Revolutionizing User Support: The Journey from AWS Lexbot to a Custom Drupal-Powered Chatbot on SAMHSA.gov
In June 2022, work began on an interactive, live chatbot that would provide user support on SAMHSA.gov. Features include assistance in finding resources, answers to common problems, and finding treatment services in a particular user’s location. Based on an Amazon Lexbot backend (developed by Octo) and a Drupal front-end (provided by the SeKON development team).
Octo rolled off the project in July 2023, and the remaining work was handed to SeKON.
Working with AWS Lexbot proved to be very time-consuming and complicated. Work was further hampered by lack of access to AWS tooling. The team was not provided with the permissions needed to make improvements to the backend. For the next month, only work on the front end could proceed. But it was clear we could not complete the project under these circumstances, so the team made the unexpected decision to move away from AWS Lexbot and toward a solution that involved only Drupal. The team leveraged the existing Drupal code and wrote a completely custom chatbot backend. Within less than a month, a working prototype was available that was completely detached from AWS. The new chatbot uses native Drupal YAML files for most of its behavior configuration. These configurations can be quickly modified for new or changed behaviors and deployed in our normal releases rather than requiring external teams to do AWS deployments.
A release candidate is now in testing, and while that testing is taking place, the team has begun work on our chatbot’s first next phase feature, multilingual support powered by Drupal. We are hoping this feature will be ready by the time we launch. Planning for AI integration has also started.
By shifting away from AWS and to a pure Drupal solution, we will save the client money, own 100% of the code ourselves, and have much simpler and faster development.
Written by Harry Slaughter, SAMHSA Drupal Developer