NLU or button-based chatbots: the two conversational approaches compared

Which type of interaction with a conversational interface provides the best user experience?

Chiara Martino
4 min readJul 5, 2018

NLU-based or button-based interaction? Freedom to write any text or guided conversational paths? What is the best approach to create a chatbot that is truly effective?

While voice assistants can only rely on speech (and on well-designed prompts) to get the conversation going, chatbots can rely either on plain text or on visual elements that guide the user.

However, there are still different opinions on how much users should be guided throughout the conversation with these graphical tricks, in order to have the most effective Conversational User Experience.

Let’s go through the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches.

NLU approach: surprising and risky

Chatbots based on NLU (Natural Language Understanding) technologies use Artificial Intelligence to automatically understand what people type and so allow users to write freely any message, in any words.

NLU focuses on extracting meaning from texts and is a branch of NLP, the discipline that studies how to process automatically natural language



Chiara Martino

🤖 I work at the creation of chatbots and voice assistants and I write about Conversational AI & Linguistics 🚀 Co-Founder @ Women in Voice Italy