What, why and how of building a messaging app like WhatsApp

From being a sensational new tool for real-time chatting, today, WhatsApp has become an essential communication tool, even surpassing emails. What made it a sure shot success? Well, because it was introduced to address a grass root trait that humans have always obsessed over. Communication!

People love talking to each other.

SMS texting, social media messages, personal chats, and calls have always been highly sought after. WhatsApp simply gave new and efficient means for personal messaging to people, and it was accepted in daily lives in no time.

Monthly active users of various apps

(Source)

As the chart shows, millions of people are used to communicate via mobile apps. Their unparalleled popularity is a sheer indicator that communication industry is transforming and in-app messaging is taking it towards future.

Easy availability of mobile internet and smartphones has spiked up mobile app usage. Clearly, this opens up a new avenue for businesses to approach and engage with their users like never before. That being so, we have written this article to shed more light on how you can leverage your business by means of a mobile app with WhatsApp like conversation features.

So fellas, buckle up and get to work!

Essential features that make your app more influential

Messenger App features

Basically, a WhatsApp like app for business allows people to interact with their contacts, social connections or business networks synced in the app. For such app to remain in demand continually, it must have the features highly solicited by users worldwide. These features constitute the core of the app and attract new users to associate with you. Accordingly, here is a list of must-haves and nice-to-haves features your app should’ve.

User profiling

Upon entering the app, the user must sign into it. Users’ phone number can be a unique parameter to create distinct users in the app. Besides, with the mobile number, the security verification using SMS becomes instant and faster. Furthermore, a user should be able to create his own profile with details and media of his choice to aptly express his persona.

Syncing contacts

Basically, your messaging apps should conveniently facilitate the user with contacts he can communicate to. It can be contacts stored in phone, social media connections or list of people he needs to interact within your business network. In accordance with your objective of building the app, you can make the app fetch such contacts from various sources.  

 Enabling real-time messaging, the essence of building messaging apps

Needless to say, the app should connect the user with contact synced with the app. It must deliver the messages or the media attachments promptly to another person. Evidently, the technologies you use in app development must ensure dexterous one-to-one chat as well as group conversations in real time.

Voice and Video calling

Skype paved the path of VoIP calling across countries right from the app. Today, this is exceedingly used in all messaging apps. Be it FB Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, or Skype, the calling feature makes them further interactive. Hence, you should give the user the liberty to decide whether to use audio, video call or simply text to communicate.

Multimedia attachment transfer

Every day, chat apps circulate millions of videos and billions of images, in addition to documents and GIFs and more supported formats. That is, the user would prefer to be able to send and receive documents while chatting without having to leave the app.

Notifications

Notifications are an efficient way to alert the users that the app has something inside that they should have a look at. Using Firebase Cloud Messaging by Google (FCM) and Apple Push Notifications would make implementing in-app alerts easier. You can even allow the user to customize how they wish to receive notifications.

  • Geo-location sharing
  • App scalability
  • Quick search within conversations
  • Message broadcasting
  • Integration with social platforms
  • Status indicators
  • Calendar sync
  • Self-destructive messages
  • Subscriptions and in-app purchases
  • Cross-platform app operability
  • Chatbot integration

The list can keep growing further. However, you must enlist the top features that are indispensable for you to attract users. You can launch a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that is an app with only essential features, and later keep updating the app while adding new features based on the user feedback. Please note that each feature development consumes a big deal in terms of time and efforts.  Here is a suggestion, try using open-source messaging libraries and speed up development while incurring a lesser cost.   

For a programmer’s curiosity: What does it take to develop a messenger app

Before everything else, you need the industry research observations and app architecture on paper. Here is the plan you can follow if you want,

  • Enlist your requirements. What do you want the app to do?
  • Observe industry standard, best practices, and current trends.
  • How does your competitor’s app look?
  • Lay down the app architecture that describes how the app components would interact, layers in the app, data caching, data flow and accessibility, development environment, supported devices, resolution, and hardware connectivity,
  • Here is where you visualize worst-case scenarios that might need to operate in such an intermittent network,
  • Envisage the future of the app in the marketplace
  • Then, design and examine a prototype before beginning with development.

Finally, this is how you go about developing the app for real. 

App development flowchart

  • Database Framework or cloud media storages would build the foundation to raise the app on.
  • Application server for real time messaging and calling, such as XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol) or  MQTT (Message Queue Telemetry Transport)
  • Then, you would need a Rest API to communicate data to and from the app.
  • In the end, Firebase Cloud Messaging shall keep you covered for the app notification part.

Voila! You are pretty much done with the backend construction. Next is, developing the app for different platforms such as Android, iOS, Windows, and BlackBerry. Take a good look at your target audience and the platforms they prefer to use. Without a doubt, iOS and Android platforms would suffice to address the majority of your users.

Evidently, native development is an uphill battle of building Messaging APIs, Chat SDK, libraries, Google and Apple cloud services for Android and iOS platforms and the whole lot. Your programmer would be certainly well versed with how to go about the native app development.

Design!

You must design the appearance of the app very carefully and creatively. Undeniably, the ‘look and feel’ do the hard-hitting piece of work and keep the users engaged with your app while enticing them to return to the app again. While designing you must focus on sentimental usage aspects, such as:

  • App logo: The users see the app icon before they can experience how beautiful your app is. Thus, it is as pivotal as the UI. Icons duly influence the users’ decision of whether or not download the app. Hence, make sure that your logo communicates your brand identity efficiently.
  • App color and theme: choose them wisely. Because, color psychology works indeed. Just so you know, monochrome colors remain in always. Ever wondered why Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, WhatsApp and more app giants exude blue and green hues? Well, give it a thought.
  • Easy navigation. Not to be forgotten that you must handle navigation deftly both at front and back end. Distribute the features and buttons on app screen such that everything comes handy to users. Try to understand whether your customers would want a single window navigation, stacked navigation bar, search driven or gesture based navigation. Take extra care of those most frequently used features. The user friendliness is a trump card that can make your app a hit or a miss.

When you have a decently working version of the app ready, begin testing. Alpha testing, beta testing, keep on testing. It is very crucial. Run all the possible test case scenarios to ensure that you have built an all-weather robust app.  

How would this chat app accelerate your business?

First off, keep in mind that you are building an app for a special business niche for your clients and prospects of the local area as well as worldwide and not any general-purpose texting application.

Businesses can deploy a messaging app for a range of utilities and can reap wholesome rewards for the same, such as;

  • Well, you get to attract more users, more of those who prefer everything done on the go, and to communicate with those who are already using the app.
  • The app even fosters the relationship between users and service providers, thereby churn reduces and more users engage with business. Thus, cross sell and upsell potential increases.
  • Your business can provide better customer support. Through the app, you are accessible 24/7, users can easily submit their queries.
  • You can establish a direct communication and feedback channel directly with the end user.
  • Increases conversion rate as well as customer satisfaction.

See, you can taste a bunch of amazing benefits when you decide to serve and connect with the end user through a mobile app with a built in chatting feature inside.

Time and resources: What does the development cost you?

Seemingly, you have made up your mind to develop all that we discussed about so far. An interactive business app will present you with a channel to acquire more customers and monetize in addition to the perks mentioned above.

So to speak, building such a messenger app would cost you a big sum in terms of time, energy and money. If you begin from the scratch and code yourself, approximately you will need more than 6 months of full time work.

In addition, you will need a team of programming rock stars, that include iOS programmer, Android programmer, front end and back end developers, UI and UX designers, Quality Analyst and a learned person to oversee the happenings aka a project manager.  

All in all, it can cost you up to and beyond $25,000 to develop such an app for your business. However, this is a ballpark number, the type and nature of the features in your app more or less influence the cost of development.

How Applozic lends you a helping hand with in-app messaging

Apparently, adding chat feature in mobile app indeed is a tough job. By now you must be wondering whether to do it yourself or outsource it. Here is a detailed answer to your ‘buy it Vs build it’ dilemma. In a nutshell, your engineers should work upon what they are good at, i.e. developing your business, and leave the ‘in-app messaging’ to experts like Applozic.

To put it briefly, at Applozic we offer best in class chat API & In-App Messaging SDK that you can use to integrate messaging in web or your mobile app. The comprehensive toolkit

  • Saves you huge development cost
  • Gives rich cross platform and multi device conversational interface
  • Make your web and mobile apps more interactive
  • Seamlessly integrates in your product

Thus, with plenty of more intuitive features, Applozic looks after your in-app chat essentials, while allowing you to concentrate on your business. Connect us to know more.

Bringing it all together

Building a messaging app that brings your business a desired output, is a lot more than just programming and launching the app. The whole lot involves post release support, maintenance, timely upgrades, integration with enterprise systems and much more. Therefore, your decision of building or buying in-app chat features has many repercussions that you can imagine. Take all the time you need to make this decision of great magnitude.

In the end, this is how one can go about developing a WhatApp like messaging app from the very scratch. Do remember that even if Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are dominating the in-app communication industry, there is still room for an intuitive app like yours to accommodate in the marketplace. You must build an app that stands out with its unique value proposition.

Without a doubt, conversational apps are a significant part of the end to end communication for businesses. It is high time you must have a dedicated interactive app for your business.

Carpe diem!

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