Adding a live chat option to your WordPress website is a good way to increase interaction between yourself and your visitors. You can add chat as a means of providing real-time support or in a more traditional, conversation-based environment. However, it is not necessarily as easy as adding a new post.
In its infancy, WordPress was a robust content management system (CMS) ideally suited for bloggers. It was not intended to be a fully-fledged CMS with the capability of handling web-based apps and extra features such as real-time chat capabilities. With the maturity of WordPress comes a lot more options, but chat functionality can still be tricky. Your best bet is to implement it using a plug-in.
There are two kinds of chat plug-ins you can use for either live support or conversational chat. The first is a server-based plug-in that requires no third-party involvement. All of the files and scripts necessary to make it work are installed on your server, inside your WordPress folder and database. There are a number of plug-ins utilizing this model including WP Live Support Chat (support) and Quick Chat (conversation).
The advantage of server-based chat is that you are not paying extra to include chat functionality on your WordPress site. This may be important if you are not interested in spending $20-$50 on a proprietary, hosted solution. A server-based plug-in is also free from ads and ‘powered by’ banners in the chat window.
There are two disadvantages with this sort of plug-in, beginning with the fact that it does use up bandwidth. Because the chat is operating directly through your website, you are consuming bandwidth with every conversation. The other downside is that many of the server-based plug-ins lack essential features unless you want to pay for a Pro version – in which case you might be better off spending your money on a hosted service instead.
Hosted Chat Service
A proprietary, hosted chat service involves funnelling your chat through a third party such as RumbleTalk or Chatwee. Their servers handle all of the traffic even though the chat window appears on your website. This is accomplished by inserting a simple line of code into the page on which you want the chat to appear.
The obvious advantage of a hosted service is that there are no headaches related to configuration or bandwidth usage. Having said that, there are some third party services that can be fairly complex in terms of the number of options and features offered. The more complex the chat programme, the more features you have to deal with.
The second disadvantage here is one of cost. The most affordable hosted services start at about $20 per month; the most expensive can be upwards of $100 with built-in video and other top-of-the-line features. There are enough choices to satisfy anyone willing to pay for hosted chat.
Adding a chat feature to your WordPress site can be a bit tricky if you have never done something like this before. Nevertheless, plug-ins make it a lot easier than trying to hard code it yourself. You might want to consider adding chat if you are looking for a way to boost interaction with your customers by way of live support or casual conversations.