WWW FAQs: How do I add live support chat to my website?

2007-11-08: live support chat pages can't be implemented just by designing a pretty HTML form to type comments into. There must be something listening on the web server to accept the user's comments and do something with them. That will usually be a PHP, Perl/CGI or ASP script.

What's more, to provide a smooth experience for the user without constantly fetching new pages from the web server, a live support system should use AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript And XML). AJAX allows us to send questions to and fetch responses from a support person without forcing the user to go to a new page, as long as they have a reasonably modern web browser. For more information, see how do I fetch data from the server without loading a new page?

Can you get live support features for your site without understanding these issues? Sure... if you're willing to pay. There are companies out there that provide live support features for your website. The good news is that these companies don't require you to install any chat server software on your website. The bad news, of course, is that they aren't free. boldchat is a good example of this type of product.

For those who are willing to make a little more effort, though, live support can be implemented for free without writing your own solution from scratch, as long as your web hosting account allows PHP. Open source projects like Lace provide live chat features. Or you can use SupportMeLive, a simple live support program of my own.

SupportMeLive was originally written to answer the question "how do I fetch data from the server without loading a new page?" It has since blossomed into a useful tool in its own right.

Since SupportMeLive has grown into more than a working demo, it now has a web page of its own. So please visit the SupportMeLive home page for complete details on how to use SupportMeLive to add live technical support to your web site, for free.

See also How can I add a chat room to my website?

Legal Note: yes, you may use sample HTML, Javascript, PHP and other code presented above in your own projects. You may not reproduce large portions of the text of the article without our express permission.

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