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Reasons to chat-enable your web site

This tip describes the reasons for chat enabling your Website.

In the article "Chat-enabling your Web site using SameTime" , I introduced how to quickly give a web site chat capabilities using Lotus' Sametime. You may be asking why anyone would even consider doing such a thing. The answer of course, is that it depends on the needs of your organization, and, even more importantly, on the needs of your customers.

We typically look at Intranets, Extranets and Web sites. Intranets facilitate information sharing inside the organization, Extranets allow sharing of information with customers and partners on a secured, password protected site, while Web sites are publicly available sites on the World Wide Web.

We don't see these as three separate environments at the company I work for (Convergens.dk), but rather as one information-sharing environment with different levels of access and control for various users. Today, most organizations do have three different environments -- and often running on different technologies -- but given time, these will merge into one.

Benefits
What does chat-enabling a site allow you to do? It makes it possible for a site user to see whether a person is online and available, and it allows the user to initiate immediate communication. Any name mentioned in the site could be chat- and awareness-enabled. It is my experience is that content and use of Sametime lies somewhere between a telephone call, SMS and e-mail.

The threshold for initiating a chat is lower than for any of those forms, it has a low bandwidth (higher than SMS, but definitely lower than e-mail), and the form is usually casual. So Sametime-enabling a site lets you offer the following to the site user:

  • An invitation to communicate.
  • A medium for a brief exchange of information.

I would suggest looking at your Intranet and Extranet first when considering chat-enabling your information-sharing environments. Organizations that have a limited public interest could also consider chat-enabling their public Web sites. I base this on a number of assumptions:

  • You don't want to be overwhelmed by a large number of chats that have no connection to your business goals.
  • The Sametime users in your organization will feel uncomfortable when they don't know who they are communicating with.
  • If a chat develops into something more substantial, you have to switch to a medium like telephone or e-mail, which is time consuming. You will probably prefer to only use that kind of time on customers or your internal users.
  • The cost of chat-enableing a Web site is very low, as is limiting the availability of service if it proves to be cost ineffective.

    Of course these considerations are based on a very broad, generalized view on organizations. Different organizations have different needs. You need to consider the implications, such as whether you want this kind of service limited to your regular customers or available to others. Think of it as a way to be supportive of your Web-site users.

    About the author
    Jens Bruntt has been a developer and infrastructure advisor for Notes and Domino projects since 1994 and is an R6 Principal Developer working as project manager or consultant depending on the project's size and requirements. He has a Masters degree in Library- and Information Science. Jens works at Convergens.dk as a senior consultant, primarily architecting Domino Browser based Internet, Intranet and Extranet sites. He is also a SearchDomino.com site expert.


  • Dig Deeper on Web Development for Lotus Notes Domino

    Just 'chat,' or the next IT revolution In the Q&A portion of his live April 27 webcast, Mathew Newman answered many questions posed by attendees, but there were more that he didn't have time to answer in the webcast. Here are these questions and Mathew's expert answers. Don't forget to check out part 2 of his webcast series on Sametime.

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