I happened to have try two of the currently popular live chat app out there recently for one of my product Bunker App. The first one was Olark and the second was SnapEngage. The experience I went thru while testing those two apps bring me to the conclusion that I’m not done yet with my open source live chat project LiveChat Starter Kit (LCSK). Here is what have been my experience.

Olark was having a major problem for me

Bunker App is a single page JavaScript app. Put simple, there is no full page refresh made when requesting a view or posting data. Those kind of app are more and more popular with HTML5 being adopted.

I’ve contacted multiple times the Olark’s support to try to explain that their chat widget was not refreshing the correct status of the online of offline operators since they were requiring a full page request, hence a new HTTP request to their JavaScript file. After some discussions, a support person came to my site and try the widget and report back that he was not having that situation. I than explain that it’s completely fine on page where visitors browse from page to page where the full page is refreshed, but not on the application where the main HTML page is loaded only once.

They ended up telling me that their engineer told them that it is working / not possible (despite me having sent proofing screenshots). I ended up wasting time with them, and returned back with my original solution (my own project).

Note that Olark for standard website is working perfectly fine, and they have a great product and user interface, you just can’t told them that their widget is not refreshing correctly without a full refresh, because they will not accept that truth Winking smile.

SnapEngage has the same problem but…

After a month or two, I decided to try SnapEngage, same issue with the non refreshing status if there is not a full page refresh. I’ve contacted their support (via chat, compared to email for the other situation). They immediately understood the situation and told me right away that their widget was indeed not going to refresh properly within a single page JavaScript app. They have a workaround for that situation though that involve calling some JavaScript to force an update etc.

I was really impressed by their app and UI, I was sad that it did not work out straight out of the box.

LCSK is not that far compared to those established products

I then return to my good old project, the one with no designer, no sexy UI, but the one that is refreshing correctly and display the current state of the operators ;). I decided to improve the product and start the development of the version 2. I realized that LCSK could be a viable commercial product almost as is, with the help of a good web designer and some hard hours, I could easily turn this into a product and try to market this. But, I will not. I’m a huge fan of open source, this project exists since 2007, I’m just more motivated of getting a solid result.

The goal of this project was to get you started with a basic live chat app that give you real-time visitor details, chat from visitors and engaging visitors to chat. I have interesting plan for the next version.

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