultant who will be able to manage the risks and pick up the proper strategy.

You may check out our software modernization case study with the real project example. We talk about a vision we’ve drawn upon while developing an approach, based on the custom project characteristics. Anyway, this case may become the starting point for bringing up the idea of software modernization. 

Software Modernization: Case Study

How We Modernized Legacy Application

Doing our job, we witness client requirements moving on following the immense progress the technologies make day in and day out. Stability of future project maintenance and up-to-date design are the must for every project, launched on the digital market. 

Not surprisingly the trend for software modernization is on rise as it’s crucial to use new technologies and functionality that are relevant for your target audience to stay afloat. Here a business runner may face quite a serious problem. Out-of-date technologies that were popular, available, or conventional (choose your option) at the moment of project building, turn out to impose restrictions on a project:

  • speed;
  • security;
  • scalability; 
  • structure; 
  • design. 

For the seasoned project, it’s frequently hard to beat young competitors on these criteria. One of the best options to manage this problem is thinking of the update your project might need. Consultation with a dedicated web development team is highly recommended to get a professional and scalable look that will become the first step towards the increase of your competitive advantage. 

Our Experience of Software Modernization

Project Overview

When our team started working on this project, we had the task to build only one feature for an ongoing PPM application written in JavaScript (JS was the best solution for creating a similar functionality at the moment). T Creation of the feature resulted in the long-term cooperation, during which we were mostly working on adding new functionality to launch the product, having no free minute for reviewing and upgrading the code.

This project grew to a large JS application that provides multiple functions from the Gantt Chart to messaging with more than 30 active users-huge corporations and companies. The new functionality is added as well upon user requests.

Reasons to Modernize the Application

  • Hundreds of lines of code. At a certain point, our team realized that despite the JavaScript possibilities, it forces us to write too many lines of code that would be difficult to support in the long term. 
  • Increase in users’ requirements. As the application has scaled up from 100 users to 1000, the requirements have increased as well, insisting on boosting the speed of web development. This was exactly the moment to start using the framework instead of writing the typical components & elements ourselves.
  • Change in developers’ preferences. The front-end team has been replaced by the developers, who’ve taken the fresh look at the project bearing in mind the latest technology updates.

We’ve evaluated the situation and estimated the risks to pick up Angular as the main front-end language for application modernization and offered a software modernization solution to a customer.

Some of the ‘not so sexy work’ has been a major refactoring of code and system architecture that allows the application to scale from 100s of projects and users to 1000s. This has been successfully undertaken and not impacted existing system users in part due to Jellyfish.tech’s work.

from Clutch customer review

Why Angular

Mostly, the reasons are the same as for choosing this JavaScript-based framework a part of our stack of technology: 

1. Progressivity. In addition to having numerous libraries, Angular is continuously updated, thus, it provides a plethora of excellent possibilities to developers. For example, certain libraries reduce the time for template elements creation, thus, allow focusing on new features. 

2. Universality. It will be much easier for us to expand the team of developers offering to candidates working on the Angular project rather than JavaScript applications. In addition, further maintenance and scaling-up are possible only in the Angular environment.

3. Reusable components. This Angular feature allows using the standard set of components (login, sign up, etc.) multiple times. 

3. Strong expertise.  Our developers have great experience in working with Angular, thus, we’ve taken a logical decision to use the expertise to build a powerful app for our client. 

We’d like to update the technologies used for our tool. We don’t work on the principle of “whatever happens with the project in the future, it’s not our problem”. Our main objective is to deliver a successful project that meets all the demands of today’s digital world. Ultimately, this update is inevitable, the only question is how much could we save for our client by doing it now, not in a month or year. The sooner will we do it, the quicker our client will benefit from the update.

Alex, Frontend Tech Lead

Process

Our primary goal is not only to refactor the code. We work on constant UX enhancement and use the best practices to improve UI. We take the old code only as an example of the functions that should be implemented.

The turning point of making the decision to modernize the application was our proposal to change the backend strategy by turning to asp.net.core that will basically result in deep architecture modification aimed at the creation of a flexible functionality, SSO (Single Sign-On) implementation and Azure Ad join.

Plan

In so doing the project should have to go through the front-end modification to get a better structure. 

So, what we’ve done to update the project:

1. Start the projects (we manage both frontend and backend modifications) by creating an Angular environment for the frontend. 

2. Set out structure and routes that are actually a kind of sitemap. As the project is large, we started by building the basic system to manage the parts, highly demanded by users. 

3. Main login page (as Zeno.PM provides various login experience to a user: QR code, SSO, Azure AD, mail, etc.)

4. Project selection interface that a user sees right after signing in.  

Modules 

Templates

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the biggest Angular advantages is the possibility to create one template for all typical elements an app has so that a developer does not need to reinvent the wheel each time. 

State manager

The complex yet necessary component of a large application that helps track the app state. From the page filters to the data stored locally for further use, the state manager allows taking control over all the processes, thereby simplifying working with the application.

Admin panel 

In close collaboration with the customer, we’ve prioritized the application components modernization–admin panel was the first. For now, our team continues modernizing the admin pages transferring its functionality as well as working on its configuration and different services. 

Special features of the update 

The biggest particular feature of this project is the live audience, thus, we develop new functionality and rewrite the old code simultaneously. This process is designed in a way that allows involving only certain modules in time without interfering in the project viability. What is more, we have a good chance to involve the real users to test any updates, in this way, we get valuable real-time feedback from a live audience that helps us introduce the improvements right away based on customer experience. Although not every user has access to the Angular admin panel, for now, its release is eagerly awaited!

Bottom line

The expertise of our developers’ team enables us to provide the most appropriate solution based on your type of project, budget, demands, and general expectations. 

Jellyfish.tech cares about your project not only during the development process itself, but further maintenance, viability, and perspective of a project we take do matter for us as well. In our humble opinion, this is the only approach that has a right to exist on the digital market of today. We do not deliver poorly designed apps, we don’t take projects only for making money, we don’t let things slide. Creating a quality project for you that will be bound to succeed is above all.