Does anyone else remember how huge public chat rooms were in the 90’s?
AOL, Yahoo, and MSN may have quietly discontinued their public chat services, but in the 21st century there’s still plenty of reasons to add public chat to your website.
Chat rooms are a great way to drive engagement and can create a sense of community that’ll keep people coming back for more. You can use chat rooms to communicate with your audience directly, for example encouraging them to share feedback about your products or content, or visitors can talk amongst themselves - the latter is a great way to create a buzz of activity on your website, with very little day-to-day effort from you.
You could even create a site that offers nothing but public chat. While private messaging solutions such as Facebook Messenger and Skype may have replaced many of the public chat rooms of the 90’s, there's still an audience for public chat.
Try searching for chat rooms on Google, and you’ll discover a thriving community of online chat enthusiasts - if you have an idea for a unique, interesting or niche chat room experience, then you also have a potential audience!
In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to add multiple chat rooms to your WordPress website, in minutes - and with zero code.
In this tutorial, we’ll be using CometChat Go to build multiple chat rooms that visitors can access via a standard WordPress menu.
By following this tutorial, you can create chat rooms about any topic - whether that’s knitting, football, the latest Netflix shows, mountain climbing, dating, or anything else your audience may be interested in. Alternatively, you could create one giant chat room where everyone who visits your website can congregate.
After creating your chat rooms, you may want to add some extra features to help your website really stand out from the crowd. Towards the end of this tutorial, I’ll be sharing several free WordPress plugins that are the perfect fit for any chat website.
I’ll show you how to add membership functionality, so visitors can register with your site, upload an avatar, and create a unique username before joining the chat - perfect if you want participants to know exactly who they’re talking to. We’ll also build a chatroulette feature that drops visitors into a chat room at random, similar to popular online chat websites such as Omegle.
The first step is adding the CometChat Go plugin to your website, as we’ll be using this plugin to create and run all of our public chat rooms.
Once you’ve purchased the CometChat Go plugin, you’ll need to upload it to your WordPress account:
You can now add live chat to any part of your website.
You can use CometChat Go to embed a chat window in any post or page, essentially transforming that webpage into a live chat room.
To create each chat room, you’ll need to:
Your chat room is now ready to use, and anyone who visits this post will be able to send and receive messages in real-time.
To start, we need to create some CometChat Go groups.
CometChat Go supports public and private groups, for example you could create a group that’s password-protected or a group that’s only accessible via a “secret” URL.
In this tutorial, I’ll be creating public chat rooms that anyone can enjoy, but you can always make your chat rooms private, hidden or password-protected if it’s more appropriate for your website.
You can now open the “Type” dropdown and specify whether this group should be public or private:
Assign a “Type” to your group, and then click “Add Group.” Rinse and repeat for every chat room that you want to create.
In the next step, we’ll be switching over to WordPress, but keep the Client Area open in a separate tab as we’ll be needing the group embed codes shortly.
Next, we need to:
Rinse and repeat for every chat room that you want to create.
We can copy/paste HTML into a post, using WordPress’s classic editor. To make this process easier, I’m going to install the free Classic Editor plugin:
All of your posts will now launch in the Classic Editor.
Next, we need to create posts for all of our chat rooms, and link each post to a specific CometChat Go group:
Repeat this process for each of your chat rooms.
Now we’ve set up our chat rooms, we need to give visitors a way to navigate between them.
In this section, I’m creating a WordPress menu that contains links to all of my public chat rooms:
Now, navigate to your website - you should see a new menu featuring all of your chat rooms!
Select any chat room, and it should load automatically. Assuming that your chat rooms are all public, you’ll now be able to exchange messages in real-time.
Note that in all of my screenshots I’m using the free OnePress theme.
Now, everyone who visits your website will be able to select a chat room from the menu and join the conversation.
By following the steps in this tutorial, you can create countless private and public chat rooms that are tailored to your specific target audience - but why not stop there?
You can encourage visitors to log into your chat rooms, by adding some extra features. In these final sections, I’ll cover two free WordPress plugins that can make your chat rooms more engaging, and help your website really stand out from the crowd.
By default, everyone who joins your chat rooms will be anonymous.
While this may be perfect for some chat rooms, you should consider giving visitors a way to register with your website. If a visitor takes the time to create a username, upload an avatar, and craft that perfect bio, then they’ll be much more invested in your website, and more likely to pay you repeat visits.
By adding a registration feature, the people in your chat rooms will know exactly who they’re talking to, and can potentially build meaningful relationships with other users - creating this sense of community is a great way to turn one-time visitors into loyal regulars!
You can add membership functionality to WordPress, using plugins. There’s plenty of membership plugins available, but I’m using Ultimate Member, as it automatically generates all the pages required to deliver membership functionality.
With the click of a button, Ultimate Member can create all of the following pages:
Let’s install this free plugin, and use it to generate all of our membership pages:
Ultimate Member will now create all of the following pages: Account, Login, Logout, Members, Password Reset, Register, and User.
By default, most WordPress themes display a list of your most recently-published blog posts, but you may want to display Ultimate Member’s “Login” page instead.
Using “Login” as your homepage makes it easier for users to log into their account. For visitors who haven’t registered with your website, the “Login” page also provides a convenient “Register” button that takes them straight to your website’s registration form.
To set “Login” as your homepage:
WordPress will now use Ultimate Member’s “Login” page, as your homepage.
To make your website easier to navigate, you may want to add all of the Ultimate Member pages to their own menu.
I’ll be creating a dedicated Ultimate Member menu, and then adding it to my website’s sidebar.
To improve the user experience, I’ll display different menu items depending on whether the visitor is logged into their account - after all, a “Logout” link isn’t much use to someone who isn’t logged in!
We can now position this menu on our website:
Your menu will now appear in the sidebar and display different options depending on whether the viewer is logged into their account.
If you’ve created multiple chat rooms, then you may want to add some spontaneity to your website. Many chat websites give users the option to spin the wheel and join a chat, completely at random.
In this final section, I’ll be using the free Redirect URL to Post plugin to create a URL that takes the visitor to a randomly-selected post. Since we embedded each chat room in a separate post, we can use this plugin to drop the user into a random chat.
I’ll be embedding this link in a “Join a random chat” button, which I’ll then add to my main menu.
To create this feature:
Next, we need to add this URL to our main menu:
Load up your website - your menu should now feature a “Join a random chat” item. Every time you click this link, your website will load a CometChat Go chat room that’s selected completely at random.
In this tutorial, we added multiple chat rooms to our website, without having to write a single line of code. If you’ve been following along, then the people who visit your website can now communicate in real time. If you chose to set up the additional plugins, then your visitors will also be able to create an account, and drop into chat rooms at random.