Online chat has been around since the 1990s, when the likes of AOL’s AIM or Microsoft’s MSN Messenger started to take off. Even when the world relied on dial-up internet connections and paid the price of a phone call to stay online, users fell in love with chatting. Without the formality of an email or the intimacy of a phone call, messengers allowed somewhat of a halfway house for the first time ever to dib in and out of conversations with multiple contacts simultaneously.
Around the same time, SMS revolutionized how we communicate with each other when we’re on the go. Messengers were still PC-based at the time, but they went mobile with the arrival of smartphones. WhatsApp gained traction early on, with the ability to attach a messaging account directly to a user’s phone number.
Evolution and Critical-Mass
To gain acceptance, a messenger needs a critical mass of users who will then allow a service to grow exponentially, with new users are pushed into signing up to keep in touch with their contacts. But not every messaging service needs to become a new WhatsApp- there are niche apps out there for specific sectors and audiences, and a specialist concept has a better chance of showing appeal in what is quite a crowded marketplace.
Once a gap in the app market has been established, it’s time to consider whether the best way forward is to buy or build your chat functionality. In-house development can become very expensive, and there’s always a tradeoff between offering unique functionality and the amount of time and expense required to develop.
Trying to put together an estimate of the number of resources that will be required to develop the app is a challenge- and depends very much on the complexity of the concept, as well as the size of the development team. It’s important to anticipate the unexpected- bugs and glitches take time to iron out too. A competent team should be able to bring a concept to launch in around 3 months, at the cost of between $50,000 - $100,000, but costs can spiral for more complicated integrations. Before any development can begin, it’s necessary to decide upon the coding languages (front and back end), frameworks, protocols, and infrastructure.
Winning apps don’t necessarily need to be groundbreaking, but they need to provide a user-friendly, integrated experience. They should be simple and initiative to use, immersive and stable. Tempting as it might be, rushing development could mean skimping on features that could set the app aside from the competition.
Developing a new messenger can be costly and labor intensive, but the result can pay dividends. While the market is saturated, there are still opportunities out there for the taking in niche areas. As with any development, expect the unexpected and plan for some hiccups down the road- it’s better to exceed expectations than to be disappointed.