This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. If you continue to use our website, you consent to our Cookies Policy

  1. Home
  2. Insights
  3. How to Build a Chat App with Twilio: Step-by-Step Guide
How to Build a Chat App with Twilio

September 27, 2021

How to Build a Chat App with Twilio: Step-by-Step Guide

Creating a chat sounds quite like a challenge because it’s a complex structure with constant real-time updates. It’s hard to believe in a ready-made solution here. That’s when using Twilio in app development can help. Check out our guide on how to do it.

Chats have long been a part of our lives and without them, our daily routine seems almost impossible. We use them for work, to communicate with family and friends, and even with people on the other side of the world. As more and more chat platforms appear, so do new ideas on how to make them more interesting.

Everyone who has ever come up with their own chat idea has probably thought about whether or not there is some kind of universal way to create them. Our answer to that is yes, definitely. And it is called Twilio Programmable Chat.

Twilio in a nutshell

We would like to start by answering the question "What is Twilio in general?”. Twilio is a cloud communications platform as a service (CPaaS) company. It was founded in 2008 and for 13 years of its functioning, Twilio proved itself to be a market leader in providing instant communication tools.

Twilio is a great tool for automating processes like:

  • Phone calling
  • Text messaging
  • Organizing email campaigns
  • Customer service

Besides, Twilio is a great solution if you need to implement the ability to exchange files inside the app, send or receive verification codes, and create chatbots.

Twilio is available in 180 countries and almost 13,000 websites already use their services to improve the performance, not even talking about mobile apps.

What are the pros and cons of Twilio for chat app development?

Twilio contains a lot of features that are necessary for the functioning of any good chat.

Twilio Programmable Chat contains a lot of features that are necessary for the functioning of any good chat, and they are very easy to set up. They include, for example, displaying information about a person’s online status, typing a message, push notifications, and message history. Still, despite Twilio being quite a universal solution for communication building, there are still some limitations that can prevent you from using it. So before starting working with it, let’s consider its advantages and disadvantages.


Online presence indicator

It shows whether the participants in the conversation are online or offline now, and also provides an opportunity to find out when the participant was last in the chat. We used the typing indicator, as well as the read status.

Integrating audio and video calls

With the help of Programmable Voice and Programmable Video, it’s easy to integrate video and audio calls inside the chats. Twilio really has a lot of ready-made solutions for this, so in working with it, even the simplest chat can be equipped with the ability to make calls.

Push notifications

Our team didn’t ignore the push notifications from Twilio, but here we would like to note that this function was not as flexible as we would have liked it to be. For example, these push notifications are more than enough if you have a classic messenger with regular text messages, and if you send audio, video, or documents.

However, in the case of notifications about any money transfers or more complex operations inside the chat, they are not possible to be configured using Twilio, since it has limited options for customizing push notifications.

Twilio SDK

Twilio SDK is updated quite often and is constantly getting better and better. Server-side SDKs make it easy for you to use Twilio's REST APIs, generate TwiML, and do other common server-side programming tasks.


Requires tech specialists

As we already mentioned, you should hire developers to work with Twilio. If you don’t want to spend money on more employees or don’t have coding skills yourself, Twilio’s services are not for you.

Local bugs and downtimes

Despite Twilio functioning in more than 180 countries, some of them still may meet some obstacles. For example, there can be problems with phone number authentication in Mexico. Also, we ourselves faced a challenge with Belarusian phone numbers.

How to develop a chat app with Twilio

The development of any chat application requires a well-prepared strategy and necessary expertise. The more detailed and tailored plan of action you have, the higher are the chances for your product to win the market. Here are five main steps to follow to create a reliable chat application using Twilio.

Step #1: Define your target audience

The target audience consists of your potential clients. It defines what people would use your app in the first place and what people you should impress. You should formulate the main benefit of the app and the way it’s going to address the audience’s needs.

Step #2: Research the market

Since the instant communication market is overflown with various solutions, you will definitely have rivals to overcome. The research stage will help you understand how your competitors reached their success, what they already offer to users, and what weaknesses you can target with your app.

Step #3: Hire Twilio developers

When you want to implement such a specific tool as Twilio, you need to hire a team that has enough experience of working with it. They will know all the peculiarities of implementing Twilio into a chat and can guide you through them.

There is a whole partner program organized by Twilio where you can look for a suitable agency. It has three types of partners: consulting partners, professional services, and technology partners. All of them are proven by Twilio to have deep knowledge of the platform’s services and be trustworthy.

Yellow is a Bronze Twilio partner, so we will gladly help you with applying Twilio to your chat app.

Step #4: Integrate Twilio into your chat

When all previous steps are done and the team is ready, you can start the development. Define a suitable workflow together with the agency you chose: Pick the time for report calls and the means to receive daily updates. Also, discuss with them how Twilio is going to be involved in your project and what APIs they will use. It will give you a clear understanding of the process and complete control over it.

Step #5: Release

It’s better to initially launch a minimum viable product (MVP). With its help, you can collect feedback directly from users and see if your solution is what they really need. When the feedback is gathered and analyzed, you can pursue maintenance and updating.

Benefits of Twilio Programmable Chat

Here is how Twilio Programmable Chat will benefit your chat application:

  • Documentation: Thanks to the simple documentation, you can immediately start creating your own chat... even though the chat itself is a very complex structure with a very large number of updates in real-time. Twilio handles this just fine, allowing you to continue to work in real-time.
  • Support: We would also like to acknowledge Twilio’s support team. Difficulties can arise even on the simplest projects, and the faster and better a person can handle them, the higher their loyalty to the service and the faster they can move forward in working on the chat. Their team answers your question within two days maximum.
  • Pay-as-you-go: No long-term contracts or vague agreements. You pay only for services you actively use and only for the time you actually use them in your app.

Our experience in creating a chat app with Twilio

For a long time, our team has been working with Twilio very closely, as they are recognized leaders in their field, helping us and our clients develop not only chats but many other projects as well. As a bonus, we were certified by Twilio as its bronze partner.

Our team has extensive experience in working with Twilio. This includes Twilio Programmable Chat, Twilio Programmable Voice, Video, Studio, and more.

To sum it up

Fortunately, progress never stands still, and even small things like chats can and should be improved. It all started with sending text messages to each other, then it became possible to exchange various files. After that was not enough, in came the ability to create group chats, and a little later, calls within these chats.

No matter how many features have already been invented, new ideas still come and they also need to be implemented. It is much easier and more enjoyable to do this when you don't have to put a lot of effort into the execution and you can focus on the idea itself. Thanks to tools like Twilio Programmable Chat, this is possible. It's also very gratifying that along with the development of chats, the platform is also developing, so we can use chats every day.

Related article:

How to Create a Chatting Website: Important Features and Design Tips

How to Create an Instant Messaging App: Beginner’s Guide

💬 What is Twilio?

Twilio is a cloud communications platform as a service (CPaaS) company. They help businesses build up communication flows like messaging and calling.

💬 Why is Twilio good for chats?

Twilio has Twilio Programmable Chat to work specifically on chats. This service provides you with an online presence indicator, audio and video calls, push notifications, and Twilio SDK.

💬 Is there anything that can prevent me from using Twilio?

Integrating Twilio services requires a tech team that is able to work with code and has the relevant level of expertise. Besides, you can face some obstacles depending on your location.

💬 How much does it cost to create a chat with Twilio?

The cost of integrating Twilio into a chat app varies depending on the project’s specifications. To get an accurate estimate, feel free to contact us.

Subscribe to new posts.

Get weekly updates on the newest design stories, case studies and tips right in your mailbox.