BEST WIDGETS and
WEBSITE APPLICATIONS
FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

Adding features and capabilities to your website doesn't have to cost a lot. Further when you consider the lifecycle costs of websites, adding capabilities that are powered by external sources (widgets) that don't have to be coded into your website present a huge opportunity to reduce costs and increase the functionality of your website. We will also take a look at web development platforms. You probably know WordPress. The WordPress platform is the most popular website platform on the web but does that make it the right solution for your company? We will tackle this question and tell you why we don't recommend WordPress to our clients. So while we are looking for solutions that offer the best value, you should also understand that sometimes "FREE" has a cost.

Best FREE Website CHAT Software

Web Chat Software

You've seen chat capability on other sites. You might have even used it. For the small local business, it's not hard to derive a benefit but often the cost of the chat software is more than the cost of the website. We'd like to change that. We scoured the web for the best free chat software. We evaluated based on ease of use, ease of installation and scaleability. We found ONE product that exceeded the others in every way.

Chat software can be a great help to your customers but using chat comes with a certain degree of responsibility. The last thing you want to have happen in a chat experience is for the responses to come back after a minute or more of dead time. I know, because I've been on the other end and it's frustrating. If you have a single operator managing multiple conversations, believe me, the person at the other end will know it and will end the chat. Chat is an instant request and the expectation is for an instant answer... in short, a one on one conversation. You may be able to handle two concurrent conversations at the same time but beyond that, you're defeating the purpose of chat.

The reason I mention those expectations is that if your traffic grows beyond the point where you have to manage more than the occasional chat, you'll have to consider if your software can support multiple operators and multiple conversations. Very often, when you get to the point where you need to add multiple operators or handle multiple conversations at the same time, you often hit the end of the free offer and must now pay for the advanced chat capability.

We found six free chat widgets. 

GetSiteControl - Chat Widget (GetSiteControl.com has other cool widgets)

We liked the ease of this widget tool. It is strictly for chat (no tracking features). The thing we missed was a desktop app. You have to login to GetSiteControl's website to make sure you get chat notifications. The software is meant for one site and one operator and scaling up will cost you. We definitely like the other widgets included on GetSiteControl so the lack of chat scalability doesn't knock it out of the running but it does diminish the value of the chat as a standalone widget. 

Talk.to 

This is HANDS DOWN the best free chat software we could find. You have to scratch your head to figure out how these guys are making any money. The software is great. It's simple to use. It scales to multiple users and multiple websites. You can have a single agent answering the chats to multiple websites with no added costs. You can also have a single website being managed by multiple agents for high traffic, high chat volume. No matter how you configure it, there's no cost. I got on the site and asked using the same chat module they give away. Here is the answer and I think it's brilliant: "We currently generate revenue by answering chats for businesses who do not want to answer themselves. If you want to answer chats yourself, then you can use the tawk.to  chat app for free."

In short, this is the chat app for EVERY one of my clients that needs app. 

Crisp.im

The free version of this software provides moderate chat capability up to 2 operator agents. Paid versions allow more. Crisp allows some cool features but when we looked at chat software we kept our sights on something very simple. We just want to be able to offer live chat and to know how much we could scale that when it became too much for one person. The software includes a desktop app for online chat notifications which we consider a necessity. The one difference in the feature set that caught our attention was chat encryption. For businesses where the security of the chat is important, this may tip the scale. I would consider it for medical offices and clinics for example.

Livezilla

Livezilla is a little different in that the software is not an out of the box web service. You have to install the software on your server. Once you've got the Livezilla software installed on your server, adding it to your website is very similar to the other software widgets here. However, this takes it out of the running in our evaluation because it exceeds the level of difficulty for most small business users. Even for users who can get through the difficulty of setting this up, the limitations on the free version still make it less attractive than the other solutions here.

Zoho Chat

We rulled out Zoho chat, not because it isn't great software but because it is focused on collaboration and communication within teams. 

Zopim Chat

Zopim is a good product but the user may quickly grow into the need for the paid version of product. We did not dive into the product simply because the feature set doesn't compete with Talk.to at the free level. 


WINNER: TAWK.TO