Because messaging can now go completely over the internet, messages can include features far beyond just text or even pictures. The world’s dominant consumer messaging apps are integrating all kinds of immersive and interactive content types, and your users will feel right at home if they find rich messaging in your app.
Text & Beyond
Let’s start with the basics. Text is the most obvious medium in most messaging applications. When testing your text messaging implementation, make sure to support UTF-8 characters (probably the only time when having a Ž and a Š in your name comes handy).
Along with support for nonstandard characters, modern messaging experiences should always support emojis. Emojis have become a cornerstone of communications because they transmit emotion in a very tiny container, enabling more personalized conversations.
A GIF is worth a thousand pictures and then some. Messaging experiences have evolved far beyond text. GIFs are worth a thousand words (and then some). Communicating through rich media has become common practice. Users should be able to compose messages with both informational and emotional value. Depending on your use case, you should consider supporting as many rich media message types as possible. With the rise of Whatsapp, Snapchat, Fb Messenger, Viber and the like, users now expect photo-, video- and audio messages in nearly every app. Sometimes it is easier and faster to package information and emotion that way versus a text message with emojis.
Photo, Videos & Audio
The best practice for implementing media messages (specifically photos and video) is to have a highly compressed thumbnail delivered in the background, before the user even opens up the app or taps on a notification. That way the user doesn’t have to wait for the content to be fetched and loaded on the device until they actually want to access it.
Do Always pre-fetch rich content in the background once it is received by the application so that it is waiting for the user when they open the conversation.
Don’t Don’t wait until the user has opened the conversation to fetch new content.
Stickers and GIFs
Stickers and GIFs are a good alternative (or complement) to photo and video messages. They pack a large amount of information and emotion in a relatively small, easily consumable package. Unlike video messages, GIFs don’t come with sound and are therefore easier to consume without disrupting the outside environment. Emotional content builds product stickiness. The messaging experience is more fun, users get more positive reinforcement, and they’re able to express their emotions more fully.
Stickers & GIFs convey a richer tone of voice compared to text.
Seamless location sharing is powerful when trying to meet up.
Location, Maps and Points of Interest
Location is another popular rich media message type. Enabling a user to send a location or share a point of interest for a meeting is useful in experiences like marketplaces, dating products or communities where users plan to meet at some point in the future. Facilitating these types of interactions can help boost adoption and eliminate the friction of going back and forth between alternative apps to get the job done.
Mini applications as rich media cards
Beyond the standard media messages, there is a universe of opportunities with custom rich media cards that fit in the context of the specific application (but might not fit everywhere). A great way to visualize what’s possible is to think about each message as a mini application. It might be just an application that displays text, a photo, or alternatively presents an interface for something more complex within the constrained environment of a message cell. There is an unlimited set of opportunities to create bite size applications like a photo carousel, media players, mini games, inventory items, in-message payments and many others.
Suggest and accept meeting times.
Easily stay on top of your finances.
Pre-filled quick replies and actions
A good way to guide users to a conversation with an agent is to propose a series of predefined replies as Quick Reply buttons. That enables a quick interaction pattern and removes friction from the experience.
Autoresponders, bots and agents
Not every message in a messaging experience needs to be sent by human participants. Recently there has been talk of bots being the solution to every problem in the world (or not). Leaving that long-term debate aside for now, it’s important to analyze what makes a great messaging experience when one or many participants are not human.
Depending on the use case, it is worth considering whether to reveal the bot as bot, or to make the user believe they are still talking a human agent. Both have pros and cons, but unless you feel comfortable passing the Turing test with your bot, it might be a good idea to set the right expectations for responsiveness and intelligence.
Where to start?
As messaging becomes an increasingly dominant form of communication, the stakes for businesses are clear: message well, or don’t message at all. Creating an experience that users will love will benefit your brand for years, if not decades. Now that you have learned everything there is to know about a world-class messaging experience you are ready to bring all the benefits of messaging in your product. You can hear Trunk Club’s Layer story, start designing messaging experiences with the Layer Messaging Design Kit or get in touch.