Step-by-Step Guide on Custom Mobile Chat Application Development
Recently, mobile messengers have become incredibly popular, and they don’t seem to lose any of their spotlights.

The mobile chat applications market grew significantly in the past ten years. Almost everyone has a smartphone with two or three chat apps installed. Some people use them equally, some have one preferred, and some use one messenger for personal communication and another for work or school. The amount of such solutions is huge, and users can choose what corresponds to their needs the most.

The previous year brought instant messaging communication to a new level. The global working remote and several lockdowns played an indisputable role in the increase of the usage of chat apps, and nothing is going to change in the near future. Mobile chat apps help people stay in touch with their friends and family, keep the workflow organized, or even find new people to chat with.

The question is how to do it right? How do you build a user-friendly mobile messenger app that will get recognition? And is it worthy at all? Let us help you find these answers.

Is it worth creating a mobile chat?

The number of mobile chat apps today is truly huge. Taking into account the market size, does it mean that creating your own chat is useless? Well, no. The audience needs are constantly evolving, and sometimes existing apps cannot cover them. Besides, statistics prove that a chat application can become a valuable investment. Here are the numbers!

Reason #1

Today, users do not limit themselves to only one app for communication. People install more than one messenger for different purposes. According to On Device research, users in China have three on average, and people in Europe usually go with two. It means that with the right niche, extensive functionality, and user-friendly design, your app has all the chances to appear on people’s phones.

Reason #2

Mobile chat apps are now more frequently used for social connections than social networks. Weird, isn’t it? The Business Insider’s Global Messaging Apps report states that these apps now have 20% more active monthly users than social networks. A lot of people now decide to minimize or erase their social presence, but it’s hard to avoid messengers since there is still the need to communicate.

Reason #3

Another reason to consider developing a chat app is its value to the business. The role of chats in purchasing is expanding, and a lot of platforms and companies focus on chatbots to get revenue from users’ attention. For example, Facebook allows advertising via Messenger, giving users more opportunities to attract new clients to their businesses. Also, according to the RetailDive report, most Millennials who interacted with a chatbot representative say it positively affected their attitude toward that business.

What are the main steps of mobile chat apps development?

When you define the final set of functions your app will have, you can hop onto development! The whole process can seem complicated, but with proper organization and structure, the chances of possible issues and pitfalls emerging will decrease to a minimum. Here are the milestones of a messenger development flow:

1. Analyze the market

One of the greatest tools to use at the beginning of development is market research. Look at what the modern market offers to users, who occupies the most market share, and what niches need chat solutions. Take your time to analyze how competitors work and what points they do not cover and be ready to address the needs they fail to meet.

2. Find a partner

If you have your own competent development team, this step can be omitted, but when there is no in-house team or they don’t have relevant experience, it’s time to choose an agency that will help you realize your idea. Before the actual work starts, you and the agency you want to work with should discuss the project’s specifications and agree on the terms of your partnership. When everything is set, move to the next step.

3. Develop

We can divide development into two main parts:

  • UI/UX design

A modern mobile chat app should provide an extreme level of user experience. The process of creating a convenient and eye-pleasing design can take a lot of time since there are plenty of functions to take into account.

One of the most important parts of making an app’s design is prototyping. Prototype, or wireframe in a digital world, is a draft implementation of your future product. It is usually quite basic, black and white, with Lorem Ipsum instead of the unique text and empty spaces instead of images and animations. It may seem not that necessary - just a bunch of colorless screens - but prototyping serves a greater cause - not only to show you the beauty of your solution but to help you understand if people feel comfortable using it.

  • Frontend and backend

The term “frontend” implies everything users see while inside the app, and “backend” refers to things connected with servers and databases that work behind the scenes. Their smooth cooperation is the most influential factor for your app’s performance. Also, these two factors will define the composition of the development team: native development for Android and iOS will require two separate teams for each operating system, and with a cross-platform app, one team with the necessary skill set will be enough.

4. QA

Testing is a process that your team should constantly conduct. To create a messaging app that will address your users’ needs completely with its functionality, you need to apply testing on every stage of product creation. There are a lot of tests that help you find out bugs and fix them before the release:

  • Unit tests – independent testing of the smallest piece of code that can be isolated from the whole system.

  • Load tests – performance testing that checks how the app behaves under various loads.

  • Manual tests – a testing process where a special person – a QA engineer – acts like the end-user, using most of the app’s features.

Some companies might recommend applying tests only at the end of the project. This can result in huge technical debt and additional time and money spent, so to create a reliable chat app, it would be useful to conduct testing parallel with the main development process.

5. Launch, collect feedback, and update

When all the previous steps are completed, it’s time to show your final solution to the world! Still, it doesn’t mean that you can stop working on your app. After the launch, users will start bringing feedback to you about bugs, errors, and user flow, so communication with your audience and updating your app will become your primary focus.

Mobile chat application architecture

Building a mobile chat app can hardly make it through without a proper chat architecture. In a nutshell, we can highlight its two major parts: Chat App, which is the app itself, and Chat Server Engine, consisting of some external servers handling message delivery and dispatch.

Chat App is the part users directly interact with. It's divided into three root components:

  • Client Engine – the communication with the Chat Server Engine.

  • Chat UI – displays all the data to users.

  • Chat Device Storage – an internal database that stores messages and files for offline access.

Read more: https://yellow.systems/blog/mobile-chat-application-development