Creating a Real-Time Chat Application with The Ultimate Guide

Creating a Real-Time Chat Application with The Ultimate Guide


Creating a chat application has become a fundamental exercise for learning various programming concepts, including real-time communication, databases, and user authentication. One of the most powerful libraries for real-time web applications is This comprehensive tutorial aims to guide you through the process of creating a chat application using Node.js, Express, and


  • A basic understanding of JavaScript, HTML, and CSS

  • Node.js installed on your system

  • A code editor like VS Code

  • Basic command-line skills

Setting up the Project

First, let's create a new directory for our project and navigate into it:

mkdir socketio-chat-app
cd socketio-chat-app

Initialize a new Node.js project:

npm init -y

This will generate a package.json file which will keep track of our dependencies.

Creating a Basic Server with Express

We'll use Express to create a basic server. Install it using npm:

npm install express --save

Now, create an index.js file and add the following code:

const express = require('express');
const app = express();
const PORT = 3000;

app.get('/', (req, res) => {

app.listen(PORT, () => {
  console.log(`Server running on http://localhost:${PORT}`);

Run your server with:

node index.js

You should see the message "Server running on localhost:3000".

Introducing enables real-time, bi-directional communication between web clients and servers. Install it alongside the http library:

npm install http --save

Modify your index.js to incorporate as follows:

const express = require('express');
const http = require('http');
const socketIo = require('');

const app = express();
const server = http.createServer(app);
const io = socketIo(server);

io.on('connection', (socket) => {
  console.log('New client connected');
  socket.on('disconnect', () => {
    console.log('Client disconnected');

const PORT = 3000;

server.listen(PORT, () => {
  console.log(`Server running on http://localhost:${PORT}`);

Restart your server and visit the page. You won't see any changes, but if you check the terminal, you should see "New client connected" every time you refresh the page.

Building the Chat Interface

Let's build a simple chat interface using HTML and CSS. Create a new folder named public and inside it, create index.html:

<!DOCTYPE html>
  <title> Chat App</title>
  <div id="chat-container">
    <div id="messages"></div>
    <input id="message-input" autocomplete="off" />
    <button id="send-button">Send</button>
  <script src="/"></script>
    // JavaScript code will go here

Implementing Real-Time Messaging

Now let's make this chat functional. Update your index.html with the following JavaScript code at the bottom:

const socket = io.connect();

const messageInput = document.getElementById('message-input');
const sendButton = document.getElementById('send-button');
const messagesDiv = document.getElementById('messages');

sendButton.addEventListener('click', function() {
  const message = messageInput.value;
  socket.emit('send_message', message);
  messageInput.value = '';

socket.on('receive_message', function(message) {
  const newMessage = document.createElement('p');
  newMessage.innerHTML = message;

On your index.js server file, add:

io.on('connection', (socket) => {
  console.log('New client connected');

  socket.on('send_message', (message) => {
    io.emit('receive_message', message);

  socket.on('disconnect', () => {
    console.log('Client disconnected');

Adding User Authentication

User authentication adds a layer of security and personalization to your chat application. For simplicity, we will implement a basic username-based authentication system.

Updating the Interface

Add a login form to your index.html just above the chat-container:

<div id="login-container">
  <input id="username-input" placeholder="Enter username" autocomplete="off" />
  <button id="login-button">Login</button>

Implementing the Authentication Logic

Update your JavaScript code at the bottom of index.html to add the following:

const loginButton = document.getElementById('login-button');
const usernameInput = document.getElementById('username-input');
let username;

loginButton.addEventListener('click', function() {
  username = usernameInput.value;
  socket.emit('login', username);
  document.getElementById('login-container').style.display = 'none';
  document.getElementById('chat-container').style.display = 'block';

socket.on('receive_message', function(data) {
  const newMessage = document.createElement('p');
  newMessage.innerHTML = `${data.username}: ${data.message}`;

On the server-side, update your index.js to manage users:

const users = {};

io.on('connection', (socket) => {
  socket.on('login', (username) => {
    users[] = username;

  socket.on('send_message', (message) => {
    io.emit('receive_message', { message, username: users[] });

  socket.on('disconnect', () => {
    delete users[];

Deploying the Chat Application

You can deploy your chat application to various platforms like Heroku, AWS, or any other VPS providers. Here we will deploy our app to Heroku:

  1. Create a Procfile in your project root with the following content:

     web: node index.js
  2. Install Heroku CLI and run heroku login.

  3. Initialize a Git repository and commit your code:

     git init
     git add .
     git commit -m "Initial commit"
  4. Create a new Heroku app and push your code:

     heroku create your-app-name
     git push heroku master

After the build process, your application will be accessible at


Congratulations! You've successfully built a real-time chat application using, Node.js, and Express. You've also added basic user authentication and deployed your application to the web. This tutorial aimed to be a comprehensive guide, covering both front-end and back-end aspects of real-time application development.

What's Next?

  • You can extend the functionality by adding features like private messaging, group chats, or even video calling.

  • Integrating a more robust authentication system using OAuth or JWT.

  • Add database support to store messages and user information.

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions or improvements, feel free to leave a comment below.