How to Make a Video Chat App: Step by Step Guide with Business & Tech Aspects

Throughout 2020, especially during the COVID-19 lockdown, the use of video chat apps has spiked.

Global downloads of Zoom and Skype increased by over 100% from February to March of 2020.

If you’ve ever wondered how to make a video chat app, right now is the best time to pursue the idea.

Rise in Popularity Among Online Video Chat Apps

Market State of Video Chat Apps

Here you can see key statistics that prove that the market of video calling apps is flourishing:

  • Zoom app downloads worldwide grew from ~5 million in February, to 26.9 million by March. Skype also saw a rise in demand — from ~3.5 million to 6.2 million. (Statista, 2020)
  • In Spain, downloads of the Houseparty app were 2,360 times the weekly average in Q4 of 2019. The level of increase differs depending on the country. (Statista, 2020)
  • Six in ten (57%) Americans are currently using video chat platforms for work and social reasons. (Ipsos, 2020)
  • Video chat platforms are widely used to see friends and family (73%). (Mozilla, 2020)
  • In the USA, the most popular live video chat apps are Zoom (66%), FaceTime (48%), Facebook Messenger (31%), Skype (27%), and Google Hangouts/Meet/Duo (22%). (Mozilla, 2020)
  • After the pandemic is over, 75% of review participants say they will continue to use these apps to see friends and family. (Mozilla, 2020)
Most Popular Messaging App per Country (SimilarWeb, 2019)

Types & Unique Selling Points of Video Chat Apps

There are three main types of this application, including apps for conferences, video communication, and entertainment.

Let’s discover each video chat app type.

Conference Video Call Apps

Examples: Zoom, Google Hangouts, Google Duo, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet

Why Companies use Conference Video Chat Apps

Video Calling Apps

Examples: WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Telegram

Video Chat Apps for Entertainment

Examples: Houseparty, Discord

How Does a Video Chat App Work, Technically?

From a technical point of view, WebRTC is the most popular technology used to build video chat applications.

This technology is used to implement a Peer-to-Peer connection without the help of a third-party web server. At the same time, WebRTC can transmit media content.

In a nutshell, WebRTS can be used together with four APIs:

  • MediaStream
  • RTCPeerConnection
  • RTCDataChannel
  • OpenTOK

Below, you can see how video calling works with a Peer-to-Peer connection structure:

WebRTC Communication Protocol for Video Chat Apps

Here is how the connection between two clients is established:

  1. The first client sends a so-called Offer to another client via a server (PeerConnection Observer).
  2. The second client (Remote Peer) sends a reply to the Offer via the server as well.
  3. The Peer-to-Peer connection is established between the clients.

Video Chat App: Strategy Development [Steps 1–4]

How to Make a Video Chat App, Step by Step

Let’s investigate each of the defined steps in more detail.

Step 1: Define Your Video Chat App Value Proposition

The best thing you can do for your future application is to define your unique value proposition.

Before you proceed with app development, please be sure that you can answer the following questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What features would you like to implement?
  • Why should users choose your video chat app?

Additional Tip: you can define your USP by answering questions: “What?,” “Who?,” “Do what?,” and “How?”

For example:

Google Meet (What?) helps big companies (Who?) conduct big conferences (Do what?) by allowing a big number of participants (How?).

Step 2: Create a Business Plan & Choose a Monetization Model

The next step in the journey is to finalize your USP and strategy by employing the Business Model Canvas.

This model covers the following areas and helps businesses to structure all the strategic information, namely:

  • Key activities
  • Key resources
  • Key partners
  • Value proposition (USP)
  • Customer relationships
  • Customer segments
  • Channels
  • Cost structure
  • Revenue streams

Defining the right monetization strategy is no less important than knowing how to make a video calling app from a technical standpoint.

The following video chat app monetization strategies can be used:

  • Advertisements
  • Paid calls
  • Freemium

Check out a high-level example of the canvas used to make a video app for conferencing.

Business Model Canvas: WhatsApp Example

Step 3: Promote Your Video Chat App

You can utilize some ideas that will help you promote your app long before it hits the market:

  • Launch a landing page and a blog
  • Post demos and teasers
  • Communicate with early adopters about the first version
  • Continuously work on SMM
  • Participate in local events and promote your app there
  • Reach out to industry influencers

After you have launched your application to the market, you can move on with your marketing promotion plan.

Usually, this consists of the following parts:

  • Marketing campaign
  • Influencer marketing
  • SMM
  • Partners
  • SEO

Step 4: Hire a Capable Software Development Vendor

You need to choose the team that knows how to create software in the best way possible.

You can start your search with word-of-mouth recommendations or by browsing such platforms as Clutch, ITFirms, the Manifest, etc.

List 2–3 companies and move on to the next step — prospect evaluation by checking:

  • Background
  • Portfolio
  • Clients reviews
  • Capabilities
  • Culture and talent
  • Development standards
  • Used tools

Based on the collected data, select the company that has relevant experience, has been on the market for 5+ years, has successful projects, and follows the latest development standards.

How to Choose the Best Vendor to Make a Video App

Video Chat App: Functionality & Tech Stack [Steps 5–8]

It’s time to decide on some technical aspects of video chat app development.

Let’s examine each of the steps in more detail.

Step 5: Select Video Chat App Functionality

In the tables below, you can see an overview of possible basic and advanced features.

Step 6: Create a Customer-Centric UX/UI Design

There are three main factors that you should consider when designing a video and voice call app:

  • UX/UI design

This refers to user experience and user interface. Designers usually start with the creation of wireframes (UX) that define how users will interact with your application. As well, it is possible to combine this step with UI design, which allows you to save money and time needed for development.

  • Stylistics

You need to stick to the same design style throughout your application. Even if you create a mobile app, a desktop version, and a web solution, it’s vital to ensure design cohesiveness.

  • Responsiveness

One of the most important things is to ensure its responsiveness on all screen sizes.

Google Meet Interface on Web and Mobile

The Google chat video call app for G-Suite Google Meet is a great example of a clean and uncluttered user interface.

Step 7: Tech Stack of Video Chat Apps

You can combine a number of technologies into a single application. The technology stack should align with your business goals and the app’s functionality.

With further app improvements and business growth, you might want to add another platform support to your app.

Below, you can see a table describing the technology stack needed for front-end and back-end web development.

You might also need to add some other integrations and APIs.

Below you can see a list of some additional integrations that you might need for your mobile video chat app.

Step 8: Test Your Video Chat App

Depending on the type and complexity of your project, you might need to perform a number of tests, including user acceptance testing, automation testing, load testing, stress testing, etc.

After you launch your application to the market, you will get a lot of real-user feedback.

How Much Does it Cost to Make a Video Chat App?

The cost to create a video chat app depends on a number of factors:

  • Pre-development stage, or how well you study competition, market stage, features to implement, etc.
  • Time spent on discussions and identifying business needs
  • Number of platforms you are going to target (iOS, Android, or both)
  • Use of high-tech functionality such as AI, Machine Learning, etc.
  • App design complexity (custom themes, animations, etc.)
  • Software development vendor you have chosen

The price of building an MDP (minimum delight product) for a video chat app starts from $60,000 per single platform (iOS or Android or Web).

Please note that the above cost is estimated based on an average hourly rate of $40 for software development services in Ukraine.

The table below provides an overview of the services and development components. These make up the total price to create a chat app at $40/hour.

Please note that the above costs are an approximation, and the final cost for a real project could be quite different. The cost presented is based on the average set of features that is required to release the first working version of your product.

The costs listed above are also based on the key services that usually constitute video chat app development, namely business analysis, UX/UI design, development, QA, and project management.

Note: This is a summary of a guide.
Check out more details and recommendations to build a video chat app in the complete article on the MLSDev blog.

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