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Let’s talk about the hot topics of bots and bot frameworks. The chatbot industry is booming and showing no signs of slowing down. With a compound annual growth rate of 24.3%, the market is estimated to reach $1.25 billion by 2025, according to a Grand View Research, Inc. report

This trend can also be seen in the findings of a 2017 chatbot research survey which revealed that most businesses barely learned about chatbots between 2015 and 2016. However, by 2017, 75% were already planning on building one. 

As the technology enabling bots is rapidly improving, company stakeholders realize that they can automate and optimize customer service functions, sales and marketing tasks, order processing, and more. Further, companies, including industry giants like IBM and Microsoft, are contributing to the growth by releasing bot frameworks that streamline the development process.

So, yes, bots should be on the minds of business owners and developers. The real question now is:

Which bot frameworks should you use?

The best bot framework will depend on the type of bot being built. For example, a simple bot that is built to answer frequently asked questions on Facebook Messenger will require much less from a framework than a complex bot that understands intent, interacts naturally, and is deployed on multiple channels.

To help you get an idea of what kind of frameworks are out there and which is best for you, here are a few of our top picks:

1. Chatfuel

The quick and easy solution for a basic FB chatbot

First up is Chatfuel, the non-technical, user-friendly platform made to create bots for Telegram or Facebook. No coding knowledge is necessary!

Target audience: Due to its simplicity, Chatfuel is good for any business that wants a basic chatbot for Facebook or Telegram.

Features:

  • No coding required
  • Visual development environment
  • User-set conversational rules
  • Bots recognize similar phrases from users
  • Bots understand users and send pre-defined answers
  • Easy-to-use interface with a drag-and-drop feature
  • Supports about 50 languages
  • Analytics 
  • Message broadcasting 
  • Offerings menu

Benefits:

  • Enables the fast building of a simple bot (Chatfuel estimates within seven minutes)
  • Easy to learn
  • Easy deployment to Facebook Messenger

Drawbacks:

  • Can’t build bots with complex functions; very limited natural language processing
  • Free version contains ads
  • Limited to FB and Telegram
  • Customer support is limited

Summary:

While it’s functionality is limited, Chatfuel is an extremely competent basic bot tool. Over 46,000 bots have been created using it. Past customers include Adidas, CNBC, British Airways, BuzzFeed, MTV. World Surf League, Bloomberg, and more.

Click here to see Chatfuel bots in action.

2. Botpress

The enterprise-grade bot creation tool for professional developers

Next up, Botpress is an enterprise-grade bot creation tool written in Javascript. It helps developers build, deploy, manage, and scale bots. It is open-source, and has a modular framework which enables the community to create and share modules.

Target Audience:

Newbies, step aside, Botpress is built by professional chatbot developers for professional chatbot developers. This tool is not for part-timers or those who want to build basic, scripted chatbots. It’s ideal for start-ups and agencies with limited resources that need to build great bots.

Key features:

  • Open-source
  • Community modules
  • Bot templates
  • Automated testing
  • Source-controlled
  • All features are available as an API and rich graphical interface
  • Cloud-ready and installable locally
  • Great customer support

Benefits:

  • Saves developers time 
  • Simple and intuitive to use
  • Flexible
  • Maximum control over bot functionality
  • Easy to add the common and infrastructure features
  • Allows you to focus on the customer experience

Drawbacks:

  • Not for beginners

Summary:

Botpress is a powerful tool that enables developers to create bots very quickly. Powered by its modular framework, developers can assemble bots from the collection of open-source, specialized modules. No wasting time reinventing the wheel. Botpress aims to boost efficiency, transparency, and collaboration while keeping things simple.

3. Microsoft Bot Service

Intelligent multi-channel chatbots

The Microsoft Bot Service enables users to build intelligent chatbots and connect them to multiple channels (websites, apps, social media, messaging tools, and more). It also provides the ability to test, deploy, monitor, and manage bots.

Target Audience:

Developers. Over 130,000 developers have registered with the Bot Framework.

Features:

  • Open source and available on GitHub
  • Consists of the developer portal, bot connector, and bot directory
  • Utilizes Microsoft Language Understanding Intelligent Service (LUIS) for NLP
  • SDK, samples, tools, and libraries help users build
  • Supports multiple languages (Node.js, .NET, C#)
  • Offers five bot templates
  • Users can bring their own dependencies
  • Flexibility in development (Azure portal, GitHub, Visual Studio Team Services, and more)
  • Supports several popular channels (write once, run everywhere)
  • Support for Azure and scaling out-of-the-box
  • Bot testing with the Bot Framework Emulator
  • Preview bots with the Channel Inspector
  • Cognitive Services: Intelligent algorithms that enable bots to hear, see, speak, understand, and interpret user needs
  • Cloud-based service is globally accessible across 141 countries

Benefits:

  • Scalable
  • Saves developers time 
  • Makes it easy to engage users across multiple platforms

Drawbacks:

  • Lacks the ability to customize content to individual platforms
  • Not suitable for beginners

Summary:

The Microsoft Bot Service gives developers the tools and support needed to build chatbots and deploy them on a number of channels. The fact that you can write it once and run it multiple locations is helpful for those trying to create a unified experience across touchpoints. Additionally, LUIS understands intents/entities and features active learning technology which is helpful for developers relying on natural language processing.

See how UPS utilized the Microsoft Bot framework.

4. Pandorabots

A long-term, high-quality chatbot investment 

Pandorabots is an integrated development environment for building and deploying chatbots. It is loaded with tools and can reach customers on a number of channels including Slack, Twitter, Kik, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, and more.

Target audience:

Developers. There are over 250,000 developers registered on Pandorabots, and over 300,000 chatbots have been created. Chatbots are commonly made for B2C messaging, commerce, customer service, entertainment, marketing, and voice interfaces.

Features:

  • AIML (Artificial Intelligence Markup Language)
  • Open standards-based
  • A.L.I.C.E. (The Artificial Linguistic Internet Computer Entity) which is a natural language processing chatterbot
  • Fast response time for bots hosted on Pandorabots (around 300 milliseconds)
  • Open source AIML files in libraries to streamline bot development
  • Multilingual
  • Tools you need to create, deploy, and iterate bots
  • Developed SDKs are Java, Node.js, Python, Ruby, PHP, and Go
  • Code review, employee training, hosting, turn-key solutions, and licensing

Benefits:

  • Enables creative chatbot development
  • Puts ownership of the data and code in your hands
  • Easy integration of conversational interfaces

Drawbacks:

  • You have to script a lot of rules
  • Not for beginners
  • Long-term investment

Summary:

No shortcuts here. Pandorabot focuses on helping developers build quality bots that will drive business results. The company says you can’t build anything worthwhile in five minutes. It believes in an iterative process where developers consistently update and improve their bot as more client data becomes available. Designed for developers, this framework is working diligently toward the ultimate goal of AI understanding human language.

See how Pandorabots helped American Eagle Outfitters gain customers.

5. IBM Watson 

Simplified bot development for businesses

Lastly, IBM Watson is a platform where developers can go to build an AI chatbot which can easily handle a complex conversation. Target platforms include Instagram, Slack, Twilio, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

Target Audience:

Developers for enterprise businesses in the following industries: Financial services, healthcare, education, and IoT.

Features:

  • Easy-to-use interface for bot training
  • Connections to media and social channels
  • Watson discovery service
  • Bot asset exchange
  • Watson Assistant
  • Tutorials and webinars
  • Analytics and recommendations
  • Data privacy

Benefits:

  • Build bots faster
  • Increase efficiency
  • Don’t have to start from scratch with the bot asset exchange
  • Leverage creativity of others in development
  • Get complex responses from your documentation
  • Automate interactions with end users

Drawbacks:

  • Limited connectivity to third-party platforms

Summary:

IBM Watson helps developers to build chatbots efficiently and quickly. The Watson Assistant enables the addition of a natural language interface. Bots can be trained to answer questions, control functions, and perform complex interactions. Further, there’s web tooling that lets you easily configure bot behavior through intents, entities, and dialogues. Overall, it’s very user-friendly.

See IBMs featured bots

Find the right bot framework for you

As you can see, each bot framework is unique and has its own set of features, benefits, and drawbacks. If you are trying to find the right one, its best to vet a few top contenders before making a decision. Then, choose the one that will best suit your needs. If you aren’t sure, you can always reach out to our bot development experts here at Brightscout.

We work with many businesses and develop bots for a variety of purposes and industries. Our team stays on the cutting-edge of the latest developments in disruptive tech and can help to guide you toward the best solution for your needs.

Contact us today to learn more.