Recently, the popularity of messaging applications has grown. So, how to make a messaging app Like WhatsApp, Viber, SnapChat? In this article, we will analyze the process of creating a chat application and will try to understand how to build a chat app.
According to SimilarWeb study, it is known that in 168 countries, messengers are leading in the number of downloads.
In 2016, there were 1.58 billion users of instant messengers in the world. According to the Statista Statistics Portal, by 2021 this number will increase to 2.48 billion (which is one-third of the world's population). The market is divided between lots of messaging platforms: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, Signal, and many others. There is no leading messaging application yet, so perhaps now it makes sense to create a instant messaging app on Android or iOS.
- Should I make a new and better messaging app?
- How to create a chat application like WhatsApp?
- Messaging application architecture
- Chat application interface
- Privacy and Security
- How much does it cost to create a chat application?
- Scope of work
- Differences between iOS and Android
- Post-release support
On average, each phone user has two to five instant messengers.
Over time, some messaging applications lose their leadership positions, giving way to new ones. So, in one year, Skype has moved from the first place, which it held for several years, to fifth. In 2017, there has been a new trend - public channels and chats. Their presence attracts new users. In fact, it even turns instant messaging apps into social media applications.
According to the Statista, here is the list of the most popular messaging apps for mobiles:
|App||Monthly active user share|
|Facebook Messenger||1300 million|
|QQ Mobile||843 million|
Statistics of the growth in the number of users of messaging apps shows that there is a significant potential on the market for such applications. However, when planning a messaging app startup, you need to be ready for competition. The chat app development for iOS or on Android begins with the correct formulation of the business plan, detailed specification, and selection of proper development tools. Besides, you will also need to think about ideas and features that will help your service stand out, and overcome the competition. Having all these requirements ready, you will get an application that meets the needs of users.
Not so long ago, messaging apps were created either as chat rooms, (for example, WhatsApp), or as an application for calls (Skype and Viber). Later developers began to add some new features. First, developers added audio-calls into their apps. A bit later, apps like WhatsApp started to include video calling functions. Then open API arrived, bots, masks, statuses, payment methods, public channels. However, it is difficult to introduce new functionality or change the structure when there are millions of messenger users. For example, first players like WhatsApp still don’t include open APIs or bots.
How to make an app like Snapchat? The development of architecture is the main difficulty in creating an application for sending messages on Android or iOS. The structure of the app must be developed in such a way that it can add new features without any serious consequences.
When developing a messaging app, it is necessary to lay in its foundation not only the main features of other existing applications but also features that may be needed in the future.
1. Flexibility, scalability, and testability
In the process of work, it is necessary to make the architecture divide into autonomous layers. Then you need to develop the business logic, presentation, and separated data objects that could be changed independently of each other. Regardless of the system size, this approach preserves its flexibility, scalability (scaling, or increasing, the number of functions) and testability.
It is necessary to make scalable not only the code but also the system infrastructure itself.
2. Application performance
It often happens that the instant messaging app development team’s chase after a popular programming language. They build a chat app, but over time, in the process, they understand that the chosen language, platform, or services and libraries used don’t fit app demands. You need to understand all the pros and cons of any language and tool. It is necessary to use the platform that is best suited for building an effective system, and not the one that is currently popular.
Many developers use Ruby on Rails. This programming language is used in Airbnb, Basecamp, Bloomberg, Github, Goodreads, Kickstarter, Shopify, and millions of others. Ruby on Rails allows developers to start the development fast, and to roll out the very first beta version of an API just in days, compared too weeks if using other frameworks. The advantage of this framework is in its ability to provide a high speed of development, stable work, and ease of use.
The cost of developing a project in Ruby on Rails is cheaper than in languages like Node.js, Go, or Elixir because it allows a developer to write code easier and faster. Besides application will be way easier to maintain in the future.
When choosing tools, you need to focus on how effectively you can solve the problem with one or another of them. In essence, it is necessary to adjust the tools to the architecture, and not vice versa.
3. Work with a large number of users and heavy loads
The main task in building an instant messaging application is creating the architecture and then adjusting the business logic of the system for it. Such a project does not always cope with heavy loads. Therefore, try to do the opposite: to work out the business logic of the entire system, and build an efficient architecture for it. In such an application, you can add new features easier, and at any time of the project lifecycle. It will not lose in performance and will not be afraid of high loads.
4. Compound instability
In the real world, high-speed Wi-Fi internet connection is not always available. Sometimes you have to work without the internet connection or with an extremely weak signal. Switching between base stations and mobile data carriers, or any other communication problems. The user does not want to think about the instability of the connection. He opens the application and wants to see new messages and send them, without thinking about the Internet. He expects to be notified about new events with push notifications, and he expects the application to send a message automatically, whenever it will have a stable connection.
Therefore, it is necessary to optimize the software solution for stable operation even with an unstable Internet or without it. You also need to invest time in testing the reconnection and recovering all the data while working in the offline mode.
The user should easily understand how the app works, without any onboarding tutorials, banners, or tooltips. This is a messaging app, and UI should be as straightforward as possible: select a person, and start chatting! Before developing a messaging app, check out the WhatsApp system design.
The easiest way to make user interface and user experience easy to use, and easy to understand is by using native technologies, native design principles, and native design elements. It will result in a predictable and convenient UI and UX. The customer sees familiar elements, knows how to use them, and he has no questions about how to use the messaging app.
When working on a user interface design, it is essential to:
- Develop empty states of chats, screens, sections (where nothing has happened yet). So the user will understand what action to take.
- Provide the user with feedback. When you create a chat app, you will work with many features that will require some time: Sending messages, downloading files, and so on. While the user waits for something to happen (e.g., downloading a file from his friend), it is crucial to show that the process is underway, and it will be done soon.
- Test application under all the possible conditions. Messaging app is something that is used all the time, sometimes under very unexpected conditions.
- Always place the user first and try to help him as much as possible. For example, warn the user that he is using the mobile Internet at the time of sending a large file. These subtle touches can make users trust you, and they will be happy to use your application more.
- Show all the possible errors when they occur. For example, if the Internet is lost, the user should understand that something has gone wrong. However, it is better not to block any user actions. No internet connection? Why not allow the user to send a message, and we will post it the second we will have a connection back again.
Also, try to imagine yourself as a user of your application. What would you add to make your life easier? For example, it is essential to organize a search within a specific chat. Quickly find the right time in the chat history, documents, photo or video.
Another small feature that would improve user's experience is audio messages replay. Before sending voice messages, it is important that the user can listen to them. It should also be possible to correct the error or remove the unwanted message. Creating an application to send messages to the iPhone or Android requires a rigorous study of these and other nuances.
Investing in good security is important. Right now you can easily find tutorials on the internet, that will help you to scan the traffic from the device, and to read unencrypted data. It puts personal correspondence of your users at risk.
How to build a messaging app that would be secure enough? The first task of the developers is to ensure complete safety and privacy for all the users’ data and eliminate the dangers of hacking. It includes SSL encrypted communication between users, encrypted messages, and more. Another step would be anonymity, in some cases even without trying to a phone number and the ability of person recognition.
Of course, it is not as easy as it sounds. For example, in an anonymous chat, people without linking to specific characters (phone number, name, location) will have problems understanding who is who. To do this, you need to use a one-time cipher, which everyone can use, but it is never repeated twice. Inviting people to such a conversation also happens with the help of a “key” that only works once, and is set only by the person himself.
The list of features that will increase safety and improve privacy can go on. For example, encrypted messages won’t help much, if another user can just make a screenshot of a conversation. Or if incoming notifications are not encrypted, and they show all the info right on the lock screen of a phone. Lately, messaging apps also started to add exciting features: self-destructing messages, that will be shown only for a preset period of time. The list can go on forever, so it is essential to outline the most important ones for the release and then add new ones according to the users’ feedback.
The price of developing a messaging app depends on the number of platforms you would like to target (iOS, Android, Web), the number of features you would like to add, and the complexity of the user interface design.
The more complex the app, the higher the cost of mobile chat application development. The final price for the mobile chat apps development for iOS, an Android or a website could be understood only after determining the main tasks.
So, how to make a chat app for almost any budget? You will need to experiement with number of functions, and be ready to release only with core features of the app. Simplifying the user interface, and reducing number of screens will also help to save costs.
You can already check the prices for a WhatsApp-like app in our Interactive Estimations. It is important to remember, that WhatsApp is a very heavy application, which has not just chats, but video calls, file transfers, daily statuses, stories, and much more. Just select the features that you will need, and Interactive Estimation will provide you with prices and timeframes for development: http://mova.io/estimations/whatsapp/
The functionality of any messaging app is much more than it seems at first glance.
Until you come across the development of an app like Viber, you will not notice how much additional functionality provides the necessary level of simplicity and usability:
- Message Statuses (sent, delivered, read);
- The ability to copy a message;
- The ability to reply to a specific message, and start a thread, or quote it
- Message forwarding function;
- Ability to delete messages in chat history (depending on the app, removing a message can be possible for you only, or for both parties);
- Sending emojis and stickers;
- Local conversations storage;
- Messaging history search
- Ability to disable notifications for new messages in a specific dialog;
- Ability to delete the dialogue;
- Sending images with a built-in photo-editor
- Compressing and converting photos and other files before sending to reduce the file size;
- Sending and opening a file;
- Sending a contact from the phone book;
- Reading QR codes.
- Sending geolocation, so you can quickly tell your friends where you are.
And these are just the basic functions that are available in the free messaging app when communicating between two people. Some messaging application goes further and includes features like Payments. Or Integrate services for booking tickets, hotels, calling a taxi, paying bills for electricity, communications, and the Internet.
If you want to create a messaging app, it is vital to determine the exact requirements for the functionality of the messenger. It allows seeing and understanding the full scope of work that needs to be done.
Did you know that emoji is different for iOS and Android? It turns out that Apple has implemented a standard keyboard, which was used by owners of Apple devices, while Android does not have such a standardized keyboard.
If you want to build android chat app, you might need to add a new button to the client's interface for emoji and stickers.
In addition to the emojis incompatibility, there are lots of others. For example, videos that can be recorded and played have different codecs and formats. Basically, if you will record a video on Android, and will send it to an iOS device without converting - it might not work. Ideally, it needs to be sent to the back-end server, which will change the format of the video, making it work for both platforms, and only after sending it to a recipient.
Chat application development for Android or iOS is just the very first stage of in the project lifecycle. Unless you are working on a corporate chat app, then the messenger should also be promoted and marketed. In the very beginning, when you just put the app to the App Store and Play Market, users will not see it. Even if users will search specifically for the app using its name - it is not guaranteed that it will be always on the first page in search results. Apple and Google optimize search to show most popular apps first.
To promote and market the app, it is necessary to lay a certain amount in the marketing budget. This includes:
- contextual and banner advertising;
- advertising in social networks;
- ASO-promotion (App Store Optimization) - a set of works for optimizing a mobile application. Namely, a proper compilation of title (title), keywords (keywords), descriptions (description), to maximize the visibility of your application in the search;
- payment for placement in the Google Play and App Store stores.
- after launch, the application must be polished and updated according to users’ feedback.
Messaging application development is a complex task, and should be handled by professional developers. Chat apps have lots of possible edge-cases that need to be tested well.
Because of the application complexity, it is essential to choose the right tools from the beginning. It will allow you to scale the app quickly, add new features without breaking existing ones, and always to keep performance at high levels.
We usually suggest going with native tools for mobile applications. Our Android mobile app development company will be happy to consult you in any related questions.
If you want to develop a messaging app, write to us at email@example.com. We will arrange a meeting, discuss the task and will help you to figure out the best architecture for building a chat app for Android and iOS. And, of course, we will be glad to help you with the development of the app itself, testing it, releasing to the stores, and maintaining it after.
We provide help on every possible stage of application development. Mova.io will help you to develop a stable application, design a stunning user interface design, test the app under different conditions. Besides, we will help you release the application to the store, and will provide post-release support, including app and back-end maintenance, and implementation of new features.