While building a chat app from scratch may seem an ideal solution, creating chat from scratch is a fairly huge project. If such a project isn’t managed properly, it can lead to a stressful and time-consuming experience that yields no result.
Before you start, make sure you’re absolutely sure about your decision to build vs buy APIs.
In this article, we will help you understand the 11 most common mistakes you must avoid when building chat from scratch and how you can overcome these problems. We will focus on describing the most common mistakes that occur both when you implement a chat within an existing app, and when you create a brand-new app. Then we will give you general advice, but above all show you the best solutions. Time to go, let’s start!
This is the very first mistake that most developers and engineers make; imagine something you would like to have, which is amazing and very, very cool in your head... but, this will never happen, because you don't have the time or the resources to build it. You can't decide to create a chat from scratch and go do it the very next day. It takes a lot of work and resources.
For this reason, the first thing to do is to get informed and start learning more about the subject. This article is already the first step, and then read more on this subject. The internet is your best bet.
Finally, if you understand that creating a chat is really the best option for you, it’s important to know what you’ll need to do so, as we will see in the next topic.
Before every project, and particularly one like building a chat application from scratch, you should have a precise project plan to make sure you do not have nasty surprises along the way.
It’s easy to start developing chat while leaving some parts blank, thinking that they will resolve themselves over time. But in reality, it’s much more difficult than that; to make a chat app you need precise estimates of costs, both in time and in money.
You have to make sure you have the right staff. You need to find the infrastructure and make sure you can pay for it, based on an estimate of the traffic you might have over time, so you can be sure you can scale the chat system as your business grows.
You also need to estimate the development time, to be able to keep up with the business timelines.
Our advice is to write down to detail everything you’ll need and everything that you’ll need to do. Try to think about all possibilities in the long term, so as to have a broader view of the situation and to be able to make better decisions throughout the process.
You’ll need a precise organization with all those who will work on the project. One or more project managers can be hired in companies that can afford so.
Often when you think about creating a chat app from a developer's point of view, you think about everything under the hood, the backend, features, frameworks, etc. But are you sure you are focusing enough on the user interface as well? This is crucial when creating messaging functionality.
A serious mistake is developing a chat which is purely functional, but not very attractive to the user. If the interface isn’t appealing, there’s no reason for a user to stay from switching to another app. And in today's online world, this user is increasingly demanding in terms of creativity and harmony in the design.
For this reason, if you decide to create a chat it is very important to have expert designers who know how to take care of every aspect of the user interface. But, if you decide to rely on CometChat Pro, you’ll have access to beautiful pre-built UI kits and components together with precise sketch files, that are developed by designers for designers, for every platform.
Associated with the previous mistake, but even worse, is ignoring the user experience of your chat app. In history, whether online or even in the real world, problems in the UX have caused entire projects to fail. There are some codes that although you can play with, it is best not to touch. Certain colors mean certain things, as do certain symbols or ways of communicating information to the user. You cannot make them say the opposite without leaving a certain discomfort in the user, especially when it comes to chat.
Our advice is to study the most popular apps and learn from them. Nothing prevents you from studying the functioning of WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, Discord, or any other app closest or competing to what you want to achieve. Another useful thing is to have a dedicated expert, keeping close with the other members of the team, particularly the front-end devs and the designers, to oversee this aspect.
Another common mistake is to decide to launch the app just after finishing its development, and maybe for reasons of time and/or money, do not go through with a proper testing phase.
This is a real shame, as it can cause months of work to fail. Something that seems intuitive to you may not be to your user. Furthermore, the tests should not be done only with “the perfect user”, exactly as you imagined it. You should take into account differences in age, digital familiarity, and sometimes also accessibility issues due to particular difficulties of the user.
Our advice is to define a certain number of target users, and in the production phase let them test the product and collect feedback. Another idea adopted by many companies to save money and time is to collect real-time feedback from users even when the product is live, with a simple rating associated with a message next to the chat. Even if it takes time to study these feedback well and filter out spam, it can be very useful for large-scale data collection.
In development, sometimes the coolest things are also what can cost your company the most in terms of performance, especially in loading times, SEO problems (for websites), but also concerning the support of different devices or the chances that your app crashes. Even if chat plugins and software can slow your work, it’s not such a big deal.
As DebugBear research shows, “Overall chat widgets don't have a big impact on when your users see the primary page content. That's good, because they really shouldn't!!” On the contrary, when building a chat app from scratch, you can't precisely estimate how much it will cost you in terms of loading time before you finish the project, and after that, it can be difficult to modify the app and make it faster.
As Webdev research shows, a slow website or app can impact the “user experience, search engine ranking, sales and conversions and so even operating expenses and revenues.”
Our recommendation is to try to quantify the impact that the chat can have on the performance of your app from the beginning. Make sure that everyone in the team is informed about and applies the best practices.
Security is one of the most crucial aspects of any app, especially messaging apps. Messages cannot be left without very strict protection. As this article lays out, End-to-End Encryption isn’t as safe as it seems, and it's easy to consider this topic too difficult and not pay enough attention to it.
But data protection and privacy should be a core value of every business. Also, you need to make sure you match the international regulations and guidelines about chat security.
A solution is to use a readymade chat service such as CometChat, so you don’t have to worry about security, which is managed automatically by the provider. Otherwise, we recommend you to thoroughly study the functioning of the E2EE and other encryption techniques as well as the other best practices.
Another mistake, caused by lack of time, money or information, can be missing important chat features. Sometimes you don't need to have them all to reach your goal, but some are essential, especially considering user experience, security, or general performance of the app.
There are so many features, such as typing Indicators, one-to-one and group conversations, voice and video calling, media attachments, emojis, GIFs, etc.
Even if It’s easy to get lost and therefore waste time, much of the work must be done at the beginning, in the planning phase, and perhaps some in the testing phase. You have to decide which features are fundamental and which are useless to achieve the goal you have set for yourself, based on your needs. Or you can opt for options like our chat SDKs that have most of these features built-in.
Another mistake to avoid is related to poorly managing the backend of your chat - from the infrastructure, the database to the code itself. Managing a chat means dealing with high amounts of data, and thus with lots of queries in contemporary. It can be easy to store data in badly managed databases, creating holes in the system both in terms of security and functioning of the app.
It’s important to choose a good toolchain and the right infrastructure. Also, you need to name rules (for variables, elements of the database) and organized and precise code. You can also consider hiring database managers to collaborate with your backend developers. Here again, you can learn from some of the best, for example by learning how discord stores billions of messages.
When it comes to a chat app, very often you need expert and dedicated personnel. Finding and preparing your team is a process in itself, which is usually strictly associated with the creation of an in-house chat, and must be taken into account in the initial cost plan. It really depends on what you want to do in the end.
And you’ll often need a way to interact with the user via the chat rather than only making them interact with each other, for instance through operators for customer care or special moderators for groups. Sometimes it’s also necessary to develop a bot to respond in case the staff is absent, or even just for basic customer care or to communicate specific information to your visitors.
This may sound like general advice but do not to underestimate it. If you’re creating an in-house chat app, it can not guarantee success if there’s no opportunity to customize. There are lots of chat applications out there, and it’s difficult to stand out from the crowd.
Think of what makes your users use your service and not the one of your neighbor. Especially in small companies that want to emerge, they often need effective features to make them stand out and reach success.
Creativity doesn't come by itself, but there are many ways to boost it in a workspace. Pick young and enthusiastic people to join your team. There are plenty of techniques to improve productivity creativity, especially when it comes to developers and designers collaborating.
Building a chat application from scratch is way more difficult than it seems. Development, testing,maintenance, upgrades - the list goes on! Doing this entirely on your own, requires substantial investment in terms of cost, time and personnel for as long as your business is going to stay alive.
With ready made chat SDKs & APIs and pre-built UI kits, adding chat to any website or app has become much easier than it used to be. Software development trends are changing as more and more developers understand the benefits of a microservices architecture.
CometChat does exactly that with simple integrations and a suite of features, continuously updated with the ever changing trends in technology and chat. Simply sign into the dashboard to start building your chat app for free. Or talk to our experts for more advice.
Originally published at cometchat.com