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What are typing indicators?

A typing indicator is a visual cue that indicates when another user is actively composing a message in a conversation.

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This feature creates real-time feedback for users, informing them that the other person is inputting a message before it's sent. When a user starts typing a message, the recipient will see a small visual indicator — usually an ellipsis (...) or a customizable icon.

Typing indicators help to sustain engagement by creating a sense of real-time communication that imitates in-person chat and keeps users' attention. For this reason, they’re a staple feature of modern messaging and appear on most chat apps, such as WhatsApp, iMessages, Slack, Facebook Messenger, and more.

Benefits of typing indicators

  • Increased engagement: Typing indicators capture the pause between replies, allowing users to gauge whether or not the other person is still engaged in the conversation. Users are more likely to stay in your app if they’re paying attention and waiting to respond to a forthcoming message.

  • Reduced message overlap: Confusion can arise when multiple users send messages at once, especially in group chats. Typing Indicators are meant to mimic the social cues of face-to-face conversations by signaling that someone is about to speak. By reducing message overlap, they help to improve engagement and create a more enjoyable experience.

Use cases for typing indicators

  • In-app chat: Typing indicators contribute to a more responsive and interactive chat environment in private and group chats, making them a common feature in apps with instant messaging.

  • Customer support: Typing indicators indicate to customers that a support agent is actively working on their issue, reducing uncertainty and improving satisfaction.

  • Operations: Teamwork tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams use typing indicators to improve synchronous communications, brainstorming, and shared document editing.

  • Dating apps: Typing indicators show users when their matches are typing, creating a feeling of instant, dynamic connection helps drive engagement.

  • Online communities: When users can see if others are contributing to a thread, it enhances the liveliness of discussions in online forums and online communities.

  • Education: Students know when teachers are actively responding to their questions in a digital learning environment, helping to improve and sustain engagement.

  • Telehealth and digital wellness: Typing indicators reassure patients that their telehealth professional is actively engaged, fostering trust and engagement with the app.

Typing indicators play a subtle but significant role in driving engagement with in-app chat. This feature is available in the SDKs (software development kits) and UI (user interface) kits provided by Sendbird and other leading in-app communications platforms. 

With these tools, developers can easily build and customize the look and feel of the typing indicator to their specific project, without coding the elements from scratch.

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