I Tested Speed of 8 Popular Chat Widgets

chat bubbles

Chat widgets may look small, but there are too many things under the hood. If not built properly, chat widgets can impact the performance of a site a lot.

So I didn’t some tests to figure out which one is well coded and took optimization seriously.

How tests are done

To get a fair comparison, here is how I tested:

  • Fresh WordPress install with Twenty Twenty theme
  • No plugins or external scripts (not even Google Analytics)
  • Same country for server and testing location (India), to minimize network latency
  • All tests are done thrice to get an average
  • Embed codes are added at the footer

Tools used for collecting metrics

  • GTmetrix.com – To measure fully loaded time, no. of requests, page size. Test location India, Chrome Desktop.
  • Lighthouse – To measure FCP, FMP, TTI, FID etc. Test device – Mobile. Applied 4G with 4x CPU slowdown.
  • Pingdom Tools – To measure content size by file type, domain lookups etc.

Why Lighthouse instead of PageSpeed Insights?

Some of the chat widgets checks for the user agent and if it contains a keyword like “Google”, they’ll not load the widget.

This is probably to exclude Google bots crawling pages. However, PageSpeed Insights uses a similar user-agent.

What metrics should I care?

Measuring fully loaded time is a great way to know the speed.

But keep in mind that chat widgets should be loaded in the background so that it will not affect FCP (first contentful paint) or TTI (time to interactive) or FID (first input delay).

These are also the metrics Google looks for in rankings. It’s now visible in Google Search Console.

Here is what Google suggests:

fcp and fid

Test Results

No Widgets

To get a baseline, here are the results without using any chat widgets:

Crisp

Crisp is fairly new to this market. But within this short period, they’ve added tons of features and gained a lot of traction. Pricing starts with a free plan (2 seats) to $95/month.

Drift

Drift is another chat widget which is more focussed into sales and marketing. Their bots/automation is pretty cool. They do have a free plan.

Facebook

Facebook launched its chat widget named “Customer Chat Plugin” a few years back. It’s tied to your Facebook page. Not feature-rich as other platforms, but 100% free.

HubSpot

HubSpot is well known for its CRM. They also have a live chat widget which comes free and has tight integration with their CRM and other services.

Intercom

Intercom is probably the company who revolutionized chat widgets in websites. Almost every SaaS websites use it. I love their UI. It has all the features like live chat, emails, CRM, marketing, help centre etc.

Intercom doesn’t offer a free plan. Pricing is based on the features you want. The ‘Essential’ plan starts at $38/month.

LiveChat

LiveChat, yet another live chat solution! No free plan. Starts at $16/month.

PS: Upon testing, they translated the text to Hindi, since I’m from India. But I don’t know how to read and write Hindi!

Tawk.to

Tawk.to is probably one of the oldest live chat solutions. Within the last few years, they changed the UI and added a lot of cool features. 100% free.

While testing, I noticed that Tawk.to widgets are not rendered in GTmetrix. On further investigation, I found that Tawk.to blocks GTmetrix from loading their scripts.

So if you’re using Tawk.to and uses GTmetrix to measure speed, you might be getting the wrong results.

Tawkto GTmetrix Error

ZenDesk

ZenDesk is a customer support ticket system and support platform. It’s widely used by many websites. Their live chat solution integrates well with the tickets system too.

Summary

chat widgets speed

Here is the comparison of each based on the load time, no. of requests, size, and domain lookups:

Load timeRequestsSizeDomain lookups
No widget0.8s90.27MB1
Crisp1.6s150.42MB3
Drift7.8s530.79MB10
Facebook5.3s421.31MB5
HubSpot4.6s280.75MB9
Intercom1.5s140.53MB3
LiveChat4.8s250.73MB7
Tawkto4.4s260.43MB7
ZenDesk5.3s210.84MB4

Crisp and Intercom are very well optimized.

Both of them has also written detailed blog posts on how much effort they put into optimization:

Comment below if you’ve any queries or feedback. I read and reply to each of them within 12 hours!

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