How to Build a Voice Chat App like Clubhouse
Clubhouse increased their weekly active users by almost 17 times in 3 months — from 600,000 to 10,000,000. It took them the same amount of time to have a 3250% increase in searches. Stunning success!
In fact, the concept of audio chatting isn’t new to the market at all — probably any messenger you can think of has it. However, Clubhouse managed to re-energize the interest in such apps and made many companies take a fresh look at this opportunity.
Even though the spotlight was targeted on Clubhouse and how they used audio messaging tools, there are a bunch of different ways of how businesses can apply this functionality to their use cases.
Our team totally understands it & wants to support companies on their way to building applications with more vibrant and cohesive communities.
Especially, after the COVID-19 pandemic, our lifestyle has significantly digitized. For example, the demand for convenient, technologically-advanced communication solutions is probably higher than ever — whether it’s apps for communication specifically (like Clubhouse) or any other use case with such functionality.
So, if you are willing to build an audio chat app, integrate such functionality into an existing solution, or have any other amazing use case that we’ll gladly get to know — welcome!
💧 Why Clubhouse is Only a Drop in the Ocean
In the beginning, we’ve mentioned that Clubhouse is only one of many ways how audio messaging functionality can be put into practice. Yet, Clubhouse itself and its success is a totally unique case, that happened once and may never happen again.
It means you shouldn’t take this app as a perfect model and try to copy its way. However, this case has a lot to teach other businesses, prevent certain mistakes, and share great marketing strategies.
In this section, we’ll take a look at what’s special about Clubhouse and how their experience can help your business.
Actually, Clubhouse’s success was based on multiple factors and their symbiotic complementarity:
- They are pathbreakers in this sector, which draws attention.
- The general public was informed about Clubhouse with help of celebrities, influencers, and tech innovators.
- Their invite-only system creates exclusivity.
- The moment of launching the product is great for such an app.
Clubhouse was launched in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this really helped the app rapidly gain popularity.
On the one hand, other platforms like Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet became sort of too accustomed for users. On the other hand, they didn’t have this “social” aspect: you couldn’t just surf through Zoom or Skype, joining rooms that seemed interesting to you.
And here’s Clubhouse — an app that offers its users to listen to any individual on this app in real-time. And now replace “any individual” with Oprah or Elon Musk, and you’ll understand half of the Clubhouse’s success.
Another trick was making the app highly demanded. People couldn’t just download the app and start using it straight away. Instead, they needed to get an invite from other users. So, even if one wasn’t planning on using it, they might want to get an invite & be “the chosen one”.
As we’ve already discussed factors that helped Clubhouse become that popular, let’s see what these mean for your business:
- They tested such a model for app development and proved that there’s rising demand. If you correctly tailor it to your use case and target audience, you are likely to have a successful app.
- Find your niche. Clubhouse neither tried to copy existing solutions like Zoom or Skype, nor develop a Facebook-like messaging app but with a focus on voice chats. Instead, they combined audio messaging functionality with live streaming and took the niche that was free before.
- Having famous people promoting your product is highly beneficial. However, it’s likely that it’s not needed for your use case at all. So, if the scale of your business or future app is wide, then such a marketing strategy might work for you. In any other case, it might be unnecessary.
- Exclusivity is a strong marketing tool that you can use as a boost to promote your product. However, try not to play “too hard to get” as it might be repulsive.
- The time when you launch your product plays a significant role. Naturally, a global pandemic doesn’t happen every other week, yet, think about how you can enter the market at the best time possible.
Thus, Clubhouse’s success is a synergy of newness, hype, and fortuitous timing, which makes their case unique.
Your use case can be totally different from Clubhouse’s one. So, why don’t we review some use cases for audio messaging functionality that may be applicable for your idea?
Use Cases of Audio Messaging Functionality ⚙️
# 1: Internal Communication Software
Such tools can be used for in-company communication. It can be an interaction between employees, departments, boss-subordinates communication, etc.
For instance, a building company can use it to enable audio broadcasting for construction workers. It’s beneficial in a way that such a way of communication isn’t time-consuming at all. Additionally, it’ll be fully tailored to the needs of each specific use case, which can make the solution highly functional.
For example, Zello offers such functionality. Drivers, frontline workers, construction businesses, employees in the retail industry, and many others can use it for internal communication.
What’s interesting about this app is that it’s based on the Push-to-Talk model. Meaning that users don’t mute and unmute their mic for communication but push the button when they need to and release it once they’re done.
The app became very popular within the driver’s community — and especially among truckers and taxi drivers. Thus, it helps them to get real-time traffic information from their colleagues, keep awake at the night or ask for help in case of breakdown or other problems.
# 2: Audio Messaging Social Media App
Another use case is to build a voice chat social media like Clubhouse.
It can vary from providing a digital co-working space to a platform for language learners who can listen to native speakers in real-time.
There are many regular or anonymous audio social media chat apps that are quite popular which can also be considered social networks.
# 3: eLearning audio Platforms
Moreover, audio messaging functionality can be great for holding lectures, seminars, webinars, or podcasts.
Such application of these tools can be useful for businesses who offer education platforms, membership/loyalty programs, certain extracurricular classes, workshops that don’t need video streaming, etc.
Let’s take the Tandem app as an example. It’s an educational app for learning languages from native speakers & sharing knowledge. Even though audio chatting isn’t the only feature, the app allows sending voice messages and having audio chats.
By developing a custom solution, such businesses can have a platform that’s fully adjusted to their needs, doesn’t have any excess features, which can save time for the development and reduce costs.
# 4: Сustomer Support
Some businesses use the functionality of such apps as audio rooms with customer support.
It can be relevant to almost any business with a support service. Instead of having to call the support or trying to reach out by email, customers can use an audio chatting feature with support specialists to get instant help if possible.
# 5: Office hours and counseling
Furthermore, such functionality can be used for enabling online office hours or counseling. It might be useful for educational institutions, online/offline courses, or any other business that implies such services.
For example, professors & teachers at educational institutions normally have office hours once in a while. So, by using this functionality, they can allow users to simply join the voice chat and ask the questions.
Another use case can be mentoring during different courses. Let’s say that you have courses on digital marketing. If one provides private consultation with lecturers and speakers, it can be enabled by using audio messaging functionality.
🎧 Top Features of an Audio Messaging App
In this section, we’ll review the features you might want to add to your app or build in an existing solution.
# 1: Sign Up & Profiles 🔐
First of all, the sign-up process shouldn’t be demanding in terms of the information requested. You can either make it accessible without giving out any personal details or ask for some basic information like email/phone number and to create a password.
It might be a good idea to offer Social Signs Up — it’s easy and quick for users. You as a business will get many details from user profiles that you can use to address the audience more targeted.
# 2: Feed 📃
Feed is a Screen where users can see new announcements, future events, upcoming presentations, or recent posts.
If your use case implies offering content based on one’s interests, you can make personalized content offers.
However, as we’ve already discussed, audio messaging goes far beyond social networking, which makes this feature unique for each use case.
# 3: Rooms 💻
Rooms are places where audio chatting happens. There are two main types of rooms:
- Public — accessible for anyone who’s willing to join.
- Private — users can enter only with a code, password, invitation, special link, or by permission of a speaker/moderator of the room.
Normally, there will be 3 main roles with different levels of access:
- Moderators. Surely, one person can have different roles, based on the situation.
However, this feature strongly depends on your use case. You might not need different roles or public-private room separation.
# 4: Voice Chats 📣
The voice chatting itself should be well-thought-out and functional.
Except for communication (aka signals transferring) that you can enable by using various APIs and enabling microphone, this feature can include:
- Mute/unmute other people so users won’t hear other people. For instance, Discord offers users to change how loud a user can hear other users.
- Change the volume.
- If you have pre-recorded audios, change the playback speed (0,5x, 1,5x, 2x, etc.).
- Echo removal.
- Automated note taking - the AI writes down the whole conversation in a document & others.
Depending on your use case, you might not need some functions of this feature. If we take our building company example, it’s possible that listeners won’t need to be able to turn on their mic at all.
# 5: Calendar 📅
To improve the user experience, you can create an in-app calendar. Such a feature might be useful for visualizing upcoming events and helping users plan their time.
Surely, certain use cases might need such features more than the others. For example, if you have an audio chatting social media app like Clubhouse, a calendar isn’t something highly useful. However, an app for in-company meetings would be more practical with such a feature.
It might be a good idea to offer users to integrate your app’s calendar with the one they use on their phones for more convenient use — like Google Calendar or iCloud Calendar.
When marking a certain event on the calendar, you can include this information:
- Date & time.
- Any additional details (registration link, code/password for entering, etc.) & others.
# 6: File Uploading & Contact Importing 📥
Depending on the goal you’ll use the app for, users might or might not need to be able to upload files.
For instance, if you have an audio messaging app as a social media platform for business cooperation, you might want to allow users to upload scans of their diplomas, licenses, certificates, etc.
For an audio chatting app as an addition to a membership program for holding lectures, you might need file uploading to give users pdf-files with check-lists or something similar.
Generally, you can add this feature for users to:
- Upload files to the room during a live audio session.
- Share files with a certain user if you offer 1-on-1 chatting.
- Upload materials for previous overview & others.
It might be a good idea to allow users to import their contact list from devices to your app if it’s relevant to your use case.
# 7: Screen Sharing 📱
Screen sharing is a useful feature if you’ll have a lot of live audio sessions. Thus, it would be easier to soak up information with some visual content as well.
It can include:
- Turn on/off.
- Choose a specific screen that a user wants to share.
- Share screen with/without a sound & others.
# 8: Push Notifications 🔔
Push notifications can help you increase sales by making personalized offers, improve brand loyalty, and retarget users. For instance, you can:
- Remind users about upcoming events to lower the chances that they forget about them.
- Inform them about new events, offers, etc.
- Allow to customize notifications for brand loyalty improvement (send a reminder notification a chosen time before an event).
📊 Admin Panel
To digitally manage all the processes in the app itself, you as a business owner or managers of your company might need an admin panel with access to all features.
The functionality of this feature can include:
- Change users’ status (block, activate, restrict certain actions, etc.).
- Events & calendar management.
- Start voice streaming, open/close rooms, etc.
- Access to all rooms & others.
Additionally, for some use cases, it might be important for an admin dashboard to provide statistics such as the total number of users, new users, active users, retention rate, average time spent in an app, stats about each separate event/room, etc.
To be more particular, if you have an audio chatting social media, such metrics might be relevant for you. But if you use it for in-company communication, there’s no need to access similar stats.
🔝 Top Things Worth Attention to Build an Audio Messaging Application or Integrate it into an Existing Solution
Once again, the variety of ways you can implement such functionality is wide. They include integration with your current solution, which is:
- different from when building an app from scratch.
- pitfalls aren’t the same as well.
So, let’s briefly cover a couple of aspects of such development that might save you time as well as cut costs if thought out in advance.
New Flow or Addition to a Current One?
Basically, there are two ways to implement audio messaging functionality in your app: as a whole new flow, without being complementary to other features but within one solution, or as an addition to an existing feature.
The simplest example can be the following:
- You had no communication opportunities in your product and decided to enable Audio Chat Rooms — new flow.
- You already had text messaging and now want to add audio messaging within text chats — an addition to a current one.
Let’s take another use case — audio feedback implementation in a marketplace app:
- Separate flow: users have to go to a separate screen to leave or read audio feedback.
- **Complementary flow: ** text and audio feedback features share one screen and are accessible within one place in the app.
It is important to understand so you’ll be able to explain it to your development team since it’ll determine a coding approach they’ll have to use.
Audio Files Storing
Audio Storing may greatly influence the development costs and complexity. This will define what Cloud Storage meets your needs the best as well as the scope of features for the application.
Thus, there are a couple of important questions to ask yourself:
- Will they be accessible after a certain time or you’ll have real-time voice chatting only?
Clubhouse practices the model where it’s not an option to listen to a recording of a speech — if you want to listen to someone, you have to do it in real-time, which might not be suitable for you.
- Where will you store the audios? For how long?
You can use external cloud storage or an internal one. You can have both, and an external one will store irrelevant data, which becomes such after 3 weeks of being in an internal store, for example. It really depends on your specific case.
- Do you need any extra features related to audio storage?
For example, it may be implementing local storage to access some audio messages without connection, the ability to convert and download messages as audio files, delete audios from the storage manually, and others.
SDKs for an Audio Feature
To enable audio chatting in an app, you’ll need to use a third-party SDK. Some of the most popular options are Twilio or Agora. By the way, Clubhouse uses Agora API for back-end infrastructure. When ensuring data security, Clubhouse made a mistake, and this is an important lesson for other businesses.
What happened? Basically, Clubhouse wasn’t encrypting the data. Joining a room meant generating metadata in plaintext, including users’ and rooms’ ID numbers, that were directly transferred to Agora’s back-end. Thus, it allowed any third-party with access to the users’ network to have an opportunity to collect this data.
This situation damaged the reputation of Clubhouse and made users doubt Agora’s decency, which in fact isn’t their fault at all.
The moral of the story is: pay extra attention to security. Especially if you have data of many people in your hands. To enable high-level security, you can:
- Use E2EE (end-to-end encryption). It’s a communication and data transaction model where neither party is able to access the content and or details of a certain action. Practically, if Clubhouse used E2EE for their data transferring, nobody would have access to the audios.
You can watch this explanatory video for deeper understanding:
- Be compliant with security regulations like GDPR. We have a whole article on how to be GDPR (and more) compliant if you’d like to learn more:
💰 What Affects Voice Chat App Development Cost
It’s important to make a cost estimation so there won’t be too many expenses that you’re not ready for. Sure thing, it’s impossible to forecast each and every step or pitfall as each case is unique.
However, there’s a certain number of aspects that you can take into account to answer the question “How much does it cost to create an audio chat social media app?”:
- Number & complexity of features.
- UI/UX Design.
- Chosen technology.
- Third-party integrations.
- Your development team hourly rate.
To sum up, an audio messaging app or functionality can benefit many use cases and each business can apply such differently.
Even though each case is unique, there are some general tips that can be useful for everyone to some extent:
- Build a user-friendly UI/UX design.
- Consistency plays a role. Try to keep the app corresponding to the general style and mood of your brand.
- Provide great support service. It’s essential so that user experience won’t be worsened by some easy-to-solve technical troubles, which are likely to occur in such apps.
What we’d like to point out is that such functionality can be tailored to almost any use case, so if you’re not sure how to enable it in your solution, need help with the development, or just have some questions left, feel free to reach out to us. We’ll find a way to help you!