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Everything You Need to Know About Building a Chat Appby@quickblox
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31,262 reads

Everything You Need to Know About Building a Chat App

by QuickBloxSeptember 17th, 2022
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There are lots of chat and messaging apps on the market today. Even if you are not planning to push WhatsApp off the market, you might need a special chat for your business or community. Sometimes security concerns or special requirements demand that you create a new chat app from scratch. In this post, we will look at how to proceed with building your own chat application to enable your users to connect and communicate. By studying the market of chat apps, you can define your ideal set of features and design a product that is the most optimal for your purposes.

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There are lots of chat and messaging apps on the market today. If you check your smartphone, you are going to find at least three of them – Facebook Messenger, because everyone is on Facebook nowadays, Viber or WhatsApp, because you need some chat to tie to your phone number, and the messenger that your company uses.

Does it mean there is no point in building more chat apps? Not at all. Even if you are not planning to push WhatsApp off the market, you might need a special chat for your business or community.

Although, for the sake of fairness, in most cases, you can use one of the popular ones. However, sometimes security concerns or special requirements demand that you create a new chat app from scratch.

Let’s see how you can get started with building a new chat app.

What Is a Chat App?

You have, probably, noticed that even in the two paragraphs above we used three words to describe what we are going to talk about – chat app, messaging app, and messenger.

Generally, they describe the same thing – an application or platform where users can exchange instant messages. Live chat may be somewhat different from other messaging modes, though. 

Build a Chat App

In this post, we will look at how to proceed with building your own chat application to enable your users to connect and communicate. 

Analyze the market

Yes, even though you have decided to create a new app instead of using an available one, it is always a good idea to start with studying the market of chat and messaging solutions. Such an analysis might suggest the features that will be useful to have in your product and the ways they can be implemented.

For example, if you look at the most popular chat apps on the market, you can see their advantages and disadvantages:

WhatsApp is great for its multi-platform support. It can run on iOS, Android, desktop, and the web. With WhatsApp, you have multiple communication options – text chat, audio and video calling, and file sharing. At the same time, WhatsApp requires that you share your phone number and pulls in all your contacts, which can be regarded as a privacy breach. 

Slack provides the convenience of channels and threads allowing users to separate different topics and search for messages easier. Similar to WhatsApp, Slack has multi-platform support giving the flexibility of device and OS selection. On the con side, Slack’s customization options are rather limited, and many users complain about the poor quality of video calls.

Facebook Messenger is quick, efficient, and multi-platform. It creates a familiar texting experience that many users like. At the same time, while Facebook supports message notifications in its social network app, you cannot use the chat without installing a separate Messenger app. As a result, you can see that you have incoming messages but cannot view or manage them. Besides, Facebook Messenger is really hard on your mobile device battery, as it is always running in the background.

Google Hangouts is appreciated for its wide integration with Google Workspace. As a member of the Google family, it supports integration with the calendar, email, and Google Docs, as well as with lots of third-party apps. However, its free version has a rather poor feature set with a limited meeting time and only a few of the features available.

You get the idea. By studying the existing chat apps, you can define your ideal set of features and design a product that is the most optimal for your purposes. At the same time, you can minimize the drawbacks by learning from other solutions.


Define the set of features of your chat app

Based on your analysis, you can decide which features to include in the chat app. The list may vary depending on the purpose of the product, the area in which it is going to be used, and the target audience.

In all cases, we recommend that you consider implementing the following core features:

  • User authentication and account creation
  • Text message sending
  • Chat feed showing both incoming and outgoing messages
  • User presence and typing indicators
  • List of contacts
  • Search in both message bodies and contact list
  • Incoming message notifications
  • Unread message indicators
  • Message history storage for a predefined time or indefinitely

The above list is a minimum set of features that any chat app should have to provide a satisfactory user experience. However, you can expand it by adding some advanced features:

  • Message threads
  • Group chats and channels that users can join by invitation
  • Emojis
  • Spelling check
  • File attachment
  • Image sharing
  • User tagging in messages
  • Integration with other services via APIs
  • Audio and video calls
  • Meeting scheduling

These and other features raise the competitiveness of your chat app and give users what they are looking for in a messaging solution. By implementing a rich set of features, you can improve your user engagement and loyalty rate and get more conversions, too.


Budget your chat app development

Once you have outlined your future chat app, you need to estimate its cost and plan your budget. This is a step that you cannot skip in any project, as it determines the amount of your initial and further investments, the duration of your project, and ultimately, the approximate time when you can expect a return. By the way, your budget calculations may result in some design changes. For example, you might decide to omit a feature that turns out too expensive to develop or rethink your MVP.

The most important decision that may influence your budget, project duration, time-to-market, and app performance, is whether you are going to build in-house or use a chat API or SDK. In most cases, the in-house development approach is going to be more expensive and time-consuming than buying a third-party solution. However, your own development will guarantee you a unique product created in the most secure manner.

In any case, you are going to face some development costs. They typically depend on the following:

- Your team size and location. Some locations have higher development rates, while others – have lower.

- Required developer skills. Depending on the set of features you included in your app and the platforms for which you are going to build, the necessary skills may vary. For example, if you chose to create native mobile apps, you will need iOS and Android developers, while if you opted for a cross-platform app, you would need those who know React Native.

- Size of your project. This has everything to do with the set of features you decided to include in your MVP and the first release. The larger the set of features and the more complex they are – the higher your budget.

- Software licenses, if needed.

Choose the technology stack 

Your chat app design determines the tools and frameworks you are going to use in the development and deployment. To build a mobile chat app, you have multiple options to choose from. The main fork on your road is to choose between native and cross-platform development. For native, you will need Objective C or Swift languages for the iOS app and Java or Kotlin for Android. For cross-platform, JavaScript is enough.

The choice of the programming language calls for the corresponding platform. If you build two separate native apps, you will need Android Studio and XCode. If you opt for a single cross-platform app, look for Flutter or React Native.

No matter which approach to app development you choose, you can still make it quicker and less resource-consuming if you integrate a third-party API or SDK. This way, you can build your chat by adding complete fully tested components that you customize for your purposes.

For example, check the set of APIs and SDKs that QuickBlox offers. You will find components for all the popular languages and frameworks that are used in chat app development. Each API and SDK contains a set of useful features that you can use in your custom solution. By adding your unique branding, you will get a high-performance communication product that is easily recognizable and associated with your brand.

Ready to Build a Chat App?

A chat app can become a valuable addition to your software suite making a unique offering to your customers. The essential thing is to choose the most optimal approach to building it so that the balance between the invested resources and the product quality is the best. 

We will be happy to consult you on using QuickBlox APIs and SDKs in the creation of your chat app. Contact us, and we will help you make the most of the development components we have built.