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How to Develop a Messaging App: A Step-by-Step Guide

Myroslav Hryshchenko

Myroslav Hryshchenko

Senior Mobile Developer

17 min

Communication has become effortless nowadays. Just type out a message and hit send – simple!

But it wasn’t always this seamless. Today’s advanced technology has enabled messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, and countless others to thrive in the market.

Moreover, messengers are no longer just a means of chatting with friends.

They have become a vital platform for businesses to connect with customers and share information.

The market demand and potential for new messaging products make this an ideal time to develop your own texting app.

With some thoughtful planning and development work, you can create a messaging tool that carves out a niche in this competitive space.

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Why Build a Messenger App Now?

Let’s be clear here! All the users are not the same. There are multiple messaging soft in the market, and all of them have a significant amount of users.

For instance, WhatsApp is the most used messaging application in the world. Despite this, there is a difference of only 700 million users between it and Messenger.

Moreover, since WhatsApp has launched its new privacy policy, Telegram has witnessed a boost in its user base. Besides, it saw a 110% boost in its monthly active users in 2020, which was more than WhatsApp.

The whole point of bringing out these stats is to prove that making a new messaging app is not about politics or rivalry. If you have a unique idea or feature that can turn the market of messaging products, it is worth giving it a try.

Here are some key factors that favor the process of how to make a messaging app:

1. It’s Trending

Some of the recent events have elevated the hype of messaging apps.

  • Parler, a social network, has been discharged by tech giants like Amazon, Apple, and Google. Why? As per AWS, the posts on Parler were in favor of encouraging violence. Hence, they had to discharge it from the online platform.
  • On the other hand, Telegram witnessed a massive boost in its monthly active users after WhatsApp made changes to its privacy policy. The recorded gain pushed the number to 500 million for the messaging giant.
  •  Signal, a private messaging tool, was endorsed by Tesla’s CEO recently. Although he mentioned that “use Signal (the messaging app),” investors went on to buy shares of a texas-based firm with the same name. The firm’s stocks surged by around 438%.

The pillar takeaway from these examples is that the hype of messaging apps is on the rise. Therefore, a perfect time to learn how to create a messaging app.

One of the reasons to find out how to create a messaging app is messengers' hype across the globe

2. People Value Privacy

This is another reason that encourages the need for new messaging startups. Privacy has been a great concern for everyone.

As tech giants like Google and Facebook have endless user data, they are always at risk of a data breach. The ownership of user data has also led to some problems for these firms in the past.

Hence, if you are planning to create a messaging app, it is necessary for you to focus on the privacy parameter from the beginning.

Privacy is another reason for founder to how to make a messaging app

3. Offers a Solid Alternative

Yes, it will be challenging for you to acquire a user base as strong as WhatsApp. However, if you have great features in your product, it will surely be the next to the best choice for the users.

Here are some examples of the alternatives that are surfacing in various niches:

  • Clubhouse, a social media app where users communicate via audio, is ready to create a payment option in its app. You can find creative and talented podcasters on Clubhouse with a range of interesting topics and ideas. Thus, a great alternative to WhatsApp that did the same thing recently.
  • With respect to search engines, You.com and Neeva are the best alternatives to Google. Both these search engines are made to keep user privacy in safe hands and present trustworthy links to the users.
  • Spike is a brilliant email service that is working on making your email more like a chat. Thus, an excellent alternative to Slack.

All these aspects clear that if you are planning on how to make a messaging app, you are in the right direction. It will be an awesome way to begin something new and yield financial benefits for you.

Yes, it seems a bit scary, but it will definitely attract profit and recognition if you have innovation.

The growing demand for new messengers is another reason to find out about development of a new messenger app

Read ahead to see how to create a messaging application and how much does it cost to develop a mobile app.

How to Build a Messenger App

Creating a messaging app is obviously not a walk in the park. However, it becomes a little easy to handle the process if you know which way to go.

Here in this section, we will discover the process of how you can make a messaging app.

Part 1: Business Planning

This is the part where you have to analyze how to make your messaging app different from others from a business perspective.

If you want to make your messaging application stand out, it is necessary to make it out of the box.

1. Present a Unique Value

The key to triggering a user’s mind into using your app is a unique feature. When you have something that other apps don’t, the users are meant to come to you. Hence, you need to bring that uniqueness to your messaging app.

Here are ways via which you can do that:

Unique Value Aspect Description
A Killer Feature One way to make your app the best from the business perspective is by including one or more state-of-the-art features in it.

Other than regular features, you can go for many aspects that are trending these days, such as:

  • User Experience: As far as the UX of the app is concerned, you need to pay the utmost attention to it. As per statistics, 95% of mobile apps get abandoned within a month. All because they don’t deliver a good user experience. Hence, you have to make sure that your messaging app is easy to navigate and use. Keep on-screen elements to a minimum while maintaining complete functionality. You can count on Spdload for the UX part. Our enthusiastic project, SwiDate, has awesome UX. It took us 150 hours to design it, which our client loved. Refer to the link and see for yourself.!
  • Privacy: This is another factor that you have to include in your app to make it safe for users. As there have been issues with the WhatsApp privacy policy lately, people have become more conscious about their data. Hence, you need to design your app the way users feel it is trustworthy and safe.
  • Games: As a messaging app can get boring sometimes, you can include some small games in the app for the users’ entertainment. This will surely help your messaging app stand out from the others.
  • Collaborations: You can also include the feature to share exclusive content by the influencers. It will help attract app installs from influencers and elevate your app’s popularity.
Target Audience Apart from the features, you can also look into the aspect of the audience to make your app unique.

For instance, decide for whom you are building an app.

Building an app for a specific group of audiences may turn out to be the best thing for you.

For instance, you can make a telemedicine app with a messenger where doctors and patients can chat.

We at Spdload created an awesome telemedicine app named DocKids. This app’s key motive was to focus on patients who had to spend time going to the hospital to get a doctor’s appointment. We focussed on making buyer’s personas in it.

Some apps that made a mark with their dedicated use are:

  • Discord: This is an app for gamers or small influencers.
  • Slack: Slack is a messenger specifically for software developers.
  • Band: This is kind of a versatile app specifically for group chats such as for sports, games, work, etc.
  • Telegram: An excellent example of a private messaging app.

Thus, when you are planning on how to make a messaging app, you need to spend some time looking for uniqueness to it.

Before find out how much does it cost to make a messenger app it's important to ideate value proposition

2. Validate this Hypothesis

As you have brainstormed a unique idea for your app, it is time to check if it will have viability in the market. Just so you know that 42% of the apps fail as they have been designed after an improper market study.

Therefore, before you start making a messaging app, it is crucial to know if it has the ability to survive the competition of the market. Will the users be interested in using the app or not? 

Here are some critical steps that you can take to test the validation of your idea.

Options Description
Free Option The first step is to keep your app free for use. If your MVP is free for use, more users will be attracted to it. Yes, most of them will be one-timers, but you will have some user base to collect valuable feedback.

And who knows, you may get some loyal customers for the app.

Research for audience The second key thing that you need to do is research the audience. Not all people will be willing to use your application; hence it is better to target only those who would. Depending on the type of app, you will be able to shortlist your audience faster.

For example, for a messenger app for groups, it will be best to research Reddit.

Post that, it is also necessary to collect feedback from the users who have used the application so far.

The feedback from the users will help you make the required changes to the app. Thus, making it better than before.

Wireframing and Feedback As you have the app’s initial feedback, it is time to alter and make wireframes of the app.

As user feedback will require you to change the application a bit or more, you will have to make changes to the existing wireframes or create fresh ones.

When you are done with wireframes based on your idea, it is time to recollect the users’ feedback based on the new ones.

All these steps are crucial in the process of how to make a messaging app.

Idea validation is another required step when you research how to create a new messaging app

3. Start with a Discovery Phase

The next thing that comes when you have validated the idea for your sport application is the discovery phase. This phase of how to create a messaging app helps you answer a number of questions such as:

  • Is there a potential market for your messenger app?
  • How much does it cost to make a messenger app?
  • Are there any competitors of yours in the market?
  • What are your business goals?

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When you have answers to all of these questions, then only you should go on to make the application. As long as you are not clear about these aspects, your app-making project should not begin.

Especially, if you plan to build a specific app, for example, HIPAA compliance messenger.

Apart from this, the discovery phase of the application will also help you in:

  • Building a market-driven messenger app
  • Build better prototypes
  • Getting a detailed look at all the aspects of the project
  • Analyzing the financial risk involved in the project.
Discovery phase is all-in-one service to plan the development process of a new messaging app

Part 2: Development (Design, Coding, Testing)

Now, here is the part that needs most of the work. The technical part of how to make a messaging app includes a number of aspects that need to be discussed.

The most crucial ones are the app’s features, tools that you may need to make the actual messaging application, and, most importantly, the team.

1. Basic or Core Features of a Messaging App

If you want to make a high-end messaging application, it is necessary to include all the features that the earlier messaging apps have with some unique ones. It will help in ranking your app above all of your competitors.

However, if you are developing an MVP in the beginning to save cost, you just need to include the basic features in the app. Here are some of those features:

Feature Description
Authorization Let us follow the basic navigation of the app. The messaging app’s opening screen will contain the authorization section where you need to log in or sign up.

Now, there are multiple ways by which one can log in to the application, such as:

  • Phone number (WhatsApp)
  • E-mail address (FB Messenger)
  • Social login

You may include or leave the other methods, but it is essential to include the social sign-in button.

As per statistics, 77% of people think that social login is a good registration solution. Thus, a great way to reduce the hassle of the users.

Personal Profile and Customization The personal profile of the users is an indispensable feature that your application needs to have. Why?

Well, the key benefit of this is that the user can alter his or her profile as per their preferences. For instance, they can change the profile picture, name, background, and many other aspects.

The profile customization feature is something that allows the user to make their profile stand out from the others. It is one of the essential features for influencers.

Importing contacts If you include the login by number feature in your application, it is necessary to keep this feature also in your app.

Your messenger app should be able to access your device’s phonebook to compare the contacts in its database. It will help you know which of your friends are on the messaging application.

However, phonebook access is not required if there is no phone number login option in your application.

Instant messaging Messages are the heart of the messenger; hence, it is necessary to decide how they will be transferred between the sender & the receiver.

It can go two ways:

  • User > Server > User: In this method, the messages are stored on the servers. Moreover, there is a need for HTTPS protocol with SSL encryption for communication between the server and the user. To maintain response time and speed, it is necessary to reduce the polling time to 1-2 seconds. Lastly, this method needs additional cryptography for the encryption of messages between the server & the receiver.
  • User > User: In this way, messages are sent to the receiver over the mesh network using an asymmetric cryptography algorithm. The central server just does the authentication part.

Apart from that, it is also necessary to add the required audio and video codecs in the application for smooth video and audio transmission, even if the internet speed is slow.

Attachments Photo sharing is a part of all messaging apps these days, so it is imperative for you to include this feature in your messenger app.

Just like WhatsApp, Telegram and others, add the option to send videos, images, documents, contact, and other files. It will enhance the utility of the application.

Geolocation One of the awesome features that you can add to your messenger app is location sharing.

It serves as a great utility for the users who want to get to the required location in an unknown city or town. They can see the location shared by their friend and follow it to reach the destination.

Encryption As the number of cyberattacks is increasing day by day, people are becoming more conscious about their online data, including their conversations.

As per stats, there is a hacker attack every 39 seconds. You may never know when it will breach the security of your application. So, it is best if you prepare your application for any sort of privacy attack.

Add standard as well as end-to-end encryption protocols in it to shield user data.

The basic number of features define the development cost of a new messaging app

2. Additional Features to Add in a Messaging App

So, we are done with the basic or core features. But, these will not be enough if you want to make a state-of-the-art messenger application.

The process of how to create a messaging app will include research and the addition of some features that are unique to other similar apps.

Let’s have a look at those features!

Add-on Feature Description
Video and voice calls One of the key features that will surely attract more users is video or voice calls. They are implemented by most of the chat applications today.

However, they are not that high-performing. Apps like WhatsApp, Telegram still have some minor issues with these features.

So, this generates a perfect opportunity to dominate the market with your messenger app.

As simple as they may sound, implementation of these features surely raises the question of how much does it cost to make a messenger app. The answer is it will cost you way more.

As these features are tough to implement, they will require more time and a professional team. You need to focus on codecs, video stream distribution, and many other aspects.

Short Messages (Self-Destruct Messages) This is a cool feature that is not offered by all the messaging apps but only some (Telegram).

The messages that you send stay for a very short time period. They self-destruct after some time or after the user has read it.

It is a great feature to add if you want to make your application stand out.

Channels If you are focussing on making a universal app, it will be best if you allow the users to create and join specific communities in it.

It will not only bring diversity to your app but will attract users with various tastes.

Streaming What if you could stream on a messaging app? It will be awesome, right!!

As the streaming feature will reduce the hassle of users searching for content and downloading a separate application, it will be great to add to your messenger application.

Adding it will enhance utility but will also cost you more money and time. It will also require special skills to implement. But, at last, it will be worth it.

”Watch Together” from Facebook is an awesome inspiration for you.

Group chats Group chats are best to keep your friends and family together. Hence, it is necessary to include this feature in your messenger application.
Secret Chat and Scheduling To make your messenger a bit more attractive, try and add the secret chat feature. It will help in increasing the security of the conversations.

Moreover, to make it more convenient for users to take care of their loved ones, add the message scheduling feature. It will help in delivering information in time if someone tends to forget it, for instance, birthdays.

There is a list of advanced features if you are interested to research how to create a messaging app

3. How to Create a Messaging App: Required Team

If you want to make a messaging app that is one of a kind, you will need cutting-edge features in it. For implementing those features, you will need a reliable team.

If you are looking for a professional team, you need to make sure that it has the following members to keep the entire workflow of how to make a messaging app smooth.

  • Project Manager
  • Business Analyst
  • Designer
  • Backend Developer
  • Mobile Developer
  • Tester
  • DevOps

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4. How to Make a Messaging App: Tech Stack

Your team is nothing without tools. It’s like a soldier without a gun. So, to make a messenger app simple and smooth, it is important to use the state of the art tools.

Here are some great tools that will be required by your team of professionals.

Technology Application
G-Suite Project management and documentation
Figma Wireframing, Designing, Prototyping
AWS (Amazon Web Services) Hosting
Laravel, JavaScript, Node.js Backend Development
Swift (iOS) or Kotlin (Android) Mobile app
MySQL Database
WebRTC Video and Voice calling
Starscreen (Android), OkHttp (iOS) Chat

3rd Party Integrations

APNS, FCM Push Notifications
Amazon S3 Storage
Elastic Email Emails

How Much Does it Cost to Make a Messenger App?

If you have made your mind to learn and implement how to create a messaging app, it is imperative to have a budget plan.

As there are countless things to consider while making a messenger app, you need to keep everything in check while formulating your budget.

Make sure to manage your time properly.

We all can agree that time is money, and adopting a time tracker like TMetric is a must to make sure that you pay the developers properly.

If you are looking for a price range, it is entirely dependent on factors like:

  • The features you want to integrate into the app.
  • The geographical location from where you are getting the app developed
  • The type of development partner you are having (freelancers, outsourcing, or in-house)
  • The type and platform for which you are making the app. For instance, iOS or Android.

The rough estimate we can provide you about the number of hours is 800 – 1200 hours. The number of hours may increase or decrease based on the complexity of the messenger application that you want to create.

For example, we at Spdload create an app named MyWishApp. The app has a complex functionality with three roles. It took us 2050 hours to build the app. You can check it out at the link above!

The price of the app is fairly easy to calculate now. As you have the number of hours, depending on the hourly rate, you can deduce the messaging app’s price.

But, wait!

As the hourly rates can vary across the globe, the answer to the question of how much does it cost to make a Messenger App may also vary. Let’s see by how much!

Option 1. Local Agency in the US

Hiring a local agency in the USA is a great idea. As they have an already assembled team, you just need to hire them.

The key benefit is that you will get excellent quality work and timely updates. Moreover, as it will be local, you can get in touch anytime. The key con of this method is the high price.

The average rate of an agency in the US is $150 per hour.

Thus, the total value of an application varies between $120,000 to $180,000.

Option 2. Freelancers

Freelancers are another answer to how to make a messaging app.

The key benefit of hiring freelance developers is that they are a cost-effective method for your messenger app development. But, the bad thing about freelancers is that the work quality might not be up to mark.

Option 3. Outsource in India

Outsourcing app development in India is also a good option as the prices of the developers are low here.

An average developer with experience of 2 years will cost you just $25 an hour. On the other hand, it can go up to $50 depending on the level of expertise.

Based on this, the minimum price range will be between $20,000 to $30,000; it can even go up to $60,000 if you choose someone over five years of experience.

Option 4. Outsource in Ukraine

This is one of the best solutions to how to create a messaging app.

As compared to other options, you will get a blend of quality services and reasonable cost in this one. The average hourly rate of developers in Ukraine begins from $35 an hour.

Thus, making the price range between $28,000 to $42,000.

How much does it cost to make a messenger app? It depends on the team, complexity of features and design.

If you need a team of developers, that will amount to $150,000 or more depending on the number of team members and the type of app.

So, the answer to how much does it cost to make a messenger app heavily relies on the type of cooperation you have.

Monetizing Your Messaging App

The core reason to make a messaging application is to make money out of it. Here are some ways by which you can monetize your app.

  • Advertising: In-app ads to attract user attention, for example, Viber, Snapchat.
  • In-app Purchases: Paid features like stickers and themes in the application.
  • Sponsorships: Partnership with advertisers who reward users for completing in-app actions.
  • Subscription: Pay the fee for using the application or a premium version of it.

Ready to Create a Messaging App?

If you’re ready to develop a game-changing messaging app, team up with the experts at SpdLoad.

Our tight-knit development crew has a proven track record of building top-tier messaging products tailored to each client’s vision and goals.

We handle everything from constructing an MVP to launching a full-featured app, equipping you with a strategic roadmap calibrated for real-world success.

See firsthand how AcmeAppDev has helped messaging startups thrive by checking out our case studies.

Then, let’s connect to explore your big idea further with a free consultation. We’ll blueprint an actionable plan to make your app a viral hit.

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