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I'm designing a chat window for an ecommerce site, and looking for info on when and how to engage the user without annoying them. For example, is it beneficial for the window to be set to appear once a user has spent a certain amount of time on the site? Is a pop up better than a flyout tab?

The object is to design a window that is more contextual than disruptive.

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2 Answers 2

I heard many people saying that these chat invitations only annoy them, to the point that they want to leave the site immediately they see such a pop up.

I would recommend placing a clearly noticeable chat button and let your visitors click on it themselves. I've seen very neat chat buttons that are small and noticeable at the same time. They appear as a tab or a badge at the side of the page and remain visible while the visitor scrolls up/down.

If you still want the chat window to pop up automatically, it should be safe to show it to people who visit your FAQ/Help/Contact Us page. Another idea is to show a chat window with a special offer to someone staying for some time on a certain page. For example:

"Chat with us now and receive a 5% discount" to people on the pricing page.
"Chat with us and get free shipping for this product" to people on certain product pages.

If your visitors get something valuable for clicking on the chat button, it won't be as annoying to them as a usual chat pop up.

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Thanks Irene, it looks like we're going to try the tab on the side of the page. Showing the popup on only the FAQ page is a also good idea. –  RyanDA Jul 5 '13 at 18:14

In my experience, a chat window shouldn't be shown by default. There should be a button they can click to engage in the chat. At this point, I think it's mostly opinion, but I chat should appear in page. The exception is if the chat is likely to take place across several pages, then a popup might be more beneficial in that case. In general though I find people hate popup windows and prefer things to stay on page.

As to your idea of showing a chat window after a certain amount of time, I'd default to no. However, if you feel that time spent on page is a good indicator of needing help, which good testing should be able to tell you, then maybe highlighting the chat button or displaying a non intrusive message asking if they need help would be better than just opening a chat window.

Finally, something to consider given that you have an e-commerce site is that real estate is prime for your page. That screen space could better serve you displaying product instead of a chat window. Because of this I would limit the chat window as much as possible and only bring it into play when the user wants to use it.

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Thanks for the insight. I agree that we need to do some testing and see if highlighting a button/side tab, or displaying a message works better. Less annoying is best. –  RyanDA Jul 5 '13 at 18:18

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