A chat API connects the frontend clients of your product to the back-end of a scalable, secure and reliable third-party chat service.
The practical benefits to using a chat API are:
1. Chat API removes the engineering knowledge and resources required to develop and maintain a complex chat infrastructure in-house.
2. Chat API providers offer properly documented API endpoints with support for REST and GraphQL.3. Chat API providers offer customer success representatives who can assist your team with integrating in app chat as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
Adding in-app chat feature to your app is a great way to increase engagement in your app, which in turn can have great knock-on effects such as increasing user satisfaction and reducing churn if your app or platform operates on a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. The reason for this is simple: you’re taking a behavior that users do every day, chat, and bringing that behavior into your app. Research has also shown that a user is more likely to keep using an app where they’re having an important conversation than they are to migrate that conversation to a dedicated messaging app.
Whether you’re developing a new app or iterating on an existing app, adding new features to your app can be expensive and time consuming. But if you need to add a chat component to your application, one of the easiest ways to do so is by using an external chat API. By integrating an external API, you can tap into its functionalities without undertaking extensive development work. While there are arguments that suggest procuring an API might exceed the cost of in-house development, it is crucial to recognize situations where the use of an API proves less time-consuming, more economical, and inherently more reliable than building everything from the ground up.
When looking for an in-app chat api, it’s important to factor in a few things:
There are several API providers who have in app chat APIs and SDKs, and all of them have different pricing models. Though some may offer attractive pricing tiers, they can often come with soft caps on usage that may lead to cost overruns.2. Functionality
Though the fundamentals of chat remain the same across APIs, some are tuned for more specific use cases. As an example, one provider may prioritize chat for B2C consumer-facing apps, while another may be more focused on chat features that are centered around community building, and yet another around enterprise communications.3. Compatibility
Simply put: can the in app chat API play nicely with your app? Make sure that any API provider you’re evaluating has robust documentation for the tech stacks and programming libraries that your app utilizes. For example, if your app is already using a GraphQL API, a GraphQL Chat AP will be more suitable over a RESTful Chat API service. It’s also important that, if you’re not able to dedicate a full time front end UX designer to chat components, the API provider has compatible UI components. More often than not, commercial API providers offer a suite of UI kits written for the most in-demand frontend libraries, including React, JS, Swift, and Android SDK.
When exploring the functionality of a Chat API you should at the very least expect that it can handle a few essential features such as;
1. Typing indicators
A properly enabled typing indicator allows a user to see when another user is currently drafting a message.2. Read receipts
Read receipts are exactly what they sound like, an indication that the other user in a chat has read a message sent to them. Some APIs go the extra mile and provide something called delivery receipts, which allow a sender to know that their message has been received, but not read. For privacy reasons, many Chat APIs allow users to determine whether or not they want to enable read receipts.3. Reactions
Reactions allow users to “react” to messages with an emoji, this allows a way to provide simple feedback without the need to send another message.4. URL previews
To give users a more media-rich chat experience, many Chat APIs provide the ability to generate URL previews, which parse website metadata to give users a preview of links that have been placed in the chat.5. Media previews
Allows users to preview images, videos, or audio files sent over chat.6. Custom zoom links or meeting link
Chat APIs and SDKs which allow custom meeting links enable users to easily convert a text conversation into a meeting.
These features can usually be enabled out of the box, though some may have to be enabled by configuring your chat API.
A UI Kit (short for user interface kit) is a package of files designed to expedite the development of a user interface. Chat UI Kits typically include important components such as fonts, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) or Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) stylesheets, and graphical elements such as containers, input controls, navigation controls, and icons. Most UI kits are compiled for specific frontend libraries or framework libraries such as Vue or React. Though there are several resources available to help you create your own custom messaging UI kit, this shouldn’t be necessary if your Chat API provider offers the chat UI kit that works with your favorite programming library and language.
When evaluating a messaging UI kit, you should be looking at :1. Functionality
Should provide all the chat and messaging UI components your app requires, including things like message windows, send buttons, avatar placeholders, typing indicators, and read receipts.2. Flexibility
This comes in the form of styling. An UI kit only works for you if you can make it match the style of your app. This means you should be able to style any component of the kit however you need in order to create the most cohesive user experience.
A Chat API Provider is a third-party service that handles all the complexities of building and maintaining a chat server. These complexities includes automatically scaling the chat server or provisioning database and virtual machine resources to store data and run the backend applications respectively.
Developers integrate Chat API providers into the frontend client of their product either through a Chat API or Chat SDK supported by the Chat Provider. To minimize cost, Chat API Providers use a Pay-As-You-Go (PAYUG) model to ensure that developers only pay for the resources their frontend clients consume.
An API is the communication protocol for interacting with a service. A Chat API makes it possible for developers to integrate a chat server into their frontend clients and perform CREATE, RETRIEVE, UPDATE and DELETE (CRUD) operations on the chat resources created by the Chat API Provider.
Developers access Chat APIs over secure or encrypted HTTP connections through their REST or GraphQL endpoints and they require authentication to protect sensitive user data.
A Software Development Kit (SDK) contains lines of well-documented code for developers to use when building an application. In most cases, an SDK abstracts over an external API and provides easy-to-use methods or functions to interact with.
In a Chat context, a Chat SDK makes it less complex for developers to build a chat application as it abstracts over the Chat API and handles difficult aspects of working with the Chat API such as managing the API authentication state, request or timeout retries.
A User Interface (UI) Kit is a package of files designed to expedite the development of a user interface. UI Kits include important visual components such as fonts, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) or Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) stylesheets, and graphical elements such as containers, input controls, navigation controls, and icons.
Most UI kits are designed for specific frontend libraries or framework such as Vue, React, or Svelte.