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I'm thinking of putting a "live chat" button or link on a site I work on. It should appear on every page, and ideally would be in the same location on every page.

Are there any usability principles that I should be aware of to govern where to put the link and how it should look? Where would users expect to see such a link? And do users have "ad blindness" or something similar to some implementations?

How do users respond to:

  • Links/buttons popping in from the side or bottom of the page? (like this)
  • Graphics-heavy links (like this)
  • Simple text links in the header or footer? (like the "chat" link in the header of this site)

Edit:

I found the article Improving the User Experience of ‘Live Chat’ Can Improve Sales. I like what it's saying, but it's rather light on any sort of evidence. If anyone could back up its recommendations with some sort of evidence that would be helpful.

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Whatever you do PLEASE don't make it float in from left/right or pop-over the page, I find this irritating enough to stop using the site if possible. eg: clientchatlive.com/examples –  bendataclear Sep 2 '13 at 16:11
    
Thanks that's very helpful –  Robin Winslow Sep 2 '13 at 16:35
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For what it's worth – I've been using a e-commerce website and when I start using the search bar a small chat window appear at the bottom of the page and a "live" customer support guy asks if I want any help. It works actually pretty good. –  Tony Bolero Sep 3 '13 at 8:01
    
Consider how olark.com works! –  Ozair Kafray Sep 15 '13 at 19:42
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3 Answers

The web app I am working on has a floating triangular chat/feedback button that persists in the bottom right corner no matter where the user scrolls. It gets in the way and many users are accidentally clicking it when trying to use the scroll bar, so I would not recommend that.

A much better placement (assuming you want visitors to chat, and you're not burying it on purpose like BestBuy or Comcast) seems to be the upper right corner. That's where users are trained to look for Help, and chat is a form of help content.

Here are some great examples I've seen recently of well-placed chat/feedback buttons:

chat feature on mormon.org

the chat box neatly rolls over the box it was attached to

can't say much for the rest of the site, but United.com's automated chat AI is actually pretty smoothly done

Chat vendors are putting the link at top right, so that must be a good place for it.

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Are you saying the first image is also a good example? +1 for the rest of the answer, top right link without any popup/floating in etc. distractions ftw. –  Alok Sep 4 '13 at 22:50
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Where I work management wants it to be a popup.

Everyone will probably vote this down by the way. But I've tested in the header, in the footer, inline with copy on product pages. etc.

It's sad but I think chat is only good for personas that expect to have a popup or chat and then have their hand-holded throughout the buying experience.

It also doesn't help that the live chat providers push popups as the ideal solution and give sales people the ability to force a popup when they see a visitor in-site. (I'm looking at your Liveperson...)

However after all the testing etcetera for business at my companies website is a popup. We have 3 per session. Once at 90 seconds, the second at 250, and a third 5 mins in. The only way to ensure we got chats was with a pop at these intervals.

Bottom Line: Use it how you want but I had to do this from our companies perspective because our sales people are paid on commission and if all the customers purchased from the website without chatting they'd be without a job. It is distracting to have it everywhere especially on pages within your site that are not about certain products etc. Also you will see much more conversion if used contexually (ex say a banana chat on the banana product page - instead of a sitewide fruitbased chat)

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+2 if i could. especially the part about inner pages - put the hook in the same place throughout your site (footer/header/floating) and pop the chat over any page the user's in. –  nurinur Dec 10 '13 at 23:52
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Where would users expect to see such a link?

As @bendataclear sad, popups are horrible (especially when the somehow cover desired content).

Placing a marker at the bottom or sides of the window is fine — that's some sort of general approach.

Live chat in the footer means you don't want anybody to use it, since the footer almost all the time is the last thing user see. Using header as a container is fine (e.g. for an e-commerce web-site you could place live chat button close to the phone number).

Another option is to embed live chat into page's content (product page), but that may be not so general and should fulfil some specific purposes.

And do users have "ad blindness" or something similar to some implementations?

It depends on your audience. Guess there're some research available over the Internet.

Summary

Placing cute label at the side or bottom of the window is fine.

Placing live chat at header is fine, too, but user have to interrupt his surfing in order to activate chat.

Embedded links are fine when you know what you're doing and why.

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