Global messaging apps have taken the world by storm, not least because they reduce communication into palm-sized affairs that connect people on the go and at any time. Several messaging apps have become unanimous with communication today, including WhatsApp and WeChat.
In fact, as of October 2019, WhatsApp was the most popular, garnering 1600 million active users. Facebook Messenger pulled in second, with 1300 million users (source). Snapchat, QQ Mobile and Telegram also feature on the list with millions of active monthly users, and this goes to show just how transformative chat apps have been to communication in the 21st century.
It is prime time to make a chat app, regardless of whether it is intended to function on its own or as an addition to an existing app. The way it is implemented may change, as will the features, but the fact of the matter is that to develop a communication app is to open up new avenues for success and revenue. It is also a great niche to experiment in, given there are billions of users around the world, each with their own preferences.
Messaging apps are well-loved because they are efficient, fast and intuitive. To tick all these boxes while building a messaging app, there need to be a few essential and advanced features that enhance the experience and keep users coming back for more.
Here is a handy list of the successful features to prioritise during mobile chat app development:
1. Messages and Group Chats
Private messaging allows individual users to communicate with each other safely and securely. On the other hand, group chat features allow several individuals to communicate through the same group on a common topic of interest.
2. Secure File Exchange
Many messaging apps are used to transfer un-typed information. Users must be able to share documents, PDFs, images and other files securely through their messaging app. This reduces the need to switch between apps and keeps all important information in one place.
3. Contacts Import
Users must be able to import a list of contacts automatically so they can start messaging immediately. It also helps if they are told which of their contacts also have the messaging app they’re using. This helps the messaging service provider because users can then invite people who aren’t on the app yet to download and use it.
4. Geo-location Sharing
This feature lets users share their current or live location to other users securely. This is useful on group chats as well, where a group of people may be planning to meet up in person and need directions to get there. It also helps service providers reach clients or vice versa.
5. Secure Chats and Data Encryption
Messaging apps need to be highly secure and safe to use. Their conversations must be end-to-end encrypted such that no unauthorised third party gains access to it by crooked means.
6. Real Time Push Notifications
Push notifications alert users to new messages and replies. This brings them back to the app and keeps them updated on conversations. It also helps the messaging provider increase their number of monthly active users.
7. Increase Conversion Rates
All essential features of the app, when loaded during chat app development, must be able to convert prospective users into active users. When these features are intuitive and user-friendly they automatically have a higher chance of increasing conversion rates.
Advanced Features are Worth Considering During Instant Messaging App Development.
These aren’t necessary for every messaging app, but they enrich the user experience. They also diversify the use of the messaging app
1. High Quality Video Chat
Video chat adds a layer of communication, allowing users to see each other face to face over the internet rather than physically. While some may choose to build a video chat web app independently, there is a lot of value in adding the feature into a messaging app and leveraging existing structure.
2. HD Video Conferencing
Video conferencing allows groups of people to interact in real-time over the internet, which is why it is chosen by many businesses looking to build a custom video chat app for Android or other operating systems. It is much more expressive than texts and can be used for a plethora of purposes including group meetings, friendly catch-ups and formal seminars.
3. Live broadcasting & Video Streaming
This feature allows users to connect with their audience real-time over content that is being broadcast live. This is especially handy for messaging apps that cater to brands or influencers with huge followings, as it helps them engage better with their viewers and also increases the reach of the app as a whole.
4. Self-destructing Messages
Most of the popular messaging apps today, including Instagram and Snapchat, have a feature that allows messages to vanish after a certain period. This increases the sense of urgency and brings users back to the app earlier than they would have otherwise, for fear of missing the message.
5. End-to-end Encryption
End-to-end encryption ensures that a conversation between two users isn’t accessible or readable to a third party. Only the communicating users can read the messages; they are masked from all others, and this creates an additional layer of security.
“Typing and read receipts make a lot of sense for messaging. You write a letter, you put it in an envelope, you send it to a friend, and you want to know when they get it. It's like FedEx - they let you know when the package gets dropped off.”
— Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap Inc.
Building a chat app for Android from scratch, or for iOS or web for that matter, is a herculean task. Businesses who choose to undertake this mammoth venture may intend to make it one of their primary sources of revenue. All others prefer to use chat APIs to create a messaging app for Android, iOS and web because they get the framework and architecture from experienced providers but can build on it with customisations and brand-centric personalisations. Here are some of those providers that you can engage with your eyes closed:
This chat API and messaging SDK provider facilitates the development of real-time instant messaging applications for businesses both big and small. The beauty of their framework, when used to build a messaging platform, is that it is the whole package — it includes voice calling, video calling and conferencing, screen-sharing and data encryption. The high-calibre framework is reliable even at scale and also has advanced features such as geolocation tracking, presence indicators and social integrations.
The API-based chat architecture from this company allows businesses to build a chat application for Android, iOS and web that packs all the necessary features of a modern-day messenger. They also have a handy UI kit with components that look seamless and user-friendly in both light and dark mode. You’ll be able to pick from three channel types — private group chat for 1 to 100 users, supergroup private for up to 20,000 users and public group chat for up to 10,000 users. These channel types make developing a group chat application a breeze.
MirrorFly is an enterprise messaging solution that helps businesses, regardless of industry, size and user base, to reach higher levels of business collaboration and communication. Mirrorfly offers flexible APIs and SDKs that make real-time connectivity possible and accessible. These APIs and SDKs pack essential features such as real-time chat, as well as advanced user-friendly features such as voice calling, video calling and video conferencing. You don’t have to worry about scaling your app, because the infrastructure can support more than one million users across devices.
Using the Mesibo API, introducing in-app messaging to the applications is as straightforward as choosing a recipient and sending a message in a matter of seconds. An advantage of using Mesibo APIs is that you often get, in real-time, the status of each message received, including ‘received’, ‘sent’, and ‘read’. They also have group messaging and video and voice call APIs which come in handy when you want to make a video chat app that extends the reach and advantages of the existing infrastructure. The entire source code is open source so you’ll be able to build upon it for a more personalised messaging app.
With EnableX, businesses are able to drive meaningful conversations using resilient and scalable infrastructure. It is fully customisable and works across devices including Android and iOS. Some of their power-packed features include multi-party chat, mass push notifications, chat status, file sharing, rich messaging, and SMS fallback in case of poor network. Their use cases run the gamut of industries and devices; they also have individual APIs for voice, chat, SMS and video calling which come in handy when creating a video calling website alongside a text app.
The technology stack you use can make a difference when you build a real time web chat app or mobile app for scale.
Erlang is a programming language used to create massively scalable real-time computing systems. The Erlang environment isn't just a tool for programming. It is a programming language family and a series of middleware libraries that work well for scale and long-term durability.
Ejabberd is a distributed, fault-tolerant platform that enables instant messaging apps to be built on a wide scale. The server can accommodate thousands of simultaneous users on a single node in a stable manner. Ejabberd can be used as an open-source technology, built on industry requirements, to very cost-effectively construct personalised solutions.
Used to power modern servers, desktops, and embedded systems, FreeBSD is an operating system that has been repped by a loyal following for more than 30 years. FreeBSD has been the platform of choice for many busy websites and storage devices. This is due to its innovative networking, security, and storage capabilities.
Another web server written in Erlang is Yaws. Yaws may be embedded or run as a standard standalone web server in other Erlang-based applications. It uses the same lightweight threading system as Erlang, which helps it perform well under high concurrency.
Lighttpd is a web server open source. It is designed for speed-critical environments while being compatible, stable and compliant with standards. Although consuming less memory than servers like Apache, it is still very capable of serving massive loads seamlessly.
PHP is an acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. PHP is an open-source programming language which is commonly used by developers all over the world. It has been extensively ported and can be deployed on most web servers and operating systems, free of charge.
7. Custom XMPP Server
Basic messaging, presence, and XML routing functions are supported by an XMPP server.Many consider XMPP as the protocol to transport small pieces of data between two locations. It provides organisations with systems for developing multi-use chats, finding services and exchanging data in real time.
8. HTML5 WebSockets
It is critical to conduct a market survey and analyse the business’ audience before beginning to create an instant messaging app for Android, iOS or web.
1. Audience Research
Define a target audience based on the type of domain and industry your app will function in. This could be entertainment, healthcare, sports, gaming, e-commerce, and service marketplaces. Create marketing personas for the audience you intend to target, so that you can tailor the app and architecture to their preferences. Conduct user research to understand what users like and don’t like in existing messaging apps.
2. Competitor Analysis
It is equally important to survey the competition, especially in a high-traffic industry like instant messaging. It helps to outline their strengths and weaknesses to compare with that of your business. It also enables you to identify a niche that isn’t occupied to increase your chances of success.
3. Platform solution and technologies
Different providers offer a variety of services with just as many perks and drawbacks. It is important to identify which provider would suit you best. Similarly, the technology stack used also makes a difference, depending on the business outcomes you are aiming for.
4. Challenges to expect when building a chat app
As can be expected when creating anything from scratch, building a chat app also has its fair share of challenges. These aren’t difficult to overcome, but they will take time and effort.
Safety and security is one of the first things users look at when deciding whether to use a chat app or not. To that end, cybersecurity becomes a critical issue to address from the beginning, as user data must be kept confidential and away from the hands of those who might misuse it. This security needs to be built into the architecture, rather than tacked on at the end.
6. Everything at Once
It might be tempting to add every single feature possible to the first product when it launches, but this isn’t worth the effort. The MVP must carry essential features — all other additions are best added after evaluating how users react to the MVP in the first place. You may also have that some features that were considered worth adding would be of no use to users, and the opposite also holds true.
7. Frequent Updates
As with any app, chat apps also need frequent updates to fix bugs, fuel system improvements and add additional features. IT is vital that these updates are accounted for when planning in the nascent stages, especially when it comes to allocating budget, time and human resources such as designers, developers and engineers.
Chat apps make for great diversified revenue streams if you play your cards properly.
Allowing advertisers to publish curated ads on your chat app can bring in additional revenue without disturbing the app interface and user experience.
2. In-app Purchases
Aside from giving basic features for free, you could consider offering premium features to those who are willing to upgrade. This expands your revenue while also drawing users in through the free app.
Subscriptions provide steady income from users who are willing to pay for a premium experience. These can be monthly, quarterly or yearly subscriptions.
If you’ve ever asked yourself “can I create a mobile chat app?”, the answer is that it’s possible, but it is a labour-intensive process. The easier and more cost-effective way is to build an Android chat app, or one for iOS or web, using APIs and SDKs from trusted service providers.