We get a lot of requests to implement a visitor chat feature. We also have a lot of users who have Olark installed on their web site, which is a visitor chat service. Rather than write our own chat service, which is not really something we wanted to do, we decided to implement Olark chat right into Spy.

We wanted to make the implementation as easy as possible, so good news: if you already have Olark installed on your site, you don’t need to do a gosh darn thing. Our code detects their code and vice versa, and anything that needs to happen between our services happens automatically. Nice eh?

Ideally, a new browser window or tab would open when you click the “chat” link, but Olark doesn’t have a web chat feature on the operator end (operator = you). They say they may add that in the future, and if they do we will switch to that. For now, they support operating chat via Jabber and Google Talk (standalone, or within Gmail). When you click the “chat” link for a visitor in Spy, you will get a new IM immediately, telling you that you have initiated a chat from Clicky Spy. Just start typing in that box to start chatting with the visitor.

Olark works on a freemium model, but the free service isn’t lacking any features. The only limit on the free account is how many chats you can do per month. The free plan allows up to 15 chats per month, which is completely reasonable. Unless you want to spend all day chatting with your visitors, we doubt many people will go over this limit. Sign up for an Olark account here.

You may notice some visitors won’t have a chat link, at least initially. Here are a few reasons why that might happen:

  • Since our entire site is Ajax-based now, you might need to refresh the entire page to make your browser load a new copy of our Spy Javascript, without which there will be no chat links.
  • We just updated the tracking code today with the new Olark integration, so it will be up to one week before all of your visitors are “guaranteed” to have the latest tracking code loaded in their browsers.
  • You can only chat with online visitors. If you have a lowish traffic site, the last 40 actions displayed might not all be from visitors who are online right now. Chatting with visitors who are no longer online makes no sense, so those visitors will not have a chat link next to them.
  • If you are self-hosting the tracking code (which is no longer supported!), you will need to grab a fresh copy.
  • The visitor may be blocking Olark’s code in their browser. This is highly unlikely, but possible.
  • There might be some weird bug in our code. If a week has gone by and for some reason a lot of your visitors still don’t have a chat link, send us an email.