Putting it All Together: PureChat

Putting it All Together: PureChat

PureChat Operator ConsoleFor those who love to build stuff, there’s no better feeling than introducing a new product into the world.

On Friday, Axosoft released a new commercial application: PureChat V1.0. PureChat is a simple web-based application that allows an ASP.NET web site operator and a visitor to chat with each other. Since this blog is about shipping software, I thought it might be interesting to talk about how this product came to be.

As Jonas explains in his blog post about PureChat, the project was born from a side-project that he worked on after the last major release of OnTime. In What’s the Developer’s Incentive to Ship, I explain how having side projects at Axosoft is an extremely motivating tool for all of us. It gives everybody a chance to breathe and learn new things. But more importantly, it’s a great way to actually keep everyone focused on shipping our main product. Once OnTime 2008 was out the door, the side projects (could get) started.

This time around, each developer decided to work independently on different projects. As I said, what came to be known as PureChat was started by one of our software engineers, Jonas. He was the sole programmer on a project he chose in order to test out a couple of ideas around a chat tool using AJAX. After he showed the initial idea to a few of us internally, we became excited about the prospect of using it for our own web site.

There are dozens of such chat tools out there, but most are hosted-only solutions and are generally a little too complicated in the wrong ways and not complicated enough in the right ways. We thought there was still a good opportunity here to make something that was extremely simple to use, while  effectively allowing web site visitors and web site operators to communicate.

So a few of us jumped into Jonas’ project, improved the UI and adding dozens of new requirements. Everything from the exact size of the client window to the color and appearance of every chat conversation was carefully scrutinized. We wanted to make sure all of the product’s features were easily discoverable and didn’t require explanation.

What started out as a technical AJAX and Javascript learning project with some ASP.NET back-end quickly became a design exercise for the most effective user interface. All the focus and effort was put into making the user interface on both the client and the operator sides as clean and intuitive as possible.

Considering the project went from conception to final release in less than 60 days, the result is absolutely amazing. I’ll let the product speak for itself, and  also point out that it truly speaks volumes for how important it is to have an amazing team and to give them the freedom and motivation to innovate. To let the product market itself, we’ve made PureChat free for single-operator installations.

So go ahead. Try it and out and see what you think.

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