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Want to make a messenger app despite the market being saturated and dominated by tech giants like Facebook? Difficult, not impossible! Ok, but should you get inspired by the WhatsApp technology stack and use XMPP and Erlang or maybe Golang? You know what, let’s slow down. Here are the basics to get your feet planted firmly on the ground before you jump into messaging app development.
The core inevitably focuses on the users’ ability to get inside your app, find or join people they want to talk to, and do so.
Authorization and synchronization
Effortless log-in is pretty much expected nowadays, therefore social, cell, and e-mail sign-ups will serve you well. Once in, the next step is setting a display name and a profile picture – these could be pulled from the log-in option or uploaded manually.
This is the driving area of your development. It comes as no surprise that messaging has evolved since the times of simple texts and now includes many more forms of expression and functionality:
- Messages aren’t just sent, they can be canceled or deleted for both users;
- Messages aren’t just delivered – a user will know if it’s read or not;
- Delivered messages can be edited;
- Messages can be sent in private/secret chats with a time limit for self-destruction;
- Messages aren’t just sent to one person at a time thanks to group chats;
- Chats have improved features to organize communication: polls, mentions, replies;
- Groups need a moderator to manage the members and monitor chat content.
Forget you not about the customizable push and in-app notifications.
First, think about whether your app will work in a client-to-server or a client-to-client fashion. Next, encryption. You may consider using peer-to-peer technology, which means that only the talking parties can read the messages in their conversation. However you would still most likely hold a decryption key, so if that is not your goal then end-to-end might be a better option. It ensures that the only person able to decrypt the message is the recipient. It might be interesting for you to find out more about how it works and what the governments think about it.
Voice and video
Pioneered in China, video and audio messages bring an added layer of intimacy and expression to your app. As a result, users have an option to get their point across faster and to be more precise. Indeed, these media messages bridge the gap between live calls and plain texting. Consequently, users can both be expressive and benefit from a low-pressure asynchronous exchange.
An option to integrate additional features in a form of a chatbot that individual users or groups can interact with is going to boost your app’s capabilities. These specific solutions make it easy to either provide automated customer support or any other activity.
Exchanging symbols is fun and all, but sometimes a need to share a file arises. One of your most trusted companions here would be access to the camera and gallery, but it need not stop there. Consider adding an option to share files from the device or cloud storage.
Additional media features
Now, if your users are going to send pictures and videos, then it is helpful to provide at least the basic editing tools. For example, cropping a picture or cutting a video. Another option could be allowing users to select the quality that they are about to upload the file in so that the file size is reduced to save data and load quicker.
Nowadays, it isn’t just about exchanging pictures or gifs. Many messengers have introduced stickers that allow for an easy and expressive one-tap reply or a conversation starter. Users love being creative, so letting them come up with their sticker packs is going to satisfy that itch for custom interactions.
Some apps not only let people talk to each other but present the ability to play built-in games as a way of increasing engagement. On that note, let’s discuss monetization.
It is important to plan your revenue streams early on, especially in a messaging app. It is a tricky question, indeed. Partly because most users expect it to be free, yet dislike intrusive ads that interfere with their communications. Therefore, let’s take a look at the most popular monetization options:
- Subscription fees;
- Paid services, such as calls abroad or receiving incoming texts to your number directly inside a messenger;
- Paid stickers;
- Donations from loyal customers.
Spend some time to consider what is the best one for your app.
Now that you understand what your app needs, the steps below are usually what it takes to make it.
You start with taking into account the current market, what your goal is, what your audience is, and so on. This is referred to as business analysis. A properly performed and well-researched preparatory stage is going to ensure you have clear requirements for the development team.
Now that everything is outlined as much as possible, you can start bringing it to life. That means splitting your focus into two major areas: interface design and user experience, and application design and architecture. The first part will touch on the user journey, usability, visuals, and flow. The second part will lay out the needed prototypes and make sure you can plan the implementation phase.
Developing and launching
This stage is where your product gets made. Starting with setting the milestones and up to developing, testing, and reflecting on the progress to iterate once more. When testing it is recommended to use a quality software testing tool such as testRigor which will help you start testing within minutes and eliminate repetitive work.
As the saying goes, the app is never done, it is only released. Hence, there’s plenty more to do after launch to keep your users happy and the app stable on top of the charts.
So, how much does it all cost, you ask? That… depends. To give you a clear answer, a simple MVP feature set is ranging up to $50,000. A project with some thought put into it is going to take months and rack up a bill in the ballpark of $200,000. But to tell you the truth, a professionally developed messaging app is worth every penny.
And here they are: what, how, and how much. Get to know your app, figure out your customers, and find out how to provide them with a messaging service that they need. From there it will be easy to pick the right tech stack and a team for your budget. Happy development!
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