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30 August, 2021

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

Instant messaging apps are continuing to conquer the market of real-time communication solutions. They are fast, light, and convenient. If you made up your mind about building a messenger app, here is the guide to give you a hand.

Mitya Smusin

Chief Executive Officer

Speed is one of the most significant factors in modern online communication. Fast messaging is useful both in personal life and in a company workflow: Friends can discuss their day-to-day activities in real time, and colleagues can easily synchronize all the necessary processes. The demand for high-quality online messengers has grown, so it isn’t surprising that many companies wonder how to build a messaging app. Despite the popularity of leading applications, people are still looking for new opportunities to communicate.

If you decide to build a public messenger or a chat application for your company’s internal usage, this guide offers a complete overview of the chat-app creation process.

Is it worth investing in a messaging app?

The first step in building a messaging app is to decide whether it will be worth the effort. The short answer is, well, yes. Even when we explore the matter in depth, we find considerable proof for that assessment.

📌Facebook reports that 80% of adults and 91% of teenagers consider messaging a crucial part of daily life. Generally, they use messengers for their convenience, speed, and multitasking abilities. The average time spent on a messaging app is approximately 10 minutes per use or session. So, there’s high demand for real-time communication. 

📌As stated in On Device Research, most people don’t download one chat app on their devices. They use 2 or 3 applications for different purposes meaning that your application can easily slip into people’s devices. It will depend on the functionality and purpose of your app.

📌Finally, it’s rational to look at what the market already has to offer. The most popular chat applications around the world are WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat, with 2 billion, 1,3 billion, and 1,24 billion users respectively. They cover a lot of users’ needs: People use them for work, entertainment, and personal dialogues. 

These 3 applications are only the tip of the iceberg. The more research you conduct, the more competitors you find, so you should come up with a reliable and solid product to beat them.

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Advantages of instant-messaging apps

Most messengers are used by the general public for all kinds of purposes. Still, there is no surprise that businesses adopt the usage of such apps too. Businesses can use the power of chat applications in the following ways:

  • Communication: Chat applications for internal communication are widely used, especially among big organizations. Team members can easily talk to each other or other teams without delays or misunderstandings. In addition, a video calling feature will help the team organize and conduct meetings while not everyone is back at the office.

  • Healthcare: Chats, video, and audio calls can be of great use when it comes to online consultations.

  • E-commerce: A branded chat application of chat features inside the e-commerce app will help customers directly communicate with vendors and customer support service. They can write about their issues in several clicks and get instant answers. It helps companies build trustful relationships with their client base.

Other industries can apply these benefits to themselves. Ease of communication, convenience, and closer relationships between people empower businesses of any kind.

Let’s overview the leaders of the market 

Several companies already occupy a great market share in many niches, so reviewing your biggest competitors will help you build a clear picture of what people require.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a benchmark for any aspiring messaging application. It was at the frontier of instant communication and surged in popularity during the 2010th as a faster and more convenient option for text communication. 

By July 2021, the app gathered 2 billion users across the world and became the most popular chat application. It has iOS, Android, web, and desktop versions that contribute a lot to its popularity. The scope of features includes text messaging, video and audio calls, file sharing, supporting payments in some countries.

Facebook Messenger

This application is the second in popularity after WhatsApp with 1,3 billion users. Additionally, businesses use this messenger in their marketing strategy to directly communicate with customers. This is a perfect solution for Facebook users: the app is simple and user-friendly, and it offers deep synchronization with your Facebook information and friend list.

Facebook Messenger gives users text and audio messaging, supporting payments, and two-factor authentication. Moreover, you can leave threaded replies and customizable reactions.

WeChat

WeChat rules the Chinese market. It works not only as a chat platform but also as a social network and a payment method. A billion people inside and outside China use WeChat on a daily or frequent basis.

This app has an interesting GPS-related feature: When you shake your phone, WeChat finds people around you and offers you the chance to make connections. As an alternative, you can be connected to another person elsewhere in the world who is shaking his or her phone. It’s a great way to connect with new people and learn something new.

Slack

Slack is the most popular business solution for instant messaging. More than 600,000 companies use Slack as a tool for internal communication. It helps them organize teams for various projects and departments without piling up e-mails and unnecessary documentation. 

Slack has all the functionality needed for the perfect functioning of the chat app in a business context, including integration with the most popular business services and intuitive conversation interface. Slack gives businesses the ultimate user experience.

UI/UX design aspects in instant messaging app development

The apps mentioned above, in addition to having the same core functionality, exemplify great UI/UX design. You shouldn’t underestimate this aspect’s role in the product’s success. Your app can be perfect from all sides, but if it’s unattractive and is confusing in any way, they won’t stay with you for long.

The following tips will give you a hand in creating a convenient UI/UX for your chat app:

  • The fewer elements are on the layout, the better. Users don’t have to follow any complex instructions or download manuals to learn how to use the app. The design should be as intuitive as possible.

  • Implement a feedback form so that users can share their opinions and repost bugs right away.

  • Extensive testing is essential. The messaging app is a solution that can be used in any situation. The best way to test it is to use a chat app and look at how the app is working.

  • Notify users about errors and explain what to do when they happen, such as when the Internet connection is lost or the message isn’t sent. In that case, allow the app to queue messages offline and send them when the connection is restored.

  • Make the design customizable. You can offer several color schemes, dark and light modes, and changeable backgrounds. Options like these can make the service feel unique to the user.

A feature set of messaging apps

A user-friendly messaging app should have other features that will make it more attractive and efficient to users.

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Registration

Creating a profile is beneficial for both you and your customer. With a profile, a user can organize their chats, arrange backup, and it facilitates the search for other users. The business will get the necessary data for analyzing its audience and their needs.

Group chats

Private one-to-one chats are good, but sometimes more than two people need to participate. It can be a group of friends, a project team, or the students in a class. In order for them to use a messenger, they should be able to create chats and/or channels for group chats.

Video and audio calls

Text messaging is the core part of any chat app. Basically, it’s the reason messengers gain their popularity. However, it doesn’t mean that other forms of communication can’t be implemented. The demand for audio and video calling has skyrocketed in recent years, so it’s no longer a “cool” add-on. It’s an essential feature of a truly useful app.

Notifications

Users want to know when a new message arrives. Whether it’s a business message or a private one, timely notification is always considered handy. Sure, the users still should be able to mute certain dialogues or the entire app if necessary.

Status

Just like in a social media app, the status will help other users understand if someone is online or offline. You can add more options for status, like “in a meeting,” “busy,” “away,” “taking a call” and others.

File sharing

People also want to share images, documents, and videos with each other. Most popular messengers have this function, and it’s greatly appreciated by the public.

Customization

Users will want to personalize the app in order to make it feel fun and familiar. The addition of a custom background, changing a profile picture, using various fonts, and other things can contribute a lot to it.

Let’s look at the tools that will help ensure that your instant messaging app has the features people will want.

Technology stack

The list of technologies needed for a messaging app is defined by a few important factors, namely the platform you choose for the release, the project’s specifications, and even the legal limitations. 

Still, we can highlight the most common and trusted technologies for chat-app development:

Android

  • Programming language: Java, Kotlin

  • Local storage: Core Data

  • Social authentication: Facebook SDK

  • JSON parsing: Jackson

  • Chat: PubNub

  • Video and voice calls: WebRTC, Twilio

iOS

  • Programming language: Swift, Objective-C

  • Local storage: Shared Preferences 

  • Social authentication: Twitter

  • Chat: PubNub

  • Video and voice calls: WebRTC, Twilio

Backend

  • Programming language: Java,

  • SQL data storage: PostgreSQL

  • Hosting: Amazon Web Services

Security measures should also be considered. Let’s explore them:

Security and privacy

Data protection is usually the first thing that comes to mind when approaching the subject of security in the tech sphere. The dialogues between users, their media files, and personal information should stay away from any third-party intrusions. To ensure that everything stays safe, you can implement end-to-end encryption, which determines that the addressee is the only person who will read a message once it’s sent. Apps like WhatsApp provide end-to-end encryption by default.

Another aspect of privacy may not be that obvious for some people, but your application should obey several legal requirements concerning privacy. In the U.S. it’s Health Insurance Portability (HIPAA), in the European Union it’s the General Data Protection Regulation Accountability Act (GDPR). Brazil has Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados (LGPD). There are others, of course, but you’ll need to factor in the legal aspects of the countries and regions your application will cover.

The step-by-step guide on how to make an instant messaging app

We mentioned all the basics of creating a messaging app, and now we can devise a strategy with which to reach our goal:

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1. Completing market research: This is the first step in any development process. You should look at what your competitors have to offer and what your target audience needs. These two factors are the most influential for your idea.

2. Hiring a partner: When the research is done and the data is analyzed, it’s time to choose a partner. While looking through possible options, pay attention to their location, the number of staff, and expertise.

3. Prototyping: This is a necessary part of any real development process. A prototype will allow you and the team to see the core mistakes and quickly fix them so the final version will be as flawless as possible.

4. Development: To develop a solution that will fit the market perfectly, we recommend starting with a minimum viable product (an MVP). It will help you validate your idea and figure out if your chat app corresponds to what users expect.

5. Testing: Your app can be validated with a variety of methods, including unit tests, load tests, manual tests, A/B testing, and others. They will ensure your application runs without bugs and errors.

6. Launching: Once the testing is done,  it’s time for the release. However, even when your chat application is in stores, the work continues. Your main tasks will be to keep the app up to date and remove any bugs that emerge. 

Team structure

The specialists you hire for your messaging-app project will constitute a standard team: 

  • The project manager: This person should have excellent managerial skills along with broad knowledge in regard to software development.

  • The designer: As we’ve already said, your app’s appearance can influence its success. So, a design specialist should have the skills and experience needed to create an attractive layout that’s easy to understand and use. 

  • The developer: Depending on the platforms you choose for the release, they should be responsible for different codings (iOS, Android, Web + Backend).

  • The QA specialist: They will polish your app before launching.

How much does it cost to develop an instant messaging application?

We’ve already mentioned the feature list, the team composition, the tech stack, and security measures. They’ll influence the final cost of the product. The niche you want to fill, and how you plan to do so, will have an influence on your budget.

If we make a general assumption about an average messaging app, it will be easy to define the range of possible costs. A one-platform application (iOS, Android, web) will cost approximately $20,000-30,000, whereas a cross-platform solution can jump to $40,000 or even $60,000.

The potential pitfalls 

Before jumping into the development of a messenger, you should take into account several obstacles that may come your way:

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Market fit

Because the market is flooded with instant messaging solutions of different purpose and quality, it may be hard to identify the correct niche. Don’t be afraid, though: When you find that niche, you can plan the feature set and get ready for a successful launch.

User retention

The biggest challenges a chat app can face are to attract and retain an audience. To do that, it should be useful and responsive to feedback. 

The multitasking solution

A modern chat app isn’t only a chat app. It supports payments, allows using chatbots, even offers minigames. In order to keep users active, you should try to implement something that’s truly excellent.

Another possible issue is earning money. Let’s discuss it in more detail.

How to earn money with an instant messaging app

The creation of an application is a costly process, so the project should pay off. There are a few ways to make sure it does:

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Pay per download

It may seem like the easiest way to get money from your application: Users make a one-time payment for downloading the app. However, this approach should be avoided. People will only buy a new messaging app through extremely new, specific functionality or a very small niche you occupy. Before you implement such a monetization strategy, prove to yourself and the development team that the audience will happily purchase your product.

In-app ads

You can show relevant advertisements to the target audience as banners or as pop-up windows. However, don’t become too clingy with them. Users are picky about the content they consume and the ads they’ll watch. If they appear too many times or occupy a lot of screen space, users will take their interest elsewhere.

Subscription

Weekly, monthly, or yearly subscriptions will give users access to additional features or personalized content like stickers or emojis. Initially, WhatsApp charged $0.99 per year after a trial period, but eventually, that plan was eliminated.

In-app purchases

The same sticker or emoji packs shouldn’t be part of a subscription, but they can be sold separately. Moreover, users can remove ads, purchase mini-games or get special features for a small sum of money.

Our experience 

Our team has worked with messaging apps for years. In the process we’ve gathered expertise that can be applied to your project: 

  • CashChat is a mobile messenger where users find people near them and acquire new knowledge to upgrade their skills. 

  • Fireaway is a web chat with an extremely simple interface. It's anonymous, registration-free, and very lightweight.

The bottom line

We’ve produced this article to help you understand the process of creating a messenger app and give you basic knowledge about the chat-app market. Having this strategy on your hands increases your chances of releasing a successful and useful app. 

Don’t forget to plan the budget for all the necessary features and post-launch support. Moreover, pay attention to your audience’s requests and market conditions. To achieve the highest possible result, make sure to hire suitable talents that have relevant experience in building messaging applications. Yellow offers web and mobile development services that can help you with all of it. Feel free to get in touch!

Read also: How to Develop an App like Clubhouse: Cost, Tech stack, Pitfalls

✉️ What are the advantages of a messaging app?

Each business area can benefit from a messenger in a different way but in general, messaging apps are quick, convenient, and secure.

✉️ What are the most popular messengers?

The most popular messengers are WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and WeChat.

✉️ What pitfalls may I face while developing a messenger?

You may not find the right niche, the audience may be hard to retain, or your app may lack multitasking. Don’t worry. All such obstacles can be predicted and overcome before they spoil the party.

✉️ How can I make money from a messaging app?

You can implement in-app ads, subscriptions, or in-app purchases. You can also charge a fee for the right to download your app.

Tags
How-to
Chat
Communication

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