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Adding HumanClick to Websites

by Nick Anis

On December 6, 1999, Israeli startup company launched a new customer service, communications, and user tracking resource for websites that bares it corporate name, HumanClick.  The company has signed up over 10,000 users since they began the service in May 1999 (service was actually launched Dec/99).  

Human Click's target market is personal home pages, and home sites for small to medium sized businesses. 

For businesses HumanClick offers an easy way to improve contact with visitors  to the website and help them use the site in real time.  As the emphasis in Ecommerce continues to grow its becoming more and more critical for brand-less sites to convince visitors that they can shop safely within the site, get what they want, have it shipped when and the way they want.  The software and service also improves ability of these sites to make better recommendations when promoting within their sites affiliated products.

For the personal sites HumanClick introduces a means for interacting with visitors without the need for any messaging software or user downloads.  By adding HumanClick to your personal home page, you chat real time with anyone visiting your website.

But don't worry about being overly pestered by users.  You can set the status the user sees for you as available, back in 5 minutes, or not available - leave a message. All the while, you can monitor their usage of site including the URL that referred them, what pages they visit and how long they say at each page, and so on.  It's a great way to understand site behavior and better design your website to better suit the needs of your users. 

While the user is in your site, HumanClick can show you any historical usage information you might have for that user.  (HumanClick's privacy policy promises not to disclose any of your site's usage information for individual users, only group demographics and group usage statistics.)  A future release is planned which will give you access to historical usage statistics whether or not the user is inside your site.

The present version allows you to have as many "operators" as you like, and an operator can talk to multiple users simultaneously.  However, with a 56K connection (actually the problem is more the capacity of the operator and not his line's bandwidth connection), HumanClick recommends operators chat with 1 to 6 users at a time to avoid slowing the system down or getting confused with so many simultaneous conversations. 

Unfortunately, in the present release the users cannot talk to other users, only to the operator, and there is no way for the users to see what there other users are saying.  This group discussion capability is sometimes useful, and it is often used in online support forums.  Of course, those support forums are merely using "chat."  HumanClick, on the other hand, is much, much more than a mere chat service.  HumanClick has real time and historical usage tracking, and it allows the operator to be beside the user when they communicate with each other.  In some ways, it is even better than talking to them on the telephone.

For both business and personal sites, HumanClick offers a unique way to know in real time what is going on within their site (this level of functionality has previously only been available with some very highend, expensive, and complex analysis tools).

The challenge for the company's three 34-year-old founders, Eitan Ron, Tal Goldberg, and Eyal Halahami, who have known each other since they attended junior high school 20 years ago (see sidebar about HumanCick's founders), was to develop a scalable server platform, to be able service an ever growing number of users. 

Another goal set by the management team was for HumanClick to be a solution that any website operator could easily install and use, even someone without knowledge of ftp or modifying HTML pages.  For this reason HumanClick's R&D team developed an auto embed feature which automatically makes any modifications needed by using a website owner's name and password on GeoCity, AOL, or any other host) and home page file - and automatically goes through all their sites pages and inserts the HumanClick tag.

Since HumanClick uses an icon that invokes a JavaScript chat window served up from their servers, there is no overhead for the hosting site's server.  The overhead on the visitors' machine are minimal (in terms of CPU and memory requirements).  The loading time for the chat window vary depending upon the speed of the user's Internet connection, but typically takes a few seconds (the same take a 2-5K GIF file would take) with a 56K modem and a 300 Mhz or better Pentium based processor.

HumanClick uses "cookies" - small datafiles written by some websites to your hard drive when you visit them.  A cookie file can contain information such as user ID for that the website uses to track the pages you've visited. The ONLY personal information a cookie can contain is information you supply yourself. Therefore, there is no need to be all that concerned about cookies.  Many websites use them.  Your browser has a setting for cookies and you will need to set it to "enabled" to use HumanClick.  Actually, you need cookies enabled to use just Ecommerce sites,  Encarta, Elibrary, websites requiring login, and so on.

The HumanClick operator software launches automatically when you boot your PC.  The status for the operator (available, back in 5 minutes, not available leave a message) can be set on the fly as desired.  When a user enters the site a realistic doorbell tone is heard on the operator's PC.  There is also an auto alert when a user requests to chat with an operator whose status is available.

The software gives you a choice of eight icon designs sets for your website including in a variety of colors schemes.  The static icons are about 1K, the animated gif ones are a few K larger

HumanClick's plans for future enhancements include: adding voice and multimedia capabilities to our textual chats, adding off-line traffic analysis, and adding customization features, like enabling site owners to customize their chat windows with their logos, pictures, etc.  Additional site management features may also be added which should appeal to larger sites where there are many concurrent operators.

HumanClick is maintaining a close interaction with their users and Eitan Ron says future enhancements will be primarily based upon the feedback.

The concept of operator chat dates back to the computer old bulletin board in the mid 80's (where bbs users could talk to the "sysop"), but until now, no one has come up with a low overhead easy to use web-based implementation. 

It took the combined skills of three computer scientists to stretch the technological limits of JavaScript.  Two of Human Click's three founders, Tal Goldberg, and Eyal Halahami served in the same elite technology unit of the IDF (Israeli defense forces, which has been the hot house for other successful start ups such as CheckPoint and others).  All three founders hold degrees in computer science and a vast experience in leading R&D teams of Israeli high tech companies such as Commverse, Jacada and Technomatix. 

Eitan Ron holds a computer engineering degree from the Israeli Technion, and after a few years of working in R&D at Scitex, he went to the US, got an MBA from the University of California Irvine, and worked for a while for AST Research.  Since returning to Israel he has held marketing and business development positions with several Israeli high tech companies.

To learn more about HumanClick, try it out, or download the software and install it on one of your websites, point your browser to:  http://www.humanclick.com.

Nick Anis is a food, wine, and travel and technology writer with 24 books in print. Nick’s beats include snow and water sports, and vacation destinations. Nick can be reached by email at: nickanis@aol.com.

 

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