How to Build a Chat App With Next.js & Firebase
In this tutorial, we will guide you through building a simple chat application with Next.js and Firebase.
Have you every built something no matter how small? Do you remember how many things you had to strategically add to one another to bring out the final result? Do you remember what might have been easier if certain things were already available? Can you also think of the parts of the processes that were actually not so tasking because certain things were already in place for you?
Building anything requires a whole lot of work. But this could be easier or even seamless if we have most of the parts already in place and all we have to do is put them together to suit our individual needs. Building Chats is no different.
In this article, we will focus on an in-depth explanation of the UI components a standard chat vendor should provide and how important these components are.
To help us follow through this article properly, let's begin by clarifying a few terms:
UI is an abbreviation for 'User Interface'. It is the part of a hardware or software made available to the users to enable them communicate with a given system.
UI is used to appeal to the human senses (sight, touch, auditory and so on). They could be hardware devices (such as keyboard, mouse, monitors, speakers, printers and so on) or applications UI (such as Form UI, Navigation UI, Voice UI and so on).
Why is this important?
The UI makes the user's experience easy, intuitive and requiring minimum effort on the user's part to receive maximum desired result.
Imagine a software engineer built an application where there is no UI but there are API endpoints to interact with the database and other applications. Will a baker with the basic knowledge of computers be happy to make use of such an application?
Also Imagine a baker who has a bakery and a software engineer goes there to buy bread but the software engineer with no knowledge of baking is to go into the bakery and bake the bread himself/herself. Will the software engineer be happy to do the baking?
In both cases, the answer is No! Users just want to get served and in return pay a token. So they need a well built or designed user interface. How we love meeting with the right user interface!
No doubt, you see why the use of a UI cannot be over emphasized especially in software development.
Components are different parts of a whole object. In most cases, components are usually made up of smaller components.
For example, a component of a building is a block. But blocks are made up of other components - cement and sand.
UI components are any part of your application that can be logically grouped and thought of as a singular element, that ideally can be reused as a building block for the rest of the application. This component may have other components within it, or may be used within other components, but each individual "component" is a standalone element.
In other words, UI components are different parts of a UI that have already been prepared to enable speed up building of any UI by a developer. So all a developer has to do is to assemble these components to suit the need at hand.
For example, if you are building a website, you will most likely be needing a 'navigation bar' on the top of all the pages. So instead of copying the code for navigation and pasting on every file, we can create a file to handle navigation as a single entity and then include the file in every other file where the navigation should be. Now our navigation is a component of our website.
Notice that the navigation might be made up of other smaller components such as anchor tags, list tags, button tags and so on. But all these have been put together to form one component which can be used over and over through out the website.
Chat is a communication that is live or in real-time. It could include sending and receiving of text, video, documents, audio recordings and so on.
The Chat UI Components are the individual building blocks put together to bring out the UI of a chat application. These include everything you need to build a fully functioning chat user experience with support for rich messages, reactions, threads, image uploads, videos and so on.
In other words, Chat UI is a collection of all the UI Components that are interlinked and work together to launch a fully functional chat on your website/application.
In older times, to build a chat UI takes a whole lot of code as one tries to build the navigation, the message component, the media component and so on.
However, things have changed. These components are regular parts of every good chat application so they are already built out by some developers and all you will need to do is to assemble these components to make your own chat application. No doubt, this makes life very easy for both developers and users who will use the application.
These Chat UI Components are grouped according to their purpose:
Chat Message UI Components
These component are used to manage messages. It comprises all the micro-interactions that happens with chat ranging from editing, deleting, flagging, muting, reactions, retry, thread initiation and so on that happens on each message.
It also provides all the functionalities required for a user to compose the perfect message. It takes a robust and flexible message input UI to make this happen. This includes attaching images, videos, files, select the perfect emoji and so on.
Chat Groups UI Components
These component handles the displaying of various groups which includes public & password-protected groups. It also includes groups of which a user is part of. It also provides search functionality in it, so anyone can search group of their choice.
Chat Conversations UI Component
These component handles the displaying of list of Groups a user is part of and recent conversations of a user. It may also indicate who has read a particular message along with any new messages received within the Conversations UI Component
Chat Message Lists UI Components
These components are used to display the list of active chats. It also displays attachments, messages, groups, typing indicators, date separators, show accurate dates, message actions and so on as it concerns the message list
Chat Reactions UI Components
These components enable user to make emoji reactions to a message. Like giving a thumbs up, sad face, love emoji and so on. These reactions allow users to quickly respond to any message without typing a text. These emojis passes a thousand messages in one click. After all, an image is worth a thousand words.
Chat Threads & Replies UI Components
These components helps to tie messages to a particular parent message. This is very evident in chat applications such as Slack. Threads enable conversations to stay on topic and organized. It render a parent message with a list of replies, keeping everything in a single threaded conversation.
Attachment Manager UI Components
These components are used to group media files, documents and links that are in a particular chat. It could be direct messages or group messages. This is evident in chat application such as WhatsApp.
One might be considering if it is the right thing to use already made UI components instead of building from scratch. Why not consider the following reasons:
To build a Chat application, you will need to hire a group of developers asides the time it will cost you to be able to finish the application.
Chat UI components on the other hand, is already made. All you need is to pay a token and plug it into your application. Sometimes, the package you really need might even be free of charge. This will save you money, time and mental stress.
The vendors who have made this Chat UI components are professionals who specialize in building such components. They have also gone ahead to make extensive research as to what the users really need for a chat application to scale. So they are in the best position to produce Chat UI components that will be useful in the long run. You might miss out in some of these things trying to do everything yourself.
Users or businesses are not static. They grow with time and as circumstances changes. This means that you will have to worry every now and then how to meetup with this growing demand.
On the other hand, using UI components from professionals who specialize in it will have you worrying less about scaling because these things are already handled even before you started building. So you can focus on other part of the business.
Checkout this article on 5 Factors to Consider When Building Scalable Applications
Ease of Use
Since Chat UI Component are already made, you only need to assemble these components to meet your specific need. You don't have to write code unless necessary. This also mean that someone without a programming background can use the UI Components to build Chat applications.
Checkout this article on building a WordPress Chat with CometChat Widget
In order to pick the right Chat UI Components, you need to consider what the vendor is offering. The following are very important points to put into consideration:
Without a good documentation, it is almost impossible to use a Chat UI Component if given to you. With that in mind, it is very important that we go through whatever documentation we are provided with before deciding to use the Chat UI Component. If the documentation is not properly done, it might be a ton of work using that UI Component.
A proper documentation should be easy to read, short and straight to the point.
Like was pointed out earlier, users or businesses are not static. They grow with time and as circumstances changes. A good Chat UI Component vendor should ensure that it can be relied upon as such changes takes place.
If a Chat UI Component is not scalable, it will be plenty of work to make a transition to another Chat UI Component, it will definitely cost money and time. It might even lead to loosing users/client information.
It will be a waste to invest time, energy and money on a Chat UI Component that do not support the technology that we are using. We want to ensure that whatever UI Components we choose, supports the technology already being used.
For example, if a Chat UI Component do not support React and I am using React to develop the application in question, I do not have business with such Chat UI Components.
More people are likely to use or adopt something if it is good and meets the needed requirements. That is same with Chat UI Components. We want to go for Chat UI Components that have been adopted by more people. This will also make it easy to find solutions to a bug if we hit any.
Freedom is something that we all desire. It is not different when picking a Chat UI Components. We need UI Components that give us the flexibility to make changes to the Chat in order to suit our preference. For example, we might want the chat UI to inherit the color of our application or we might want to be able to manage our users and how they use the app and so on.
Having a high level of customization will provide both the developers and the clients a high level of satisfaction or good user experience.
As a business owner, the objective is to make profit. So it wouldn't be wise to spend so much on an exact service or product you can spend so less on if you use a different vendor. So you want to compare different prices from different vendors
Some vendors will even give a free trial period after which you may choose to continue or discontinue. It might be wise to start here.
This might be the most important point to consider especially if you are going to be sending very valuable text, documents, videos and so on. You need to be sure that the Chat UI Components provides for certain level of encryption on conversations.
We've designed all our UI components keeping all of the above in mind. With CometChat, you have access to Chat UI components for many languages/technologies as you can see in our documentation. It is easy to use, highly customizable, completely secure and highly cost effective. What else do you need!?
You can get start building your app with CometChat's UI Kits absolutely free. Pay us only when your app grows. Check out our free and paid plans here.
Adding Chat feature to your application, follow the next steps:
1: Create an account at https://app.cometchat.com/signup.
You will be redirected to your dashboard
2: Create an App on your dashboard by clicking on the Add App button: You should be presented with a set of unique details like in the image below:
3: Create a chat widget from the app: You will be on the chat widget installation and customization page like this:
4: Navigate to CometChat Pro documentation
5: Select your desired programming language or platform:
6: Follow the step by step guide to assemble the Chat UI Components your application:
You should have a chat UI like the image below when you are done:
Can you identify the following components from the image above?
No doubt you can. See below:
It has been a step by step discussion on what Chat UI Components are. We saw how important these Chat UI Components are to building a robust Chat Application and how to pick the right vendor when we want to add Chat feature to our application.
Finally, I introduced you to CometChat; a Chat UI Components vendor with track record or reliability. I encourage you to try out the Chat UI Components they have in store for your choice language or platform.
I am a software engineer who is interested in building solutions to real world problems and teaching others about the things I know. Something I really enjoy doing asides writing codes and technical articles is body building. Let’s connect: https://twitter.com/eberetwit
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