Messaging Design Kit for Sketch

A key part of building great products is the design process. We understand the value of the first wireframes to develop core product loops, and the importance of high fidelity designs for interactive prototypes that eventually turn into a fully functional in-app messaging experience.

As messaging becomes part of every experience — commerce, communities, marketplaces, dating apps, on-demand services, games — we want to play our part, not only in powering rich messaging in mobile and web apps, but also in helping product designers craft better messaging experiences from the start.

Today we are making the Layer Messaging Design Kit for Sketch available as a free download.

The Layer Messaging Design Kit for Sketch includes 20 ready to use wireframe and fully rendered messaging views. We’ve also included 84 vector icons and 30 rich media cards. All the views are built with Sketch symbols to make customization quick and easy.

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The Layer team has built countless mockups and prototypes using this tool, including examples of conversational commerce, concierge services, dating apps, fantasy sport communities, connected home apps and many more.

Once the design and prototyping phase is complete, use Layer’s messaging UI kit, SDKs, and APIs or contact us to bring your rich messaging experience to life as part of your mobile or web app.

Get your Messaging Design Kit today.

Web SDK ready for production apps

We’re happy to announce that the Layer Web SDK is now officially out of beta and can be used in production applications.

What can I use the Layer Web SDK for

Added to Layer’s support for Android and IOS Clients, the Web SDK enables a variety of cross-platform messaging use cases.

During the beta period we’ve seen developers build anything from

  • Web dashboards for experts advising clients
  • Support tools for support agents helping customers
  • Messaging for marketplaces
  • Community group chat

The Layer Web SDK enables the power of messaging in every web application.

What’s in the SDK?

  1. Real time updates as Messages and Conversations are sent and received
  2. Simple Querys for accessing and responding to relevant changes
  3. Typing Indicators, Metadata and other Layer-standard features
  4. Queuing for actions that occur while offline
  5. Automatic catchup of missed events while offline

As with other Layer products, the Web SDK will keep evolving quickly. We have an extensive roadmap and we always welcome your input via our public Slack.

Integrate Today

The documentation is available as part of our developer portal, along with example apps. Sign up for a Layer developer account and get started.

If you have any questions about integration please visit our knowledge base, support form or join our public Slack.

We can’t wait to see what you’ll build!

Web SDK Public Beta

In fall 2015 we introduced the Client API, enabling developers to build cross-platform Layer applications for mobile, web and desktop. In parallel we started a private beta for our Web SDK, which enables web developers to build great messaging experiences with greatly simplified APIs. Starting today, the Web SDK is available in public beta to the entire Layer developer community.

What is the Layer Web SDK?

In combination with Layer’s iOS and Android SDKs and UI kits, the Web SDK enables a variety of cross-platform messaging use cases:

  • Social networking
  • Community building
  • Dating services
  • Online games
  • Coordination of delivery for on-demand services
  • Coordination between dispatchers/home office and mobile work force
  • Communication between customers and agents to plan and purchase
  • Marketplaces connecting buyers and sellers

In addition to supporting all of these use cases, the Web SDK enables developers to support new modes of communication, enabling people at a desktop to be able to talk to remote people who are on mobile devices. That includes call centers, support desks, sales agents and other environments where people work at a desktop supporting customers and coworkers in the field or at home.

As with the rest of Layer’s product offering, the Web SDK gives you freedom to build a great messaging experience in any product.

Learning and feedback

The goal of this public beta is to collect feedback from the Layer developer community and iron out the issues that can only be discovered by using the Web SDK in the wild.

Webhooks for everyone

From the start we’ve architected Layer to not only be a world class messaging fabric, but also enable external services to interact with the platform and be notified of events on the platform as first class citizens.

Last summer we’ve introduced the Platform API, that enables developers to manage conversations and messages in Layer.

The second piece is our Webhooks API, a way for external services to receive real-time event notifications of events that happen in their Layer application. Webhooks have been available to a limited set of partners since September. Starting today Webhooks are generally available to everyone in the Layer developer community.

Webhooks offer infinite opportunities

Webhooks enable Layer developers to:

  • build interoperability with legacy messaging systems
  • build interoperability with legacy notification systems like SMS or e-mail
  • monitor conversations for keywords and commands (/help)
  • monitor messages for specific content like profanity words or application defined message MIME/types
  • monitor message status changes (i.e.: message delivered/read)
  • monitor conversation activity, such as new participant added or removed
  • integrate with AI and natural language processing services
  • notify analytics services of Layer events in real time
  • build connectors with customer support services

When paired with the Layer Platform API, Webhooks make two-way integrations with external services and any kinds of bots straightforward.

Pricing

You can start developing applications that send up to 10,000 Webhook events per month as part of our Free plan. The Standard plan includes 500,000 Webhook events per month. Each additional batch of 1,000 events costs $0.05. The number of integrations is not limited. We offer enterprise plans with custom pricing for high volume applications.

Set up your first Webhook

To get started visit our Webhooks documentation and join #webhooks our public Slack.

Introducing the Layer Client API

Today we’re happy to announce the public availability of our new Client API—a REST and WebSocket API that lets anyone build browser-based messaging applications for web and desktop.

Its release comes at the end of several months of beta testing. Three hundred developers took part in our early access program, and a number of companies have already released applications that use the new API, most notably Udacity, who saw a 25% boost in goal achievement when they added group chat to their mobile and web applications.

Our Client API is available today, and documentation can be found here:
http://developer.layer.com/docs/client

What is the Client API?

The Layer Client API is a set of APIs for building messaging clients on any web-enabled platform, including browsers and desktop applications. It bundles together a REST API for authentication and interacting with Conversations and Messages, and a bidirectional WebSocket API for real-time updates. These APIs serve as the underpinnings of the forthcoming JavaScript SDK.

What can be built with it?

The most straightforward use for our Client API is to create a complementary browser-based version of your mobile app, offering the same functionality but on a different platform (mirroring the experiences your users may have had with web versions of WhatsApp, Telegram, or Facebook Messenger). Some applications package this as a native desktop app wrapped around a web view.

Alternatively businesses may require a two-sided, asymmetrical application, where different users have different application experiences. Examples of these asymmetrical interfaces include:

  • Logistics — a dispatcher is given a large administrative dashboard, while mobile users (drivers and riders) have application experiences that are specific to their needs
  • Customer support — one agent has dozens of tickets, but a user may only have one support ticket
  • Concierge shopping — a personal shopper is paired with several individual users, who each have only one shopper
  • Coaching — connecting personal trainers to clients, where trainers have different options from clients

Layer for Web: Client API, SDK, UI Kit

Today’s release of our Client API is the first step towards what will eventually become Layer for Web—a complete toolkit for building messaging applications on the web. Steps two and three, a JavaScript SDK and accompanying Web UI Kit, will be open sourced and released in the same fashion as the Client API; a small early access program followed by a public beta.

If you’d like to help test our JavaScript SDK in the coming weeks, please fill out this quick 2 minute form, and let us know your plans for developing with it.

As for the Client API, we can’t wait to see what you build with it.

Announcing webhooks early access

At Layer, we are on a mission to make communications better in all the products people love and use daily. The platform we offer enables developers to create compelling user-to-user and application-to-user rich messaging experiences.

Our philosophy is to launch new products gradually, in tight collaboration with the active community of Layer developers. This lets us build scalable, secure, reliable infrastructure, while incorporating direct feedback from the community. Our iOS and Android SDKs, UI Kits, Platform API, and Client API (get early access) have all benefitted this approach.

Following this process, we are now opening the Layer webhook service for early access.

What are webhooks?

While the Layer Platform API is used to input data into conversations, webhooks serve as an output. As a developer, you define which events you want to be notified of and Layer will trigger a request to a URL you define, along with a JSON payload containing additional event information.

What can webhooks be used for?

Webhooks can be used to monitor events in conversations, process them, and act accordingly.

Example use cases:

  • interoperability with legacy messaging systems
  • interoperability with external systems like SMS or e-mail
  • monitoring messages for keywords and commands (e.g. /help)
  • monitoring of messages for specific content filtering (e.g. profanity)
  • monitoring activity (such as new participant added), to trigger alerts or automated messages (e.g. “Welcome to the conversation Jane…”)
  • integration with machine learning and text processing services

When combined with the Layer Platform API, integrations like external services and AI bots become possible. This enables:

  • conversational onboarding (a bot that gets to know you)
  • automated responses from in-app customer support
  • hyperlink expansion and embedded content cards with images and metadata
  • text-based reminders of upcoming calendar appointments
  • hailing a car service from an in-app message

Apply for early access

If you’d like to start developing with Layer webhooks, or if you want to offer a service to Layer developers, please fill out this short form. We expect to release webhooks in general availability later this fall.

Designing our growth tooling

At Layer we believe great developer relationships can be cultivated logically and respectfully alongside brilliant engineering. We recognize that our success is directly tied to our customers’ success. We’re implementing systems, tools, and processes to ensure every app creator that tries Layer has a great experience and is effectively and fully supported.

We’ve designed our growth tooling to be consistent with Layer’s values:

  • Interactions with our customers should be designed, thoughtful, respectful
  • Customer relationships should be built on a real value proposition with empathy, trust, and authentic connection
  • Products to support customer success should be as important as core product
  • Building relationships with developers should be about teaching rather than selling

The growth machine we’ve built at Layer enables us to engage, measure, and support customer relationships. We’re building a product for all app creators, from one girl in a garage to the Fortune 500.

Getting to know you

Before we can properly address a customer’s needs, we invest heavily in understanding who they are and what they’re trying to build. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of inbound interest at Layer after winning TechCrunch Disrupt. At that time the team announced an intention to open 50 slots in a beta program and more than 13,000 app creators signed up on layer.com to request access. Clearly we were onto something!

To handle this scale with a small team, we’ve needed efficient ways to collect data, understand individual needs and requirements, and engage in an authentic way — at scale. When someone indicates an interest in Layer and signs up for access on Layer.com, that information is fed first into Salesforce for tracking, reporting, and quick followup. Salesforce is flexible and easily customizable even without code or a professional admin, and we’ve found it exceptionally useful in ensuring new users get quick attention.

We’ve adapted Salesforce to meet our needs and data requirements so that we can be there for each of our users from day one. We’ve done a tremendous amount of outreach to our users, crafting personal and authentic messages, learning about, and listening to our potential customers. We knew many developers had originally been attracted by our mobile-first product, but we were eager to know what they wanted next. Throughout our beta, we used GetFeedback to run Salesforce-aware surveys, asking new users share more detail about their requirements. With a 24% response rate, consistent patterns emerged in this customer feedback that informed our product roadmap and prioritization.

One request we heard loud and clear was a desire for UI components to help developers get a high quality chat experience up and running fast. In response, we launched Atlas, a fully featured, high performance, 100% customizable UI kit. Atlas is helping thousands of Layer developers implement great communications experiences in their apps much more quickly. Detailed and meaningful feedback from our customers played a big role in the launch of Atlas and many products to come.

We have struggled with an age-old discovery challenge for all developer products — developers love to sign up with their gmail addresses and little else. The Layer signup experience is clean and quick. However, the lack of information makes it more difficult for our team to ensure we can effectively support our users’ needs and deliver the tools and value they expect. Understanding the geographical distribution of our user base has provided many insights we’ve used to up our game in serving international customers, with many more optimizations on our roadmap to address this need.

For better insight into who are users are and where they’re coming from we’ve leveraged Clearbit, a business intelligence API, to uncover helpful information about new users immediately. We access this information via Clearbit’s Salesforce plugin, enabling us to quickly understand our users without a bunch of googling. This a big win for our customers, who only need to provide minimal info at sign-up. At the same time, we’re empowered to more quickly and effectively get exactly what our users need into their hands.

Developer engagement & the feedback loop

Our team has craved deeper engagement with our developers than email can provide. Late last year we implemented Intercom for prospect and customer communication, and the results have been spectacular.

We use Intercom first to better understand customer needs and requirements. On a new user’s first login, they are greeted by a message right inside the dashboard from Alex on our Growth team, asking how we can help. When developers indicate interest in a platform we don’t yet support, they receive a message in real-time from Drew, one of our Product Managers, asking more about their use case. The insights gained through these conversations have transformed our ability to understand how customers are using Layer, and what we can do to make it even better and more useful.

We tag customers in Intercom based on feature requests, both to inform our roadmap and so that we can let them know when we ship their requested features. We segment customers in Intercom based on demographic details, but also by target segment. We also use Intercom to identify larger opportunities, and reach out to offer a more hands-on experience and support. We’ve created events tied to nearly every action on layer.com and in our dashboard, enabling great insights into user interests and requirements.

One example of the benefit we’ve seen in these interactions led to a meaningful recent change in our commercial offering. When a user checks out our pricing page, we can reach out to answer any questions they may have about pricing in real-time right in the sidebar. These interactions provided another key insight: our initial $99/month price point was prohibitive for some startups just launching and for customers in territories where this price point represents an extremely significant investment. Layer is a premium platform and service, but as a team we share the core value that it should be accessible to everyone, everywhere. To address this need we created a much more accessible Startup package at only $25/month, making the decision to get started even easier.

The white glove experience

We’re focused on providing a responsive, high-touch experience for larger customers. Our team understands that the decision to use a core building block for communications is a big decision, with major implications for our customers’ products and companies. We also understand that larger organizations need clear points of contact to manage complex provisioning processes and technical due diligence.

Our team is built to meet these needs. We offer enterprise pricing that works at scale, as Layer was designed from the ground up to be a commercial-grade distributed system for high volume communication — not just a starter platform. We bring technical resources to bear from day one, starting with our Partner Engineering team to support integration. Our Special Projects team even builds fully functional prototypes and proof-of-concepts for larger customers. And of course we offer world-class 24×7 support for large organizations around the world, leveraging Zendesk for our Standard & Enterprise Support ticketing queues.

Communication is a critical part of the high touch experience. We use Slack for internal communication, and we’ve also created external, customer-facing Slack channels so large customers can have direct access to our core team. The customer interaction that happens in Slack is much more real-time than email and less formal than a call. These channels give our customers a place to get to know Layer and ask questions they otherwise may not, helping them feel like an extended part of the Layer family, which we love. This human connection with our partners has tremendous value to both sides in facilitating communication and iterating to create high quality communications experiences on Layer.

Elegant self-onboarding

We know that many developers prefer to self-onboard, and we aim to meet this need with slick self-service tools. Developers ask us for clear and concise documentation, easy access to support, and a way to go live without having to get on the phone and talk to someone. In February, we launched a full self-service experience, enabling any developer to sign up, build out a Layer integration, subscribe to a service plan, and go live on Layer without assistance. Of course our team is always on-call for support if our customers need or want it along the way.

Another value we share at Layer is that our business model should be linked to the value we provide to our customers. Our pricing reflects this, and is built on a fee for unlimited messaging for Monthly Active Users. A fraction of a cent buys unlimited messaging for an active user — and we only charge for users that send or receive messages via Layer. Unlimited messaging for a MAU on Layer is cheaper than sending a single SMS, and it’s a better user experience, too. To support this usage-based model in a scalable way we implemented Zuora — a fully featured billing and subscriptions platform, integrated with Salesforce and our own internal tools.

Core values that drive our process

At Layer we aim to build a team that provides real value, answers developer questions with substance, advises on communications best practices from experience. We are building our integrated toolset to ensure that in addition to our full stack communications building block, we also have information to share, perspectives on the market and best practices, and lessons to teach that bring additional value to our customers. Developers are extremely busy and our goal is to help them get what they need, as quickly and directly as possible.

In partnership with our engineering and product teams, our customer-facing team is gathering valuable product feedback that informs our roadmap and decisions. Our team recognizes that our internal relationships are every bit as important as our customer relationships. Our customer-facing team advocates for our customers internally, and also works to ensure that every part of the Layer organization understands we’re seeing in market and what we’re hearing from our customers.

Layer is a communications building block, and communication is a fundamental and core service for our developers. We understand and respect that the decision to use our platform is a complex and serious one. We’re building an organization around tools that make us more accessible to our customers and tear down the barriers between companies and the people who make them work.

We’re looking forward to putting these tools and processes to work to support you in creating a great communications experience. We can’t wait to see what you’ll build!