Hackernoon logoA Miniature Guide to Messaging App Development in 2021 by@anahit

A Miniature Guide to Messaging App Development in 2021

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I am a Software Development Consultant at Addevice, a software development company.

With the rise of mobile devices, low-cost or free chat, social messaging apps have gained in popularity. They are a cheaper alternative to operator-based text messaging via SMS. Today, many companies have a reasonable interest to create a messaging app. If you are one of them, you will get a lot of value from this guide.

We will cover the following topics:

  1. Reasons to Create a Messaging App
  2. Popular Features in a Messaging App
  3. An Optimal Technology Stack for Messaging App Development
  4. Natural Language Processing
  5. Best Monetization Approaches to a Profitable Chat App
  6. Time to Create a Messaging App.

Reasons to Create a Messaging App

There are different reasons why investors want to create a messaging app. We have identified at least two of them:

  • improve employee and customer communication,
  • build a subtype of a global social networking platform.

While you need different tools to accomplish these goals, there are some features that are common for all apps and we are going to dive into some of them.

Before we do that, let's look at statistics. Let's have a look at the global messaging apps first.

Here is data on business messaging apps. Such apps gained in popularity especially after COVID-19 and with the expansion of remote work.

Popular Features in a Messaging App

Now let's have a look at some must-have features of your messaging app.

1. Instant Messaging

This is the basic feature you need to have for a messaging app. Apart from simple communication, your instant messaging feature should provide options for:ย 

  • a secret chat;
  • delivery status (the participants can see whether the message is seen or received);ย 
  • unsend messages (the participant can unsend the message within a certain period of time);ย 
  • group chats;
  • moderation (admin can ban or remove users).

2. File Exchange

Users may like to exchange files, such as photos or texts. Allow your users to attach files that can replace the regular email.

3. Push Notifications

Your users become instantly available via the push notification feature.

4. Voice and Video Messages

This feature first appeared in WeChat in 2015 and spread to other chatting software. It is a more convenient way of communicating if the users donโ€™t have the time to type long messages.

5. Voice and Video Calls

Free voice and video calls are an attractive feature of messaging apps. If you are thinking of how to create a messaging app, keep in mind that free phone calls attract users.

6. Public Channels

With public channels, your messaging app will become a marketing tool for many businesses and communities. Nowadays a lot of chatting applications have this feature to beat competitors and attract new users.

An Optimal Technology Stack for Messaging App Development

To build a messaging app, you will need:

  • a server to store messages and send notifications;ย 
  • a client;
  • and transportation between the two.

The server can use the backend language plus the database, e.g. node + mongo. This option is cheaper. However, you need to configure all of the routes, database connections, models, and API responses.

The backend service provides the database, routes, and responses. You just need to define the data. This may be expensive at scale.

Finally, the transportation is composed of API calls which are singular calls that return information to the client. Web sockets are an integral part which are persistent channels that allow information to travel enabling real-time communication.

There are clear advantages to working with the backend. The service does much of the work and it provides you simple ways for transportation. A backend service like Parse can save you lots of time.

Here is the tech stack used by WhatsApp, WeChat, and Viber.

Read More:
How to Create a Messaging Application from Scratch

Natural Language Processing

Natural Language Processing (NLP) applications are everywhere nowadays. We will talk about chatbots and virtual assistants when talking about NLP. Let's see how the two are different.

Chatbots are programmed to reply to preset questions. They cannot answer the question if responses are not programmed. On the other hand, Virtual Assistants have a much sophisticated interactive platform. Apart from understanding the language, they also understand the meaning. Therefore, they can perform highly complicated tasks. For example, virtual assistants can compare products or find the best product based on the given features.

Chatbots only pick up certain words.ย  Virtual Assistants can handle conversations and have robust NLP capacities.

These intelligent machines can help to solve up to 80% of queries. More complex questions are routed to human agents.

Best Monetization Approaches for a Profitable Chat App

In this section, we will talk about how to make a profitable chat app. We will cover three monetization approaches currently popular in the market.

  • Advertising

In-app advertising is a good way to make money from an app. However, it is not always a convenient way. Ads are often annoying for users. Alternatively, you can give an option to disconnect ads at a cost.

Anyway, ads are a good source of revenue for global messaging apps.ย  For example, in 2019, Facebook generated about 98.5 percent of its global revenue from advertising, and only around two percent came from payments and other fees.

You may also think about built-in ads. For example, Snapchat uses an ad tool called Snapchat Ad Manager. These are some 10 seconds long ads that appear in between friends' stories. Marketers just love these ads and it generates good revenue.

  • In-app purchases

This option is used when you give a free option to users but ask to pay for other features. A lot of messengers generate revenue from paid stickers. You can also sell wallpapers, themes, and filters. Other chat apps like LINE use games for revenue generation.

  • Sponsorship

Advertisers may provide rewards for certain in-app functionalities. These marketers provide rewards to the users and gain inclusion in the app. This boosts the user base of the app. The app owners generate revenue by taking a part in these rewards.

Time to Create a Messaging App

It depends on certain factors, like the number of features and the complexity of the app. The simplest way is to build an MVP first. Take a look at the number of hours needed to build an MVP.

Wrapping up

The messaging app market continues to grow and there is still a place to build new apps with a decent market share. Messaging apps beat SMS and are already overtaking phone services with VoIP features. If you want to create a messaging app, this is the right time. Soon it will be very hard to find a space in the market.


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