Building a chat app with React Native
Today, almost any platform offers its users a chat in one form or another. Even if we’re not talking about messengers, still, a marketplace or any other service needs support, and it’s better to be in a form of a chat as it is the most familiar type of modern people’s virtual communication. To create chats for our clients quickly and efficiently, we use the React Native framework. React Native app development is one of Ronas IT’s leading services. The below explains why it is worth choosing it for building your next messenger.
Why React Native?
Compared to other frameworks dedicated to cross-platform development, React Native unites a big community of programmers, meaning that once any updates occur, it doesn’t take the community long to donate to the open-source framework.
Another reason to use React Native for development is the components. These are breaks for building an application, reusable pieces providing particular functions. They significantly speed up the process of chat app development with React Native. Moreover, if a custom component is needed, it can be created and reused for further applications.
Necessary tools for chat app development
When building a chat app using React Native, you want to take advantage of the best technologies available. The following list highlights key components and services that ensure your chat application is both feature-rich and efficient. We’ve used these tools whenever we needed to develop a chat app or integrate a chat into the existing application. Some of them are technologies for development from scratch, some are ready-made solutions that we use to speed up the workflow.
Tools for real-time communication
Socket.io. An event-driven library that offers tools for real-time data exchange between a client and a server. It enables developers to implement instant messaging functionality. Note that it requires in-depth knowledge of backend development and logic writing.
Expo push notifications. This technology is used for sending push notifications to users. The service works within Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) and Apple Push Notification (APN) systems to deliver notifications on Android or iOS platforms.
User interface components
FlashList. This is a React Native list library by Shopify that helps manage thousands of elements without sacrificing performance — perfect for displaying countless messages in a React Native chat app. It solves the problem of blank spaces in rendering list layouts and performs well even on low-end devices.
React Native Gifted Chat. A library that comes equipped with pre-built UI components designed specifically for chats, which is handy for rapidly generating clean prototypes.
Pusher Channels. To accelerate the development process, consider an alternative to Socket.io. Pusher Channels cloud infrastructure supplies real-time functionality without requiring you to write a custom backend; instead, you can simply use client libraries while addressing any necessary functions specific to chat interactions.
ChatKitty. Another handy tool is ChatKitty, an all-in-one solution for building messaging infrastructure. It provides necessary and advanced chat features such as reactions, notifications, message statuses, group chats, and automoderation among other things.
Having studied the necessary tools for creating a basic application, you can think about what additional features should be added to the chat app to win the competition in the chat apps market.
Features of a successful chat app
There are a number of features that are essential for building a messaging application that can withstand the competition. New features emerge every day, and it becomes harder to retain users from day to day. These are some ideas on how to ensure your React Native chat app stands out.
User-friendly interface.There are special guidelines designed for different platforms and user interfaces: Material Design for Android by Google and Human Interface Guidelines for iOS. It’s important to make sure that designers follow them so that customers can have a familiar and smooth experience with apps.
Real-time messaging. By real-time it is meant that messages are received as soon as they are sent, or, in other words, the change takes place as soon as the event occurs. The feature is powered by real-time messaging protocols and a messaging database that stores all messages and user data. The technology helps to make communication seamless and real for the participants.
Push notifications. An important feature to keep users updated about changes and promos, and simply about receiving new messages. Push notifications are implemented with Expo tools we mentioned above.
Audio and video messaging. Modern chat apps cover all types of communication. It’s not always convenient for people to receive video and audio calls instantly. Then, video and audio messaging come into play. To implement it, you’ll need a messaging framework, a streaming media server, a video encode, a client-side video player, and a robust backend infrastructure.
Multimedia sharing. Not only do users send audio and video formats, but messengers are also widely used for business purposes when different types of documents are exchanged. By allowing users to upload all sorts of files, you will cover a wider target audience. In terms of technologies, there are ready solutions that help implement the function such as ChatKitty we mentioned above.
Audio and video calls. Almost since chat apps were introduced, one of their main features has always been making calls. To implement calls into your messenger, you would typically need several technologies that handle signaling, connectivity, media streaming, codec support, and optional security layers.
Emoji and stickers support. Emoticons or emojis have become a phenomenon of modern human textual interaction, tracing their roots back to the very beginning of Internet communication. Introducing emojis and stickers, even animated, to the application is not challenging, as there are existing ready solutions for this task.
Group chats. People must have the option of chatting in a group of many. It requires the same technology as regular messaging with the only difference — the messages are simultaneously received by several or many users.
Audio transcription. There are only two types of people… Those who love voice messages, and those who hate them. For the latter ones, there should be an opportunity to read the transcription of the audios. If implemented, the feature will make your chat app one of the best in the world. There are several speech-recognition APIs available that can be handy such as Google Speech-to-Text.
Geolocation sharing. You can create a convenient feature for users who want to share their location with friends. Some messengers allow interactive location tracking which is convenient for safety reasons or for those who often get disoriented struggling with finding a meeting point.
If you got inspired to create your own chat app with React Native, you should know about certain pitfalls that you may face.
Challenges to be aware of
Another closely related concern is the reliance on third-party libraries, which may present potential security risks. Identifying and rectifying bugs in abstraction layers within these libraries can be a complex and time-consuming task. Therefore, it’s vital for developers to be well-versed in evaluating the reliability of specific libraries and to possess a deep understanding of the intricacies of React Native.
Moreover, continuous updates and the maintenance of third-party libraries are crucial, as outdated libraries can lead to compatibility issues or expose the app to security vulnerabilities. Hence, developers need to carefully assess their chosen libraries and ensure they are regularly updated to minimize risks and promote smooth app functioning.
To effectively overcome these challenges, developers must remain knowledgeable about the latest best practices for React Native chat app development and engage in continuous learning to keep their skills up-to-date.
Overall, by staying informed, utilizing the right tools, and choosing reliable third-party libraries you can successfully create a high-quality and secure chat app that delivers an exceptional user experience. The next part talks about such applications.
MMake sure you work with experts
in React Native app development.
React Native messengers
Discord is a social platform supporting instant messaging, video calls, and voice over internet protocol (VoIP). The Discord founders were among the first adopters of the framework and used it for their iOS app and web version, finding React Native the best option for cross-platform development. The platform became extremely popular in the community of gamers mostly due to VoIP, as it allows them to participate in group calls without struggling with connection delays.
The founders started building their application, knowing the main pain point of the target audience, which was a stable and fast connection, crucial for online games and cybersports. Therefore, by implementing one outstanding feature you can grow a big number of users adoring the product.
The app is even more complex than a simple messenger, however, it has a chat function, too. Mattermost allows dev teams to collaborate in channels and do different tasks, from securely writing a code together to setting tasks in a kanban. Anyway, its primary function is to bring the team members together, so it has all the necessary functions of the messenger and a bit more: it allows calling, sharing voice and video messages; file, image, and link sharing, unlimited message history, and more.
This can give a good idea of building a messenger for certain groups of people. There are many specialists, apart from developers, who would enjoy a convenient online collaboration.
So, having studied the needs of a certain profession, you can create a product that will be in great demand.
Zulip is another example of a React Native-built chat app tailored for team collaboration. Combining the functionality of email and real-time chat, Zulip allows users to participate in topic-based conversations, creating an organized and efficient communication experience. The app includes essential messaging features such as file sharing, voice and video calls, and deep integrations with various productivity tools.
Creating a messaging app for professional use requires understanding the communication needs of businesses and organizations. Offering a solution that balances real-time messaging and asynchronous communication, like Zulip, can provide a unique and seamless collaboration platform that appeals to a broad range of customers.
Rocket.Chat is an open-source team collaboration platform built using the Meteor framework for web applications and React Native for its mobile apps. It facilitates secure communication with features like end-to-end encryption, group chat, voice and video calls, file sharing, and more. Designed for businesses that require a high level of customization and data privacy, Rocket.Chat can be self-hosted, allowing companies to control their data and communication infrastructure.
With its extensive API and integration capabilities, Rocket.Chat can be easily customized to integrate with various popular third-party applications and services, streamlining team collaboration and productivity. Apart from text messages, its features include real-time video and audio conferencing, guest access for occasionally involved partners, customizable user roles, and permissions, as well as chatbot and AI support.
React Native has demonstrated its effectiveness as a framework for building different chat apps. By addressing the unique needs of various user groups, such as gaming communities, developer collaboration, and privacy-focused communication, businesses can effectively capitalize on niche market demands to create tailor-made messaging solutions.
With all suggestions mentioned in the article based on our expertise within the field of chat app development, we aim to provide invaluable insights that will help you to withstand the competition. Following a chat app development process, incorporating essential features of successful chat apps, and being aware of potential challenges can become helpful steps in creating a high-quality, user-friendly chat application. And feel free to reach out if you’d like us by your side as your guide along the journey towards creating outstanding chat applications using React Native.
Let’s discuss the details of your next customized React Native chat app.