OSS Friday – Olark, simple and awesome customer chat

We at Wildbit are kind of hooked on Olark, a simple live chat service. Ever wanted to add customer chat to your sites or applications, but even thinking about using another third party app on your end made you forget about it? Well, Olark to the rescue, a small JavaScript snippet and an IM-Client with Gtalk or Jabber support is all you need. Assuming that everyone pretty much uses the latter already, implementation should be a cakewalk for everyone.

While the JavaScript snippet, which creates a small popup window in your page, works great for marketing sites, it can create quite some overhead in applications like Beanstalk. Loading the extra code on each request is probably not the best idea when your application aims for fast load times. I know that Olark supports asynchronous loading, but I still think you should not bloat your code when it's not really necessary. After some hacking, I came up with a simple replacement for the Olark chat window, which is loaded in a plain, oldschool HTML popup window. It even has avatar support, which makes the customer experience even more awesome. We already use it in Beanstalk, with Postmark soon to come.

Popup

One thing this chat window does not do is ask for customer's name or email first. This was intended though, just let your app do all the work by dynamically inserting the customer data. You can even pass along more advanced information like the account ID.

Customer's name and account ID

Want to use this in your application too? Then head over to Github and grab the code. Don't forget to signup at Olark, they also have a free plan to test things out.

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