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How to Create a Video Chat App in 2023

When the pandemic hit, the world transitioned into the digital realm. Not forever, thankfully. It has since bounced back, but the preference for video chats remains: there are entire workspaces and universities that operate via Zoom. In this article, we’ll be talking about how you can create a video chat app — and who knows, maybe even defy Zoom and all the big guys.

Reading time: 19 minutes

Table of contents

Key takeaways

  • The essential features of a video calling app include video & voice calls, text messaging, contact lists, and customizable user profiles.
  • If you want to make a video chat app more convenient, consider adding screen sharing, digital whiteboards, and virtual noise cancellation.
  • Making a video chat app usually costs from $85,000 to $95,000.

Video chat app market overview

Every business starts with research. So before you create a video chat app, it’s important to analyze the market. Let’s take a look at the statistics and get a good understanding of what’s happening in the field.

Demand

The demand for video calling apps skyrocketed during the pandemic, but they continue to attract millions of new customers even after all the covid-related restrictions were lifted. Here’s proof: in January 2022, Microsoft Teams recorded 270 million monthly active users, which marked a 20-million increase to July 2021 (Grand View Search).

Size & growth projections

In 2021, the video calling app market grossed $6.28 bln in size, and this figure is expected to reach $19.73 bln by 2030. This means that until the end of the decade, the market will be gaining at least 12.5% every year, which marks fantastic prospects for successful players (Grand View Search).

Video chat app market growth graph

Competition

The field has heavy competition, and there are several well-established giants that wield huge influence over the market (think Zoom or Discord). But while taking on Zoom isn’t feasible, it doesn’t mean that there’s no room left for new and exciting solutions. The key is to find your niche — once you’ve figured that out, you can start building a product that will satisfy its needs.

The types of video chat apps

First, let’s talk about applications that center around video chats. There are three types of them:

Conferencing apps

A video conferencing solution can support up to hundreds of participants in one call, which makes it particularly popular in business and education. Since the pandemic, these apps have become ubiquitous — you’ve definitely heard about Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet.

Video calling apps

These apps focus on calls between two participants, so they are primarily used for day-to-day communication between friends or coworkers. This isn’t a distinct type in itself — rather, you could call it a set of features often used in conjunction with messenger functionality. Examples, again, don’t need any introduction: it’s Telegram, WhatsApp, and Skype.

Entertainment apps

Applications in this category allow users to hang out together in group calls and may offer some niche-specific features — for instance, in-app games or streaming. Famous examples include Discord, Snapchat, and Rave.

This classification may be useful when you need to come up with a particular set of features for your product. Bear in mind, however, that a video calling app is a very flexible tool by nature — people often use Discord for studying, Telegram for briefings, and Zoom for online-parties.

This means that trying to make a video calling app that strictly adheres to one type is mostly impractical — instead, most apps are a combination of all three.

Possible use cases

Video conferencing doesn’t always have to be the primary feature. Some apps employ a video chat feature as a way to enhance main functionality, and this actually happens across many business segments. Here are some of them:

Telemedicine

In the field of telemedicine, video chats allow doctors to examine their patients in real time, which is much more efficient than just seeing the photos or text descriptions of symptoms.

Online therapy app

A little while back, we developed an online psychotherapy app. Needless to say, video conferencing was a must

Education

When the pandemic hit, entire schools and universities transitioned to Zoom or similar services. Video conferencing makes it possible to emulate the conditions of a classroom, which helps maintain effective communication between teachers and students.

Finance

Private banking is on the rise, and it requires a lot of personal communication. This is why some banks are beginning to integrate a video chat feature into their apps: this way, it’s much easier for customers to have in-depth consultations with managers. It also makes the whole process much more personalized, too.

Ecommerce

Have you ever heard about livestream shopping? Influencers and celebrities promoting a brand’s products in real time is already a big thing in Asia, and it will most likely become more widespread in the west soon. Why we mention it: since the whole segment heavily relies on streaming, video conferencing tech is indispensable here.

Livestream shopping app

A livestream shopping app Purrweb developed several years ago. Customers can add products to the cart right at the stream

Online dating

It’s easy to hide your identity behind a text chat, so dating apps have always been plagued by fake accounts. Introducing a video chat helps make the experience safer for thousands of users. Fooling a camera is a much harder task, and if the person you’re interested in refuses to show themselves… Well, they call it a red flag nowadays.

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Popular examples

Let’s discuss some huge video chat apps that basically define what the field currently looks like. They will provide us with positive references, highlighting the key features we’ll be talking about later.

Zoom

The go-to video conferencing app. Everything here happens in conference rooms — virtual spaces that support text, audio, and video inputs from each participant. If you need to show a presentation, you can share your screen with others, while breakout rooms will help you split a large group of people into several smaller groups.

There are some neat additional features, too. Customers can schedule meetings, form group chats, create virtual whiteboards, and connect their phone contacts to the app. A wide selection of addons makes it possible to tailor Zoom to any particular needs — or to turn it into a gaming platform.

Popular Zoom integrations

Zoom has lots of different integrations with popular apps

Telegram

Simply the most convenient and innovative messenger app out there: it covers all the basic functionality, but always goes an extra mile. Apart from text chats and video calls that support literally thousands of participants, it offers channels, audio messages, video messages, chat folders, as well as a plethora of customization options. You can also choose to schedule messages or send them without sound.

Users can launch customizable Telegram bots via a special API to automate virtually any feature they want. The app also prides itself in its dedication to anonymity and privacy: for example, you can opt to register an account with a blockchain-generated number without disclosing any of your personal data.

Telegram provides a set of innovative features to its audience

Discord

Discord was originally built for leisure, hobbies, and fun, but it has since become a versatile tool that is equally useful for team management as it is for gaming. Communication here primarily happens on servers, which can be divided into several thematic channels.

These channels are either text-based or voice-based, with voice-based channels also supporting video and basically functioning like Zoom conference rooms. Each server is highly customizable: you can appoint certain roles and grant different access rights to different users. There’s also plenty of quality-of-life perks like screen sharing and virtual whiteboards.

Servers and channels offer a convenient way of organizing your social groups and interactions with them

Snapchat 

Did you know that Instagram basically stole the Stories feature from Snapchat? Well, now you know. Snapchat is a messenger that allows users to send short videos (‘Snaps’) to other people, with the twist being that these videos disappear after viewing.

Users can always communicate with each other via text chats or video chats that support up to 16 people simultaneously. And yes, you can actually post stories too. Snapchat positions itself as a playful app designed for having fun, so there are also plenty of video filters available, as well as in-app games and customizable emojis.

With Snapchat, you can send snaps, communicate in chats, and add stories

Features to implement in an MVP

Must-have features Nice-to-have features
Registration Screen sharing
User profiles Custom emojis & stickers
Video & voice calls Virtual noise cancellation
End-to-end encryption Virtual whiteboards
Text messaging Video effects & filters
Contact lists Cross-platform support
Push notifications Integration with other apps
Moderation and reporting tools

Now, let’s talk about each of these in detail. To begin, here are the absolute essentials to implement during video chat app development.

Registration

The signup process should be quick and intuitive, so that it doesn’t take long to actually start using the app. An effective solution is to allow users to authenticate using their social media accounts — this way, they’ll be able to start using the app right away. Another way to speed things up is to implement one-click registration: this is when users can create temporary accounts with minimum information (e. g. with their phone number only), with an option to add all the details later.

You’re inevitably going to collect some user data, and transparency is the best way to approach this. Clearly explain data collection and ask for consent at the very beginning of the user journey to reassure your clients that they’re in control of their personal information. 

Once the user has created their account, you can allow them to login using biometric authentication — this is much faster than typing in account details manually. And if they forget their password (this is definitely going to happen), make sure that the reset process is as straightforward as possible.

Screenshots of Discord

Discord’s registration screen

User profiles

The key thing to consider when it comes to profiles is that users should be able to customize them in any way they want — for example, quickly change contact details, profile pictures, or nicknames. It is also important to give them the freedom to choose what information is displayed publicly and what is kept private. 

If you want your clients to provide additional information, gamify the video chat experience — reward them with achievements and badges for reaching each profile-related milestone. This makes the process all the more engaging. 

Each user profile should have a corresponding profile card. This is what other customers see when they interact with someone’s nickname or profile picture. Ideally, these cards display all the necessary information at a glance, making it easy for others to learn about a user quickly.

A screenshot of Telegram

Telegram’s user profiles

Video & voice calls

The core of any video calling app. Keep the interface clean and intuitive, with easily accessible buttons for starting, answering, and ending calls. In addition to this, offer clear icons and labels for every other essential function, such as turning on/off the camera or muting other users. 

It’s also a good idea to implement an auto-mute function that mutes the user’s microphone upon joining group calls — this is a lifesaver if they have noisy surroundings or are running late to a meeting and don’t want to disturb other participants.  

A little tip: the more participants can join a single group call, the better — this will make your product more attractive to all customers that often communicate with several people at once (like teachers or managers). Customers also appreciate privacy and security, so it’s always a good idea to protect the transmitted video & audio data with end-to-end encryption.

A screenshot of Telegram

Telegram’s calling screen

End-to-end encryption

One of today’s most common and effective security measures. In an end-to-end encrypted system, the only parties that can access the transmitted data are the sender and the intended recipient. All information is encrypted before it leaves the phone, and it can only be decrypted with the correspondent private key stored on the recipient’s device.

A screenshot of Telegram

This is how Telegram declares that there’s EE2E in place

Text messaging

Users should be able to maintain communication with others even if they don’t have a mic or a camera nearby. This is when text chats come into play. As you want to make your video chat app flexible, ensure that these chats also support media like photos, videos, and audio files.  

Don’t forget about all the quality-of-life improvements popularized by messengers. The most important ones are real-time typing indicators (the ubiquitous “Typing…” at the bottom or top of the screen) and dynamic message statuses (sending/delivered/read — you know the drill). To make your app even more convenient, you can incorporate a search function to help users quickly find specific messages or conversations.

A screenshot of Snapchat

The classic messenger chat screen in Snapchat

Contact lists

It takes three steps to make a contact list convenient. First, sync the list with the contacts that are already stored on the user’s phone. Second, make it easily customizable: it should be easy to add new contacts or delete the already existing ones. And third, allow users to initiate calls, video chats, or send messages directly from the contact list, thereby reducing the number of steps required to connect with other people.

A screenshot of Zoom

The contact list screen in Zoom

Push notifications

The app should notify users about incoming calls and messages, as well as pretty much everything that has to do with social interactions — from games to livestreams to whatever else you decide to integrate into your product. Simple, but important.

There’s one thing to consider, though: users should be able to customize their notification preferences. Provide options to enable/disable notifications for different calls and messages. You can also implement a Do Not Disturb mode that enables users to temporarily silence notifications during specific hours — for example, when they are working or enjoying some family time.

Nice-to-have features your customers will enjoy

More advanced functionality to consider once you’ve implemented all the basics. It’s definitely not an exhaustive list — just some popular ideas.

Screen sharing

Vital for pitching project ideas, delivering presentations, streaming games, watching movies together, and explaining how to use Photoshop to a friend. Since this is a very in-demand feature, we recommend that you implement it as soon as you get all the essentials running properly (and ensure the high quality of video streaming). 

Here are some quick tips on how to approach this:

  • Allow users to choose whether to share their entire screen, specific application windows, or a particular tab in a web browser.
  • Display a real-time preview of the content being shared so that streamers can check what their users are seeing.
  • Offer a screen recording option so that users could capture important moments for later reference or simply for sharing.
  • Ensure that screen sharing maintains a high-quality video stream with minimal lag, and implement adaptive streaming and quality adjustments based on network conditions.
Discord

Discord’s screen sharing feature opens up great possibilities for streaming (desktop version)

Custom emojis & stickers

Everybody loves memes and inside jokes. Everybody also loves when they can customize their virtual environments. Allowing users to create custom emojis and stickers perfectly satisfies these two needs. It’s also a fantastic personalization tool that requires literally zero involvement from you.

Telegram

In Telegram, you can add custom stickers with the help of a special bot

Virtual noise cancellation

We don’t always have the perfect surroundings when we’re in a conference. Loud traffic, kids playing in the next room, neighbors suddenly deciding to throw a party — you know how it gets sometimes. A noise cancellation feature will make it easy for the participants to understand what the speaker is saying even if they are in a very loud environment.

You can build your own algorithm from scratch, but it’s a long and expensive process (as is everything that involves machine learning). Alternatively, there are some ready-made solutions that you can integrate when you make a video chat app — for example, Krisp.

Virtual whiteboards

One of the key video conferencing tools. A virtual whiteboard is basically a simple graphic editor where multiple people can write, insert media files, and interact with each other in real time. This powerful tool makes it easier for participants to engage in brainstorming, diagramming, planning, and pretty much any other task that requires collaboration. 

To make this feature as diverse as possible, offer a wide variety of drawing and annotation tools — pens, pencils, markers, colored blocks, text, etc. It’s also crucial to implement the undo and redo options, allowing users to quickly correct mistakes and experiment with their ideas without worrying about creating a backup.

Zoom

Zoom’s virtual whiteboards are a powerful collaborative tool

Video effects & filters

People usually associate effects and filters with mindless fun, but it’s not always the case. Take background blur, for example. It’s a serious quality-of-life improvement that makes video chat apps more convenient for people who highly value privacy — or simply haven’t had the time to clean up their apartment and don’t want to show the mess to everyone.  You know how it is! And then, of course, there are all the funny filters. Add them at your discretion.

Cross-platform support

Going cross-platform is a good business choice — this way, you’ll reach a wider audience and get more traffic. Moreover, it’s a sure way to reduce expenses: with frameworks like React Native, you can write the code once and reuse it across multiple platforms at once. The key challenge here is to ensure that the user experience is equally smooth regardless of whether your customers use a MacBook, a PC, or an Android tablet — and that’s what you need expert developers for.

Integrations with other apps

Some of the most useful integrations for a video chat app are integrations with calendars, planners, and other time-management tools — with these in place, users will be able to easily schedule video meetings, set reminders, and manage appointments. Depending on the needs of your target audience, you can also collaborate with streaming platforms like YouTube, Netflix, or Spotify for watch parties and live streaming. Or you can go a completely other way and collaborate with Trello. The possibilities are endless.

A screenshot of Telegram

On iOS, Zoom offers a direct integration with the built-in Calendar app

Moderation and reporting tools

Some users will try to use your app with malicious intent. There’s no way to escape it — this is just the way the Internet works. Instead, your task here is to quickly identify such users and ban them from the platform before they cause too much harm. And if you give your customers the ability to report suspicious or outright damaging behavior, they will gladly help you. 

To make the process as straightforward as possible, you can create multiple predefined report categories (e.g., harassment, spam, inappropriate content, etc.). These categories will help users specify the nature of their report and expedite the review process. Allow users to attach screenshots, text snippets, or other evidence when making a report, making it easier for moderators to assess the situation. 

Ensure that user-reported data and sensitive information are handled with care, complying with privacy and data protection regulations.
A screenshot of Telegram

Zoom offers multiple predefined report categories to things easier for both users and moderators

Monetization models for a video chat app

OK, but how do you actually make money with a video chat app? In theory, there are several strategies available for video chat app monetization, but most developers actually use only one of them — the freemium model.

The single most common video chat app monetization strategy. How it works: users can enjoy the full range of an app’s basic features for free, but there is some advanced functionality that becomes available only to those who buy a subscription. Buying that subscription isn’t at all mandatory, but is greatly incentivized. Zoom, Discord, and Telegram all use freemium models.

Nitro

Discord’s offers on its Nitro premium plan

Our tech stack

Now, let’s take a look at the technologies we use to create engaging mobile services.

Back-end Node.js Node.js is a JavaScript framework perfect for creating highly efficient and easily scalable architecture.
Front-end React Native, React.js, Electron.js Three frameworks for three platforms — mobile, desktop, and web. All three offer unparalleled ease of use and flexibility, greatly reducing development costs.
Infrastructure AWS, Heroku These services provide a scalable infrastructure for hosting the app. They also offer additional features such as automatic scaling and continuous integration.
Database PostgreSQL, MySQL, Redis Combining different databases helps to store data and ensure maximum protection. 
Real-time messaging WEBRTC This open-source project is useful for implementing real-time communication features such as chats and audio calls — or, in other words, the must-have features of any video chat app. 
Let’s start creating your video chat app today!
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Frontend development

As you can see in the table, we mentioned three frameworks that we use to write the frontend. So how do we choose the one for the project? It all depends on the target platform.

Mobile apps

Our go-to frontend framework for mobile apps is the JavaScript-based React Native — a flexible, reliable, and easy-to-use tool with ample community resources and extensive ecosystems. We’ve selected this framework as our primary working environment for three reasons:

It uses JavaScript. This is a solid reason because JavaScript is one of the most powerful, flexible, and widely used programming languages — especially in the segment of mobile app development. Frontend developers also love it because it allows them to quickly create highly functional and visually impressive user interfaces.

It has one shared codebase. When developing different versions of the app for Android and iOS with React Native, they will share around 65-70% of the code. The implicated benefits of this are obvious. First, it will greatly speed up the development process. Second, you won’t have to pay two (!) development teams to create two different apps — just find one that knows how to work with this framework. 

It creates that native-like feel. With React Native (the name kinda hints at it), your app will scroll, tap, and swipe like native-build ones — in fact, if the developers do a good job, your customers won’t notice any difference.  

But your options don’t end here. If you want, we can write your app’s frontend in Flutter — a powerful framework that is also suitable for the cross-platform approach.

Web apps

For web apps, we use React.js. In many ways, this framework is similar to React Native: it also features reusable components, uses a virtual DOM to improve performance, runs with JavaScript and provides everything you need to quickly create functional and engaging interfaces. 

This time, however, the environment is optimized to produce UIs specifically for the web. In light of this, React.js is compatible with all major web browsers and can easily be integrated with server-side rendering, which makes it much more SEO-friendly. And good SEO, as we all know, is crucial for the success of any web site.

Desktop apps

For desktop apps, we use Electron.js. This framework allows developers to create complex applications that run on all the key operating systems — Windows, Mac, and Linux. Much like React Native, it provides access to native APIs, meaning that the resulting software runs smoothly on any desktop device and any OS. And as a nice touch, Electron.js comes with built-in developer tools that make it easy to debug the code and thus reduce the development time.

Backend development

For the backend, we also use JavaScript — a highly versatile programming language with a scalable architecture. Thanks to server-side frameworks like Node.js, JavaScript can also be used for server-side scripting, making it an all-in-one tool. This allows our developers to use the same language for both client-side and server-side development, simplifying the workflow.

Node.js scales easily, allowing developers to add more server instances or nodes to handle the increasing traffic of a successful app. Furthermore, it has a rich ecosystem of open-source libraries and modules available through the Node Package Manager (NPM). These libraries simplify video call app development, offering ready-made solutions for a wide range of tasks.

Third-party services

Using third-party services is an effective way to significantly reduce the costs of a chat app development — this means that if you find yourself on a tight budget, we can implement certain features with ready-made solutions. Examples include payment gateways, video chat APIs, chatbots, ads managers, social media embeds, analytics tools, and many other features. For managing data, you can use Firebase Realtime Database or Amazon S3. For chats and video calls, Twillio or Socket.io. And so on. Contact us to find the perfect solution for your app.

How to build a video chat app in 6 steps

We believe that the best approach to bringing a new concept to life is to first create a minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is a barebone version of an app designed to showcase its main functionality at minimum expense. It’s perfect for gauging the market, testing the viability of your idea, and raising some funds — a fully-functioning product is much more convincing than a bunch of promises and pretty pictures.

Let’s break down the whole video chat app development process into 6 steps.

Step 1. Analyze the market

Before you build a video chat app, you need to get a good understanding of the field you’ll be working in. First, pinpoint the factors that drive the demand and note the key trends shaping the market. Then, get familiar with the competition: outline their strengths and weaknesses through a comprehensive analysis of their products, marketing strategies, and pricing.

Step 2. Define the features of your product

To come up with a competitive set of features, factor in the results of the market analysis and the specifics of your niche. Pay special attention to your killer feature, a.k.a. a unique selling point — it must offer an innovative solution that makes your video chat app immediately stand out among the rest of the competition.

If you decide to develop your app with Purrweb, we can help you with establishing the perfect feature set. Our analysts will conduct some market research of their own and assist you in fleshing out the concept — if you want them to, of course. In doing so, they will also evaluate the project by studying the specifics of your business, analyzing the market, and scrutinizing key competitors. This helps us create the project roadmap and give you the exact cost of development, as well as set clear time expectations.

Step 3. Devise the UI/UX design

In business, design is a tool, so your first priority is to create a straightforward user journey that will smoothly guide the customer through the sales funnel. Then, you can start making things pretty.

Here’s how we approach UI/UX at Purrweb. First, we create a mind map to outline the logic of the app and map out the user journey. After that, we move on to wireframes — they help us to sketch out the general flow of the screens and decide what content and features they should include. 

Once the client approves the wireframes, we move on to graphic design: choose colors and fonts, create icons and illustrations, as well as animate stuff and design UI components. The team then compiles every component into a single UI kit and hands it off to developers.

An example of wireframes

An example of wireframes

Step 4. Write the code and launch the first version

Since the app must work flawlessly, make sure that your video chat app development team consists of skilled professionals with sufficient expertise. It’s also absolutely necessary to conduct regular testing, and especially before launch.

In our work, we use a highly flexible, Scrum-based approach that allows us to quickly adapt to any conditions. In following the Scrum guidelines, we split the development into multiple 2-week sprints. It helps us minimize risks, save our clients’ money, provide maximum transparency and rapidly release polished software. Moreover, we provide maximum transparency in the process: you always know what exactly is happening with your project at any given moment.

To reach as many potential customers as possible, we recommend using cross-platform frameworks like React Native — it will allow you to roll out versions for both Android and iOS at the same time and at a minimal cost.

Step 5. Set up a feedback loop

Working on a service in voluntary isolation is a bad idea: chances are, the developer will quickly make some unpopular decisions. This is why it’s important to keep in touch with your audience. However, trying to implement every single suggestion is also counterproductive — instead, focus on discerning the most common ones.

Step 6. Release updates

The development process doesn’t really stop until the app shuts down — as long as there is demand for the service, there’ll always be some room for improvement. Add other features from the backlog, scale, and simply bring your app to perfection, all the while maintaining proper communication channels with your target audience.

The costs of developing a video chat app

Video chat app development usually costs from $85,000 to $90,000. Let’s take a look at where these numbers come from:

Process Average duration  Average cost
Project estimation 8 hours Free at Purrweb ☺️
UI/UX 120 hours $6,000
Development 1,300 hours $65,000
Testing 520 hours $10,400
Project management Throughout the entire cycle $11,700

There are also several important factors that affect the price when you build a video chat app:

  • App innovativeness and complexity
  • Design complexity
  • The number of staff on the team
  • Means of contracting: in-house, freelance, outsource
  • The team’s location
  • The number of supported platforms

Conclusion

Do you have an idea for a video chat app? Purrweb would love to help you bring it to life. We are a team of 190 that will take your project through the entire development cycle — from a concept to an MVP to a multitude of later versions. If this sounds interesting, fill in the form below, and we’ll contact you as quickly as possible.

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FAQ s

  • What are the basic features of a video chat app?

    There 7 basic features that make up the functional skeleton of any video chat app: 1.Registration; 2. User profiles; 3. Video & voice calls; 4. End-to-end encryption; 5. Text messaging; 6. Contact lists; 7. Push notifications

  • How much does it cost to make a video chat app?

    Video chat app development usually costs from $85,000 to $90,000.

  • What tech stack is used to build video chat apps?

    When developing mobile apps, we primarily use React Native for the frontend and Node.js for the backend. For desktop and web apps, we switch to React.js and Electron.js.

  • What are the steps involved in creating a video chat app?

    Generally speaking, you can split the entire process into six steps: 1. Analyzing the market; 2. Defining the features; 3. Devising the UI/UX; 4. Writing the code; 5. Setting up a feedback loop; 6. Releasing updates