The number of active users is expected only to grow, and the messaging app market is blossoming and thriving. At Purrweb we have received a lot of questions about how to create a messaging app, therefore we decided to collect our experience and create a comprehensive guide on how to nail chat app development. You’ll learn what messaging apps are popular, which features are necessary to make a messaging app. Enjoy this article and get your free app estimation at the bottom of the page!
If you’re hesitant about how to make a messaging app – these recent numbers will help you to make your decision. The Facebook Messenger app is used by 1.3 billion people globally, while WhatsApp grew to have 2 billion active users worldwide. Popular in Asian countries, WeChat is slightly behind, having 1.2 billion users. Slack helps 12 million people maintain business communication within companies. The great news is that the majority of users have multiple chat apps installed on their smartphones, so all listed companies are complementors, rather than competitors.
What is a messenger?
In 2012, Facebook, a relatively young social media platform, replaced ICQ messenger. But 10 years later, we can’t imagine our life without messengers: in 2021 WhatsApp left Facebook behind and it won’t stop gaining popularity. Even our grandmothers use WhatsApp. But if we mention the general term ‘messenger’, they may ask ‘who?’. Let’s figure out what a messenger is and why it’s so popular today.
A messenger is a program that allows users to exchange messages quickly and easily. The messenger can send not only text messages but also photos, videos, and audio files. It is working via the Internet and can be installed on PCs, smartphones, or tablets. The main opponents of chat apps are social networks. Even though messengers are more narrowly focused than social media, their competition is active.
Messengers vs. social networks: what’s the difference
A social network is combining several functions in itself. Users can:
- start a blog
- make public notes and add photos, links, and other files
- read news
- find friends
- join communities
- engage in public discussions
While with a chat apps, people can only text each other. It seems like social media has more benefits — but wait, it’s not so easy.
Social networks can allure users with such a variety of functions. But do people need it? According to studies, some people don’t like social media because there are “too many people”. Any user can see the general information about you or see your photos and even use this information against you. If we are talking about messengers, there you can choose what information you want to share with other people.
The first specific thing about messengers is that they provide safe communication. For example, WhatsApp and Telegram use end-to-end encryption which is a modern way of data protection.
Messengers are not overloaded with functions and as practice shows, users like it. This pithiness of functions attracts some users because they can use messenger during business hours and not be distracted by entertainment content.
Some companies have already created a messaging app that is in high demand, let’s see why.
Winning messengers: how to succeed
Count all popular messengers that you can remember and then answer the question: “Why are they so popular?” The answer is: they offered something unique and took their niche. Let’s find out what exactly led them to success by looking at some of the popular messaging apps in detail.
Incredible user growth, millions dollar value — this all can be said of a corporate messenger Slack. The secret of its success is that the market had an empty niche and Slack took this place successfully: it killed intracompany mail. It has seamless onboarding and if you don’t understand something, Slackbot will help you. You can use Slack for free but there will be some limits. Pro account costs $6 and an account for business — about $12.
Another successful chat app that took its niche is Snapchat. It initially focused on person-to-person photo and video sharing and also included chatting and sharing stories. So, the main point was sharing media in a private space. It’s a great safe platform for online communication: you can just drop a photo to your friends and when they open it, it’ll disappear forever. It’s hard not to see the value of this messenger because it’s quite unique and you can use it for free.
Telegram entered the market offering the safest communication channel. It granted that no one could interfere in your messages preventing potential eavesdropping. When people start questioning their personal data usage, the demand for such safe messengers rose quickly and Telegram took the spot.
We saw some examples of popular messengers that offer something unique to their users. There’s also one more thing they share in common — they are all free.
Do messenger apps make money?
The question about chat app monetization strategies inevitably arises among those who want to make a messaging app. The short answer is yes, they do. You are probably wondering how, because regular users enjoy free of charge texting and calling. Here are a few options on how to create a messaging app that will be profitable.
- In-app ads;
- Call termination technology that allows users to get ordinary calls and texts from abroad on messengers;
- Promo stickers in collaboration with brands;
- Donations (yes, it’s also an option and that’s how Telegram exists);
Now, when you know that you future messenger app can make money, let’s see how to create your own messaging app.
Let’s go straight to the point — there is a set of functions you need to consider in order to create an instant messaging app. At Purrweb, we believe an app should be user-friendly in the first place and consider customer pain points. Therefore we always advise you to start with brainstorming and defining your niche, unique characteristics, and the target audience. Then, you can move on to execution and pick what functionality you need for your app. Based on our experience, we created lists of must-have and nice-to-have features for the best messaging app.
The registration process should be as quick as a new Tesla goes to 100 km/h. Okay, maybe it will take users more than 2 seconds, but you got the point. In order to make authorization fast, we recommend adding social media, phone number, or e-mail integration. After this, the user will be able to choose a photo and a username. Some apps like Telegram allow users to hide their phone numbers and create multiple profiles. It might be really useful, for example, if you live between two countries and have multiple SIM-cards.
Access to contacts
This feature makes the onboarding process in an app like WhatsApp much easier, because a user can sign up, sync its contacts, and instantly start messaging.
The instant messaging feature is the core of your chat app. For successful chatting your apps will need elements like private and group chats, send and unsend messages, delivery status, text history, and editing functionality. If you want to create a messaging app like a pro, consider adding video and audio messages to your app later on. We know, it sounds like a lot of elements to integrate – that’s why you will need an experienced UX-designer, who will create an easy-to-navigate interface. Make a messaging process pleasant, and your app will find its audience.
Ability to exchange media files can not only spice things up but also extend the variety of reasons why people will use your instant messaging app. Let users send photos, videos, gifs, and documents to each other and use chats as cloud storage (yes, we all look for an ID photo in our messengers).
It’s not enough to build a chat. Users should instantly be notified that they have received a new message. If you have ever used a messenger in your life, you probably know how important notifications are 😉
When it comes to any kind of communication — personal or work — privacy is important. Users’ data is usually stored on app-owned servers, messages are encrypted and they are transferred between devices using different communication protocols. Consult us directly to know more about data security technologies and create a safety messaging app.
It can be integrated into your messenger with the help of third-party services. Geolocation allows users to share their position with others. The messenger also uses geolocation to set the language of users’ abiding place.
These features are not required from the start as they can ramp up the cost to build a chat app. But they definitely enhance the instant messaging app experience, so note them for the future.
Modern chat apps are much more than just message exchange. If you want to go to infinity and beyond, you should consider adding voice and video calls to the app. Maybe it’s not that necessary on the first app development stage, but as soon as you have resources, it’s good to think about expanding the functionality to the call exchange.
When you implement voice and/or video calls, make sure that they are properly protected. With end-to-end encryption (E2EE) in place, no third party will be able to intercept information traveling between the devices of call participants — and even if they do gain unauthorized access to the data flow, it will be impossible to decrypt without the appropriate key. This has become a standard practice in the market, with all major messengers (i.e. Telegram, WhatsApp, Viber, and many others) offering a high degree of user protection.
This feature will bring a lot of business to your messenger. Chatbot is an automatic software that maintains online communications with customers, sends automatic replies, and answers frequently asked questions. They can also call a human if a user’s question is too difficult for the machine.
First launched by Telegram back in 2015, channels are a form of one-way communication platforms similar to communities in social media. They allow users to directly reach their subscribers with any type of content, be it text, video, or audio. The current staple in the industry are Telegram channels, which support an unlimited number of subscribers, feature multiple analytics tools for admins and offer content protection measures — for example, the channel owner can block screenshots or disable message forwarding. In one of the many updates, Telegram also enabled subscribers to leave comments under posts.
Channels are becoming the new standard for messengers, and we encourage you to come up with your signature spin on this feature.
Self-destructing or ephemeral messages are a simple and effective privacy protection tool. The logic behind them is really straightforward: once the recipient reads the message, the app permanently erases it from every server and device it has passed through to provide an even higher level of privacy, many apps supplement ephemeral messaging with screenshot protection and end-to-end encryption. Perfect for discussing legal matters, receiving medical consultations or sharing sensitive corporate info.
Looks massive? Here’s a compact list of key features for you to have a look.
|Must-have messenger features||Nice-to-have messenger features|
|Access to contacts||Chatbots|
|File exchange||Disappearing messages|
Technology stack for a messaging app
There are several aspects of building a messaging app like WhatsApp. First, you need to consider which communication protocol to use. It regulates how devices exchange information with servers.
Three protocols can be used in instant messaging app development:
- Extensible Messaging Presence Protocol (XMPP) — an old protocol made for real-time messaging, easily adaptable to different needs.
- Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) — popular in IoT (internet of things) devices, comes with minimal features only.
- WebSockets — a newer protocol that allows the user-server exchange even without requests from the user’s side.
To create a messaging application you’ll need to choose between native and cross-platform app development. Native app development essentially means building different apps for each operating system. To build a chat app for iOS natively you’ll need developers experienced in Objective-C or Swift. For Android, the tech stack will be Java and Kotlin.
And if you wonder how to make a messaging app suitable for both systems, cross-platform development is the answer. That way the tech stack for both iOS and Android app development will be the same.
Before we move on to the app development costs, here’s a bonus tip from us.
Save your time and money choosing React Native
With cross-platform development, you can write code once and deploy it across both iOS and Android at once. It reduces costs and enables developers to deliver a unified user experience across multiple platforms using just a single codebase. Our go-to frontend framework for mobile apps is React Native — a flexible, reliable, and easy-to-use tool with ample community resources and an extensive ecosystem. This framework also comes with a component-based architecture that opens up huge possibilities for creating complex features and UI patterns.
Using third-party services is an effective way to significantly reduce the costs of a chat app development, so if you find yourself on a tight budget, we can implement certain features with ready-made solutions. Examples include payment gateways, 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.
Why React Native?
There are 3 reasons:
The language is very common among developers, so it’s not difficult and time consuming to find a contractor for your app development.
One shared codebase
When developing different versions of the app for Android and iOS, they will share around 65-70% of the code. What does it mean for your business? First of all, it significantly cuts the developing time. Secondly, there is no need to hire and pay (!) two separate teams — just find one who works with the framework.
Native-like UI/UX design
Facebook has massive libraries of native UI-elements for an interface. How is it beneficial to your idea? Well, it simply means that your future app will scroll, swipe, and tap like native-build ones. The performance of the messenger will be native, but you will save tons of time and money choosing React Native over the native development.
We have been working with React Native for the past 4 years, and we can’t say we are disappointed. The framework allows us to create MVPs for our clients in 3 months — it means that after 3 months you come to us with an idea, you will have a working product version that you can test to collect feedback and show to potential investors.
What are the challenges of building a messaging app
Even if you have the best team and a lot of time instant messenger app development has its difficulties. However, any problem is solvable if you know what to expect.
So here are 3 challenges to keep in mind while building an app like WhatsApp:
An instant messaging app operates with sensitive personal information. That’s why it’s important to use proper encryption.
The server for the app needs to work perfectly: without long delays and lost information. It should also be able to deal with multiple people making requests all at once (overload).
When it comes to instant messaging, there should be no synchronization issues. Meaning you can receive a message from someone even when you sent them one at the exact same time.
If you want to create a chat app MVP and avoid any difficulties, consider working with an experienced agency like Purrweb.
How to create a messaging app from scratch
If you want to create a messaging app, this requires experience, knowledge, and time. There are some steps to follow:
Project estimation and functionality prioritization
In the first stage, you need to estimate the functionality of your project. When you approve all the necessary chat app features, a business analyst and the team estimate the scope of work. As we are followers of the MVP approach, we recommend you focus only on the most crucial features.
Designers begin to work: they collect negative references, which helps to grasp the client’s taste. Then goes the instant messaging app architecture — we create a mindmap that shows all the logic of the app and wireframes that show the position of buttons or content. Then designers create a concept — it’s a ready-made part of the app that shows a particular flow. When the client approves the screens, designers make ready-made mockups and UI-kit. The app is ready for development.
Specialists put in motion the app development process — it’s a task for backend and frontend developers who will build a fully working product. We develop apps using two-week sprints and at the end of every sprint, we are ready to show one or two finished features
QA specialists test your instant messaging app and check its efficiency, safety, and functionality. If you develop a cross-platform app, they will test it on both iOS and Android. At the end of each sprint, we plan 2 days for bug fixing. Every two sprints we make regression testing because we need to be sure that all features work together correctly.
Release and support
You can add ready-made and tested messenger to the App Store and Google Play. But if the app has been released, it doesn’t mean that the task is fully completed. Often the released app needs bug fixing and in most cases, the app development agency supports the app after release.
Let’s discuss the messenger development price.
What factors affect the messaging app development price
If you want to create a messaging app, we define 2 factors for you that influence the development cost.
- Project complexity. Of course, you’ve already defined all the functions before creating a messaging app on the first step of development preparation. The price depends on how big and complex your future messenger would be. You have to increase your budget in accordance with your needs. On the other hand, if you want to develop an MVP, then you can focus on high-priority features and improve your messenger later.
- Hiring option. There are 3 main groups of app developers: freelancers, in-house teams, and outsourcing teams. The development costs with each group are different. Most freelancers have lower rates. If you want to hire an in-house team, then you have to set up an office with all the facilities. We recommend you better hire an outsource team. There are some benefits of it.
Why outsourcing is more effective than an in-house team
The cost depends on the location of the developers. For example, the most expensive outsource developers are in America and the cheapest are in India.
Most often customers hire developers on an hourly model of payment. It helps to avoid long-term commitments and allows customers to pay only for work done.
Delegate the development to professionals and focus on your business tasks. So you accelerate the growth of your business and get the ready-made product fast and easy.
How much does it cost to make a messaging app?
We reached the most important part of the article — estimated costs and timelines. If you want to know how to create a messaging app, then you should know — it is a complex process that involves a team of developers, UX designers, product managers, and QA specialists. And everyone needs to be paid 🙂
Our philosophy is to be as open and transparent as possible, so we always discuss prices and timeframes beforehand. We offer a full-cycle development of a React Native app from scratch, including UI/UX, API, Frontend development services, and testing– everything you need for the mobile app release in App Store and Google Play. Moreover, to develop an on-demand messenger, we will take extra cases of data security, establish communication protocols and reliable connection with servers, while our UX-designers will research your potential users, plan the architecture of the app and create a design concept.
Here’s the timeline with prices. But remember: this estimation is for an average messaging app
|Stage||What we are doing||Estimation in hours||Estimation in weeks||Approximate cost|
|Project estimation||We discuss an idea of your messaging app and estimate the costs and time needed||~4-16 hours||1 week||no costs|
|UI/UX design||We make an app architecture, come up with design concepts for each step, and present them to you||150 hours||5 weeks||$6.000|
|Development||Our team develops an app||1646 hours||18 weeks||$48.880|
|Admin panel||Our team develops admin panel||424 hours||in parallel with project||$16.960|
|QA Testing||We search for any possible bug and fix it before launch||450 hours||In parallel with development||$8.100|
|Project management||Assign tasks, controls deadlines and removes any bumps from the road||In parallel with project||In parallel with project||$500 – design|
$4.500 – development
Below you can find an estimation of how long it would take for our team to develop each feature for a messaging app
|Features||Backend (hours)||Frontend (hours)|
|Access to contacts||80||100|
|Data protection (end-to-end encryption)||80||80|
|Audio-, video calls||180||180|
|Admin panel (Authorization, chat manager, user manager, servce manager)||160||264|
Overall, if you want to make a chat app, it will take you 5 months and $85.000.
Let’s finally do the math now!
Overall, the team of 6 people will create your messaging app. According to similar projects we have made, the estimated cost of development is about $85.000 for a full cycle of development. This budget includes UI/UX design, building a prototype, QA testing, creating iOS and Android versions, connecting to servers and everything else needed. In 5 months you will get a fully-working messaging app with all crucial features.
As a bonus — we will answer all your questions about how to create a messaging app and share with you tips and secrets about successful execution. You can always check our portfolio and reviews and reach out to us anytime in a contact form.