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We are building an application which is like a social network. We also have a message system and chat system. Now, there is an argument between us on whether should we save the chat conversation for further reference or not.

I am against storing concept. Here is the reason.

  1. According to me, chat is just a momentary conversation and hence, it does not have any importance for further reference.
  2. If any important or key info needs to be conveyed, people can use Messages for it.

So, if chat conversation has to be stored, then, I see no difference between messages and chat? Why would their be two modules doing same thing?

Honestly, I never looked into my chat conversation to get any info, but I do look into it in Inbox. Facebook has cleverly integrated chat history into messages (just to note).

So, which should we do?

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4  
How can you claim chat conversations might not be used by other users to store information,I constantly refer to my gmail chat logs to retrieve information –  Mervin Johnsingh Aug 23 '12 at 12:30
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And what is the difference between message and chat here –  Mervin Johnsingh Aug 23 '12 at 12:31
    
am referencing a social network where users just come by to chat and have fun. Gmail an others are used for exchanging information. this is what i assume, hence i see no good in storing the chat conversation.. –  sree Aug 23 '12 at 12:59
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A mantra that is often helpful to contemplate: "I am not the user". Just because you use chat a certain way doesn't mean everyone does. Until you do the research, you don't know. –  Monica Cellio Aug 23 '12 at 16:30
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-"Johnny, Can you cover for Nick next Monday?" -"Sure I can". Wouldn't you want to have this in your chat history if Johnny doesn't show up on Monday? –  Izhaki Aug 23 '12 at 22:15
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5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I would strongly recommend that you store your chat history since a simple search for " Chat History in Google" you see that its a feature a lot of people request for in chat clients.

Digsby forum

It would be amazing if you could have all of your chat history(and other history such as emails, file transfers, tweets, etc) all saved online so that when you go and use another computer, or you reformat your computer, or in some other way lose access to your locally stored logs, you can still access them. Similar to how the Meebo client(www.meebo.com) does it.

Also it seemed to be a very highly requested feature in google chat since if you look at the chat history FAQ for google, you see this text

One of our users' most commonly-requested features is finally here! Now you can save your chat histories to your Gmail account. There, your chat histories are just like Gmail messages--you can view them, forward them, print them or search for them. Never worry about losing something important from your chats again.

Lastly from a personal front, I would prefer that chat history be saved since lot of useful information can be shared during chat communications (email ids, phone numbers, web urls,addresses etc). I know you do have the feature to send messages but it would be really bad UX if your user has to specifically type out a message to send useful information when it could have been sent as part of a chat conversation.

Another reason you should save chat histories is that it serves as a reference to what the previous conversation was about and can be a starting point about previous topics. eg:

Person 1 : Hey,how are you feeling now ?

Person 2: I am fine, why what happened ?

Person 1 : Oh,I was just looking at our chat logs and the last time we chatted, you had a pretty nasty cold

Note : Though I strongly recommend the ability to save chat history, always ensure the user has a way out of it,i.e. he can disable the chat history from being saved. Also ensure the user can delete specific chat histories or even all the history when ever he wants to.

However I would also recommend running some usability tests to see what users have to say about the feature and they find it useful or intrusive with regards to privacy

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hey plz see my comment on top...:) –  sree Aug 23 '12 at 13:00
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According to me, chat is just a momentary conversation and hence, it does not have any importance for further reference.

The problem is what happens when what you imagined the system would be used for diverges from what the users want to use the system for. Invariably someone uses an "unimportant" method of communication to send important information, then they have to go digging through that information later. Maybe you got a text with that phone number you need to call, you sent a Facebook IM with the time of the meeting you're going to.

Communication is always important; it's very likely something important will be said here. Air on the side of not losing it!

There's a whole bunch of HCI/usability concepts behind not giving the user nasty surprises like this; Principle of Least Surprise, error prevention (looking for logs that don't exist is an error as far as your user is concerned). Trying to avoid the user getting a nasty surprise like this will reduce support calls and increase user happiness.

Basically it comes to this: if there's no significant cost to the user to add a feature, and the feature is a safety net, it's better off to add that feature.

Keep in mind things like visual clutter, complicated/confusing systems are a cost; don't add Feature Creep "just in case", but this is more like adding quiet validation. You're quietly adding a feature just in case to help when you user needs it, it's invisible when they don't.

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+1 for the reiteration of "you are not your users". –  Alex Feinman Aug 23 '12 at 14:43
    
@ben tnx for the answer! point noted! –  sree Aug 24 '12 at 17:39
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I would say support it! This is becoming a common feature on many different desktop applications and web applications. At this point, it might be for frustrating to a user to find out that it wasn't saving conversation after they lose something important and cause an even worse user experience.

Example:

  • Google Chat
  • Facebook Chat
  • Microsoft Lynx with exchange
  • AIM
  • Pidgin (Linux AIM client)

From the UX side. Make the feature known but don't completely advertise its existence or have the function get in the way of the users normal tasks. Google does a good job at this by sending copy of all conversations to the users inbox when conversations have ended or gone idle for a long period of time. This gives users a queue that the conversation they just had was automatically saved for them, without them having to open it. Any related setting for the auto saving of messages can be tucked away in a setting section for user discovery later on as needed.

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tnx point noted... –  sree Aug 24 '12 at 17:40
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I would suggest a reasonable half way measure by doing it like threaded text messages. e.g. On my phone the phone automatically stores the last 500 text messages (per thread) and deletes any others. Therefore I always have the 500 "most relevant" messages at any time. If there are any useful dates, addresses or anything then they will usually be in those 500 text messages. If they were really important then I would have used them/written them down/stored them elsewhere before it gets 500 messages old.

I don't trust chat history and in any case the last thing I want to do is pour through hundreds of "hi" "hi" "how are you?" "good you" "etc ..." "etc ..." just to find a phone number I need or something. By this point I will usually have written it down or stored it elsewhere. I can't speak for other people though.

When I come to the chat screen on your application I would expect to see something like the Skype messaging system... The last 500 messages sent/received to the person I'm chatting to are possibly greyed out and start at the bottom... so effectively I can scroll up to see any previous chat messages from earlier conversations (possibly with dividers between chats on different days).

Emailing old chats to the user is quite useful too, there have been times when I've searched my emails (gmail) for chat's from my google talk account, but these have been few and far between. You could always include this feature for people who want it.

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tnx for the answer... –  sree Aug 24 '12 at 17:39
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Will chat rooms be isolated to a group where participation is dictated by some invitation from an existing member or the initiator of the group? -> Save history.

Are chat rooms open for anyone to participate with a steady flow of users who momentarily enters the chat to much later (or never) return again? -> Have history limited to a set value of say 500 recent posts.

If your application is of the later form, then there will not be much point in saving the flow of posts. However, I would argue that these kind of chat rooms are usually isolated to be active in a limited scope in time, say like during a live stream with an accompanying chat feature.

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point noted! tnx –  sree Aug 24 '12 at 17:40
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