Four challenges of building a mobile chat app — and how to overcome them

Online Mobile Chat

The shift from traditional testing to messaging apps was real even before the pandemic. Now, chat apps are a preferred channel for all our communication needs — talking to friends, collaborating with co-workers, reaching customers. 

As the popularity of messaging apps continues to grow, entrepreneurs are looking for vendors with mobile live chat app development expertise to build a WhatsApp-like solution. But any chat that attempts to get its fair share of users’ attention needs to overcome a number of hurdles first — namely scalability, reliability, and security. Then, there’s also a matter of differentiation to help your app take an honorable place on a user’s home screen.

Knowing what challenges may lie ahead is essential to creating a robust mobile chat app roadmap, but having some pro-tips on how to cope with them and what to pay attention to is even better. So, here you go. 

Challenge #1. Guarantee scale

As of January 2021, the number of WhatsApp users reached 2 bln. Facebook Messenger and WeChat, other super apps, boast 1.3 and 1.2 bln respectively. As to the number of messages sent daily — you can only imagine.

Delivering real-time functionality to the growing number of users requires solid engineering skills. The best approach is to leverage microservices-based architecture with loosely coupled modules that can be scaled separately without affecting the performance of others.

What else you can do:

  • Reliable load balancing
  • Database clustering
  • In-memory caching
  • Load and stress testing

More importantly, you’ll want to ensure auto-scaling to proactively ramp up and down instances and optimize infrastructure costs.

Online Messengers

Challenge  #2. Provide reliability

When deployed to a real-life environment, a chat app faces a number of contingencies — globally distributed users, fluctuating traffic, different message sizes, irregular network conditions, the list can go on. If not taken into account, these factors can affect the app’s performance and ruin a chat experience for users.

To prevent your chat app from heading off a performance cliff, make end-to-end performance testing a part of your mobile app development pipeline. Performance testing aims to validate your app’s reliability and stability under large workloads and poor network conditions, like changing bandwidth and low latency.

What else you can do:

  • Redundant, highly-available architecture design
  • Configurations optimization
  • Slow mobile network optimization
  • Continuous system monitoring, logging, and reporting

Challenge #3. Ensure security

Privacy and security lapses continue to plague even the best of chat apps. WhatsApp has long been the recipient of heavy criticism — the latest backlash concerned a broader data sharing policy, making users flock to Signal as a more secure alternative.

When building a mobile chat app, a security-first approach is a must to ensure peace of mind for users. End-to-end encryption of data in the cloud and in transit has become the de-facto standard for protecting personal information. 

What else you can do:

  • Biometrics-based authentication
  • Self-destructing messages
  • Private contact lists
  • Role-based access controls
  • Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing
iPhone Messenger

Challenge #4. Make your chat app stand out 

To say the global mobile messaging apps market is highly competitive would be an understatement. Modern mobile chat apps are so much more than just messaging. WeChat offers users P2P and online payments, Discord brings together gamers by allowing them to communicate with other players during the same game.

Finding your niche in that mobile chat apps’ race is difficult but not impossible. For starters, you can enhance your chat app with HD-quality multi-party video and audio calls to enable more efficient communication and streamline collaboration for enterprise users.

What else you can do:

  • AR-based special effects like masks and layers
  • Intelligent chatbots to perform routine tasks
  • Real-time language translation
  • Computer vision-driven image recognition and analysis

Wrapping up

As the demand for mobile chat apps is getting bigger, businesses are rushing to ship their MVPs to the market and gain a foothold. With that, it’s crucial to know what challenges and hidden bottlenecks you’ll have to face. Planning for scalability, reliability, and security right from the start will help you build a chat application that users will trust while including innovative and unique features that will help your app stand out from the crowd.

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