How to make an app like Discord

Discord combines the functions of a messaging app and a voice chat app. You can use Discord for communication with multiple users at the same time and with groups of people. Millions of users across the world already use the app and it continuously gains popularity.

If you're going to develop a communication app, take note of Discord’s features and best practices. In our guide, you will learn how to make an app like Discord: find out about the must-have functionality of apps like Discord and discover tips on how to get started with the video chat app development process.

Reading time: 11 minutes

Table of contents

    Key takeaways

    • Apps for voice and video chats like Discord are based on VoIP technology. The market of such apps continuously grows.
    • Essential features of an app like Discord are channels, user roles, voice and video chats, file sharing, notifications, and messaging history.
    • The app development may be connected with challenges: tech complexity, data protection, moderation, and high competition.
    • Developing an app like Discord costs about $210,000 and can take 5 months.

    Discord as a concept of VoIP app

    Every time you use your device (laptop or smartphone) to call someone over the Internet, you are using VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol. This technology is implemented in applications with voice and video chat such as Discord, Skype, or Facebook Messenger. Let’s see how it works.

    VoIP converts the user’s voice from a device into a digital signal and sends this signal as a data packet over the Internet. This data packet travels between your device and VoIP provider and then gets converted back into the voice.

    How VoIP works

    VoIP messaging facilitates voice-based phone calls using an internet connection instead of a local telephone company. The main benefits of VoIP are lower call costs, high call quality, and advanced features, such as call recording and many more.

    Discord and other VoIP apps

    Here are some examples of popular VoIP applications with video messaging features:

    Popular VoIP apps

    Depending on the needs of the target audience, each VoIP app has its own features.


    Target audience: recruiters, team members, employees, job seekers, teachers and students, friends and family.

    Features: audio and HD video chats, instant messages, screen sharing, call recording, live subtitles, private conversations.

    For many people, Skype is associated with formal communication, such as job interviews. But it’s also used for other purposes such as video lessons or communication with friends and family.


    Target audience: users’ relatives and friends, business companies.

    Features: audio and video chats, instant messages, real-time location sharing, communities, secret chats, profile hiding.

    WhatsApp is the classic “phone” messenger with a conservative user design — you will rarely notice large changes in the UI and functionality. This messaging app has been on the market for a long time and has firmly taken its place among users.

    The main function is free voice calls to other countries for those who do not want to connect paid service packages from telephone providers. It also has become a trend to use WhatsApp for communication with businesses such as medical organizations, beauty shops, and others (e.g., for sending checks).


    Target audience: users’ friends, young people aged 25-35, communities of interest.

    Features: text chats, voice and video calls, file sharing and file storage, direct messages and secret chats, bots and channels, real-time location sharing, customized UI.

    Telegram is one of the most popular messaging apps which is notable for its user privacy. In addition, Telegram seems to be a pioneer of new cool features.


    Target audience: originally the gaming community.

    Features: group voice calls,  text and video chats, streaming integration features (like Twitch).

    Discord is a “geeky” messenger for group calls. Recently, Discord has begun to gain popularity in different communities and is now widely used for near-work messaging in technology companies.

    Market of VoIP apps and its future

    The main industry that uses the VoIP technology is messaging apps, primarily for mobile devices rather than desktop or web versions. In 2021, the global market for VoIP services was estimated at $85.2 billion, and according to Research and Markets, it will grow to $102.5 billion by 2026.

    It may seem that the VoIP market is already crowded, and it makes no sense to create another voice chat service. However, in the near future, the VoIP industry will rapidly develop with the support of artificial intelligence and machine learning. These automation technologies can reduce maintenance costs and give another boost to the market.

    Keep in mind that communication in the workplace via VoIP is popular now: about 59% of companies allow employees to use their own devices for work purposes, including accessing business apps. So VoIP development for business purposes is one of the most demanded areas.

    Besides, VoIP is becoming an important part of brand-customer communication. For example, business owners will use virtual voice assistants and chatbots instead of classic text messages.

    Another promising area is group video calls with additional features such as third-party service integration, collaboration tools, and so on. If you want to create your own chat app in 2023 — video chat features are a must! But, before you start to build a video chat app of your own — be sure to check out our article.

    So it looks like new players still have every chance to successfully enter the market and attract lots of users. Let’s consider the case of Discord to understand what made it such a popular group chat app.

    Why is Discord so popular?

    Initially, Discord was focused on a specific target audience, the game community, but then began to gain popularity among other different audiences and acquire new functions. In 2021, 150 million users used the app, according to Statista, and this number is growing.

    Among the most popular features, users call extensive customization of notifications and chats, as well as file sharing. Besides that, Discord is simple, fast, user-centric, doesn’t take up much space on your device, and allows you to chat with multiple people at the same time.

    Discord app feature — customized notifications

    Discord users appreciate the option to customize the app notifications

    All of these features contributed to the organic growth of the app. You can also find a promising niche for an app like Discord. To better understand how to detect it, let’s take a closer look at Discord’s features.

    Must-have features of an app like Discord

    These features are most often used in the development process of mobile apps like Discord.

    Servers and channels

    Let’s define the difference between these two concepts. The server is the “house” where the user communicates with friends and engages in interactive activities. Each user can join several “houses”. The server consists of text, voice and video channels, which play the role of separate “rooms”, grouped by topic. Different channels have their own design and interior, for example, channels can be private and common, open and closed, public and secret. Despite the differences, the channels are united by common rules.

    Discord allows to organize servers and channels as you wish

    Think in advance about the architecture of your Discord-like app: what the server will look like, how it will be divided into channels, and how they will be connected to each other.

    Roles and permissions

    Unlike typical messaging apps, where there are usually only two roles — member and administrator — Discord has much more flexible role options. Each of the roles has its own personalized properties, such as colors, hierarchies, and access rights, which can be combined. A server administrator can customize roles and come up with names like Moderator, Hero, CEO, Superhuman.

    When developing your own app like Discord, think about your users: who they are, how much communication flexibility they need, and how roles and permissions fit into the app architecture (servers and channels).

    Text, voice, and video chats

    Discord was created primarily for gamers who prefer to communicate more by voice than by video chat. However, Discord also provides text and video messaging. Which option is important for your users — to see group members, just listen and talk to them, or maybe all of them?

    File sharing

    Without the ability to share files, it is almost impossible to imagine a modern chat app. But despite its “mandatory” nature, you can experiment with this option: for example, configure the app to transfer a certain type of file. These questions will help you set up the file sharing feature:

    • What kind of files will your users share, screenshots or large documents?
    • What are typical user cases?
    • Whether the preview mode will be enough, or is it important to be able to download the file in full size?
    upload file in Discord

    Discord allows to send files under 8MB and automatically displays previews with the option to open the full-size picture

    When you decide which file sharing features will be the best in your product, focus on what your target users prefer.


    Every modern chat app has notification settings, especially in the mobile version. Enable options to customize notifications according to the user’s needs, such as muting for everyone, muting for specific channels or groups, activating notifications when the user’s name is mentioned.

    Message history

    Consider the use case of your app: is it a chat app for everyday use or a messenger for business? In some cases, it is better to delete messages, as this helps save space on users’ devices and maintain data privacy. In other cases, it is better to save the entire message history, especially files. Consider your audience’s needs and keep in mind that in some apps like Discord the best option is to customize the approach to message history.

    Nice-to-have features of an app like Discord

    The following features are optional but can enhance your Discord-like app.

    Collaborative interface tools

    If you’re creating an app for a development team, it’s a good idea to build collaboration tools into the app’s chat. Consider which specific settings are important to your users. Remember that you do not need to develop the collaboration tools from scratch. Instead, you can integrate apps already on the market into your product, for example, Figma or Miro.


    Now let’s take a closer look at integrations. Explore the possibilities of integrating your product with popular apps to build a full-fledged ecosystem for your users. Think about what programs will be important for your users to interact with. See some examples of business and entertainment apps below.

    Examples of app for entertainment and business

    Ideas of apps for integration with an app like Discord

    Also, consider the tech stack with an open API to make it possible for other developers to integrate with your product.


    Discord has a Go Live feature that allows you to stream your game or join someone else’s stream, as originally Discord’s target audience was gamers. In the case of your product, you can create a screen sharing experience with specific features in mind, such as quick sharing of certain desktop apps or browser tabs.

    Challenges in Discord-like app development

    Developing an app like Discord is not easy — let’s explore the most common problems and solutions.

    Complex tech features

    To compete with products already on the market, your Discord-like app needs to be high performance, scalable, and easy to maintain. Take care of the technical part of the app and carefully choose your developers. Your modern chat app should load quickly and load API responses if integrated with other platforms, optimize images and videos, and use flexible code.

    Data protection

    Any leaks of confidential data entail irreparable reputational costs. When you create a voice and text chat app, it is very important to keep strong encryption and data protection. One reliable way to protect your users’ data is to ensure end-to-end encryption using TLS protocols.


    The messenger is a platform for the free exchange of opinions and comments, but it is also important to follow the communication rules. Consider how you will moderate chat messages. The biggest challenge here is to strike a balance between compliance with rules and user privacy. For example, in the case of the Discord app, moderation is not carried out directly, but through reports and complaints from other users.

    Market competition

    It’s hard for any new chat app to compete with Discord simply because the new product isn’t known yet. Keep in mind that you don’t have to create a “Discord Killer” — it is enough to focus on developing a useful app for communication.

    The best practices, which we discuss above, as well as competent promotion will help you to compete with other players. Focus on marketing to attract new users and create a positive image of your brand. To do this, promote social networks and mailings, involve your customers in interactive activities, talk about new features, and collaborate with opinion leaders.

    A step-by-step guide to develop a voice and text chat app

    Depending on your product and user needs, you can develop a chat app from scratch by using best practices. This guide will help you learn how to start the development process, when to do market research, and how to find a development partner.

    Discord app development process

    Steps to develop an app like Discord

    Step 1. Analyze the market and research competitors

    Focusing on the needs of your target audience is perhaps the main secret of the success of your app. To develop a useful product, describe the portrait of your users in as much detail as possible: what they like, how they spend their free time, what they enjoy, what they associate themself with. Ideal if you, like the Discord developers, are targeted users yourself. Create a product that you enjoy using.

    Feel free to use the achievements of competitors: choose references, notice hacks and UX features in other chatbots. Even if the functions are not original, they are already explored, have been tested in practice, and will be more familiar to your audience.

    Step 2. Select a monetization model

    Think in advance about how your app will generate income. Based on the profile of your target audience, consider what they will be willing to pay for.

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    Step 3. Define the app features

    When you develop an app from scratch, you don’t need to think through all the features at once. It will be enough to create an app with basic features, MVP (minimum viable product). MVP will help to test the product and determine what else needs to be added and what to refuse. This approach will save time and money. It’s better to test the key features and then improve them on the go than to create the perfect look and implement complex technical features right away.

    The must-have and nice-to-have functions that we talked about in the previous section will help you with the vision of your product.

    Step 4. Find developers

    There are several ways to hire a team of developers: outsourcing, freelancing, in-house. The most optimal in terms of price-quality ratio is outsourcing. Pay attention to the following points when choosing a contractor:

    • What projects are in their portfolio
    • What technical stack or frameworks developers work with
    • How your interaction with the developer will happen: how often, where, how you will track progress
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    Step 5. Create UI/UX design

    To ensure your app stands out and attracts new users, it’s important to make your product intuitive and visually appealing. Case studies will help you with this — use the best practices that you found out during the competitor research. The references will help you visualize UI/UX design.

    Step 6. Start coding & testing

    Due to the properties of the VoIP messenger, it is preferable to start development from the mobile version of the app. Decide on which platform you will release your app: Android or iOS. When choosing the tech stack, consider React Native as the framework allows to develop a mobile app with one codebase for both Android and iOS — this is cheaper compared to native apps but still reliable.

    Step 7. Release, promote, and improve

    Promoting your product is essential. Use advertising campaigns, talk about your product on social networks, collaborate with bloggers and influencers who have a large audience and can help you to attract users. At this stage, expenses may exceed income, and it’s normal, because you are just entering the market. An investment in user acquisition early on can pay off later if you highlight the value of your app.

    Once the MVP is released, start collecting user feedback. Analyze engagement rates and other marketing metrics to make changes and add new features.

    How much does it cost to make a chat app like Discord

    Here are the factors that will influence the final cost of app development:

    • the complexity and the number of app features
    • the hiring type, the time frame, and developer hourly rate
    • the number of platforms for the app
    Project estimation & analysis2 hours$0
    UI/UX design400 hours$22 100
    Coding2400 hours$137 650
    Testing960 hours$19 200
    Project managementDuring the whole project$32 700

    Developing an app like Discord will take about 5 months and cost approximately $210,000.

    If you have an app idea and are looking for a development partner, feel free to get in touch with us using the form below. Purrweb has 8+ years of experience in MVP development and your messenger app has every chance to become the next successful project.

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