From pigeons to the telephone and e-mail to social media, human communication has seen tremendous changes. Over the past few years, we’ve seen chat apps revolutionize communication. Real-time chat messaging has become part of everyday life, reshaping social interactions, workplace collaboration and customer engagement. Chatting app usage is common everywhere in the world. In fact, 41 million messages are sent every minute through messaging apps. According to a report by Statista, by January 2023, WhatsApp will have two billion monthly active users.
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Businesses get support from users interacting with chat applications, whether they are improving operations or supporting customer engagement and interaction:
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Through the use of chat apps, companies create opportunities to grow their customer base and strengthen that base through community building. If you want to create a chat app for your next exciting project, there are many aspects to consider before you start building. Let’s dive in!
In this guide, we will cover the most important points that you need to think about when it comes to creating a chat app. Whether you’re a beginner software developer or an entrepreneur thinking about proof of concept, this guide will help you find the answers you need. We go through:
Several chat applications are popular in today’s world. Some are used for social networking or communication with friends and family, while others are used more for work and collaboration.
WhatsApp is a popular messaging app (Android, iOS, desktop, web). It offers end-to-end encrypted messaging, group chat, voice and video, and file and media sharing. WhatsApp is used worldwide, especially in South America, Europe and South Asia. It is owned by Meta and offers high reliability and performance. WhatsApp boasts 2 billion monthly active users.
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Slack is often used for team collaboration in the workplace. It offers instant messaging, group chat and file sharing. Slack is also known for its easy integration with third-party tools. Developers can use out-of-the-box integrations to connect Slack channels to project management tools, productivity tools, DevOps tools, and more. Developers can also build their ChatOps tools to integrate with Slack.
Telegram is used all over the world and is widely used in India, Russia and Indonesia. It offers end-to-end encryption for messaging, voice and video calling, and file sharing. Telegram is mainly used for large group chats, it supports broadcasting to large audiences and public groups to build community. Users can also create Telegram bots to perform automated tasks.
Facebook Messenger is a chat application that is tightly integrated with Facebook. It supports text messaging, audio and video, file and media sharing, and more. Since it can be found alongside Facebook, it also has cross-access (Android, iOS, Web). Businesses are also using Facebook Messenger, creating bots and user experiences to increase customer engagement.
With these and many other chat programs already available, it’s a good question to ask: Will my business have trouble implementing its own chat program? The answer is yes – here’s why.
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Despite the widespread availability of chat applications, many businesses have good reasons to create their own chat applications or add chat capabilities to their existing applications. See the table below for a summary, or head over to this blog for the details – and as a bonus, it compares why in-app chat is better than SMS for your business.
Clearly, a good case can be made for your business to implement a custom chat app. When you decide you need to build a chat app, what features do you need to include?
These features are common in almost all chat apps and you should expect your chat app to support them all.
In addition to the basic chat features mentioned above, companies that spend time developing their chat software can implement some of the following features to enhance the user experience or differentiate them from the competition.
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Now that we know the important features of a chat app, let’s think about how to create a strong strategy for developing a chat app.
Before your developers start their first run, you should align the chat app with your goals and define the specific use cases that the chat app addresses. This way, you can make sure that the development team is aligned with what you really want to achieve and bring the most value to your organization.
First, let’s talk about the goals you want to achieve with this chat app. Are you looking to support customer engagement, increase sales or improve internal company communications? Defining your goals will help guide the development process and ensure that the final product truly meets your needs.
Next, think about who will use your chat app. Who are the intended users, and what are their unique needs, preferences and problems? Is app placement required? Understanding your users will help you improve your app’s features and create a more satisfying experience.
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With your goals and users in mind, let’s identify the specific use cases that a chat application covers. These use cases describe how the application will be used in real-world situations and guide the creation of user stories and requirements. Use cases should cover various aspects of a chat application such as user registration, authentication, messaging, file sharing, and group chats. Make sure your understanding of users is deep enough to consider edge cases.
By defining these use cases, you can ensure that your chat application supports your business goals and meets your users’ expectations.
After thinking about who will use the chat app and how they will use it, you should think about how to get them to use it (and keep them using it). Spend time with your business planning team brainstorming strategies and features that can help keep users engaged and coming back for more. For example:
Focusing on these strategies is important. By getting users to use your chat app on a regular basis, your user base will grow and prosper.
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At this point in the discussion, each company must consider the building and purchasing dilemma. Should you implement your own solution, build a chat app in-house? Or should you buy an off-the-shelf white label solution and insert your company logo?
Let’s start by considering the purchase option. The following table summarizes the pros and cons of purchasing a custom chat app solution. The details of the points in the table are discussed in the table below.
On the other hand, we have the option of construction. When building your chat app solution, the pros and cons include the following points on the table. As before, the details are discussed under the table.
Ideally, you want customization and control over the solution you’re building, but you want to keep development costs low and time to market fast. The solution for many companies is to take advantage of existing chat APIs and SDKs and build their chat applications on top of these tools. We call it the buy-after-build process.
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By building your app using the chat API, your development team can focus on features and user experience instead of getting bogged down in messaging protocols and small implementation details. Most companies do not have technical resources at this level, so they need help filling technical gaps. Building your app using the real-time messaging API lowers your development costs and helps you build your app faster.
Let’s say you want the best of both worlds and decide to customize your chat app using an API and SDK. What do you expect from the time and cost of such a process?
To help you estimate the cost of building an in-house chat app, here is an example cost calculator template. For a detailed treatment of this question, see this ebook.
The numbers above serve as a good starting point. By evaluating your current team’s capabilities and available resources, you can adjust the numbers to estimate the total cost of ownership for your chat application.
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So you’ve decided to create a chat app. Now an important business consideration is how you can leverage your chat app. In addition to growing the user base and providing a satisfying customer experience, a chat app can also bring revenue-generating opportunities that immediately reduce its development and maintenance costs. Here are three common ways businesses can market their chat programs, along with their associated pros and cons.
This strategy involves giving users the option to provide additional features or functions that enhance their chat experience. These valuable features may include things like ad-free usage, large file storage, enhanced customization options, or access to private chat groups.
This chat app monetization method includes giving users the option to purchase digital goods within the chat app, such as sticker packs, custom wallpapers, themes, or other customization options.
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