How to develop an app similar to TikTok?

How long does it take from launch for the app to be downloaded 3 billion times and installed on the phones of 60% of the world's population? For TikTok, this journey took less than 5 years.

Just a couple of years ago, the social networking market was oversaturated. All platforms have already been invented: for long videos there was YouTube, for editing and posting photos - Instagram and Snapchat, and for correspondence and news - Facebook. When it seemed like nothing new could be invented, TikTok appeared.

Although TikTok was launched in 2016, it conquered the market and became a viral app only in March 2020, when the number of users reached 680 million during the lockdown.

What is Tiktok?
TikTok is a mobile application that allows you to generate and distribute video content. On the platform, users create short videos of up to 3 minutes, then upload them to their profile and add captions and hashtags.

The application belongs to the Chinese company ByteDance. In September 2016, they launched a local version of the future TikTok - the Douyin application, aimed only at the Chinese market. Later, in 2017, TikTok appeared - an international copy of Douyin.

However, TikTok only became available worldwide in August 2018, after merging with another Chinese social network The apps were similar: users created short vertical videos with a soundtrack. But the type of content was different: Dance and choreography videos were popular on, while on TikTok you can find everything from monologues and video clips to mini-stand-ups and recipes.

TikTok Statistics
Before going into detail about how to create an application like TikTok, we decided to share interesting numbers about the application. Recently, in the summer of 2021, TikTok reached an important milestone: they officially became the first application that has received more than 3 billion downloads and is not owned by Facebook.

Here are more inspiring statistics:

In 2020, TikTok became the most downloaded app in the world on both iOS and Android.
TikTok is one of the top 7 most used apps in the world. The total number of active users is 689 million, provided that the application is not available in some huge countries and regions. For example, in China or India.
For the Chinese market, ByteDance has a TikTok mirror called Douyin, which has more than 600 million users. You can also add them to your TikTok audience.

In 2020, TikTok earned $34.3 billion, and overall the company's profits increased by 111%.
On average, users open the app several times a day and spend about 52 minutes in it.
The most popular account on TikTok belongs to the American girl Charli D'Amelio - her audience is 122 million people.

How does TikTok make money?
Before we dive into the development process, we need to understand how TikTok generates income. Their main source of profit is advertisements. It is known that bloggers on TikTok engage their audience better than on other social networks - the engagement rate (ER) in the application is about 29%. And an active audience attracts many advertisers.

TikTok has a separate service “TikTok for Business”, which allows brands and companies to promote themselves on the application and interact with the audience.

The service has several types of advertising: targeted advertising, brand takeovers, viral campaigns with hashtag challenges and others. Typically, advertising videos are integrated into the feed, so users see them when they scroll through content or just open the application.

Here are some examples of in-feed advertising campaigns from AfterPay and hashtag campaigns from Walmart.

TikTok does not disclose the official cost of advertising, but marketing agencies often make their own assumptions. For example, Voluum estimates that in-app advertising costs can range from $10 per impression to $150,000 per week.

Key Features of TikTok
Registration + Login

The login page is about as important to an app as the first page of a book—it’s how users determine how long they’ll stay inside. We recommend keeping registration and login forms short and simple. Ask only important information so that the user does not waste a lot of time and gets access to the content right away.

Also, the page should have these elements:

Home page to welcome the user.
Registration form and the option to skip it if possible.
Terms of use of the application.
Password recovery.
The ability to choose interesting topics for content.

TikTok gives users the opportunity to skip most of the registration part and go straight to the feed. Users need to enter a phone number, email address, or sign in to an account from another social network. After this, you can skip setting up a name and password, and then TikTok will automatically generate a nickname, which you can later change.

This is what the authorization process in the application looks like:

The TikTok application is divided into two large parts: an endless feed with recommendations, which is called For you page (FYP) and other pages: dialogues, search video editor, and so on.

The success of a video is measured by landing on the For you page - the more people see it in their feed, the more it goes viral. Therefore, getting into FYP is the dream of every TikToker.

In the TikTok feed, each video has hashtags and a caption. On the right there are options to “like”, “share” and “follow the author”. The page design may seem too simple, but every element is thought out in advance - the page has everything to keep app users aware of new content and distribute it further.

Video uploading and editing: filters and effects

On TikTok, users can create and edit videos, such as adding filters, effects, stickers, text, sounds, and captions.

Here's what this feature looks like in TikTok:
Reactions: reposts, likes and comments

The reason for the high level of engagement on TikTok is the ability to actively interact with the content. For example, add a video to your favorites, leave comments, share with friends, or go to the author's page.

Reactions are icons with no additional text, making the page very easy to localize and immediately understandable by users in different regions.

In addition, TikTok immediately shows numbers - the number of reactions to the video. This includes views, likes, comments and shares. Based on this data, users can quickly rate the video and decide whether it is worth watching. The rule is simple: the more likes and shares a video has, the higher the chances that the content is good enough to spend a couple of minutes on it.

Therefore, TikTokers often say “Save so you don’t lose” or “Subscribe so you don’t miss the second part” - this is how they try to get as many reactions as possible in order to promote their videos on the application.

TikTok also has integration with other social networks. Thanks to this, your favorite videos can be shared on Instagram, Facebook or iMessages. But everything is not so simple: for example, Instagram recently introduced a competitor to TikTok - Reels. Therefore, there is an opinion that content with a TikTok watermark ends up in a shadow ban, and this is how the social network promotes its short video service.

Reaction icons in the TikTok application:
Push notifications

There are two types of push notifications on TikTok: system notifications on your phone and in-app notifications. Here's how it works: When the app isn't open, the user just sees a regular banner at the top of the screen, and when they open TikTok, a prominent pink icon appears at the bottom.

When a user clicks on it, they are taken to an "Activities" page that displays follow requests, comment and live broadcast notifications, and private messages. This page helps users stay up to date with what's happening in the app.

In addition, TikTok has settings for notifications. The user can choose how often they want to receive messages and what they want to be notified about. This feature helps improve the user experience by allowing users to decide what and when they want to see on the screen.
Reactions to others' videos

TikTok has two features that help you create your own videos based on another user's content.

Duets allow users to show another person's video on one half of the screen and their own on the other half. And with the Stitch feature, users can cut and integrate individual scenes from another user's video into their own.

Before each one, users add a suitable hashtag, such as #stitch or #duet, and then indicate the name of the user whose content they are recording their video on. Here are some examples of this function:

Private messages

This feature allows users to communicate with each other and stay in the application longer. Direct messages are located in the inbox section of the app and are indicated by an icon that looks like a paper airplane.

Inside there are recent chats with a minimalistic and simple UI/UX page design.
How the TikTok algorithm works
One of the secrets to making an application like TikTok is a smart algorithm. The more videos users watch, the more personalized the feed becomes. For a long time, no one knew how videos got onto the For you page and became popular - this mystery was shrouded in darkness. TikTokers have come up with several versions of how the video appears in others’ feeds. Some said that it should last exactly 6 seconds, others that the content should be published at exactly 12:45.

TikTok recently wrote an article on its blog where it revealed a secret. The algorithm uses the word of mouth or funnel method. Once a video is published, the app shows it to a small segment of the audience that should potentially like it. Then, if users like, share or watch the video to the end, TikTok understands that people like the video. Then it expands the audience and shows the content to more people with similar interests. Gradually, step by step, the video ends up in the feeds of millions of users.
In short, TikTok's algorithm works as a kind of digital word of mouth: the more reactions your content generates, the more viral it becomes.
To determine whether a target audience will like a post, TikTok tracks how the user interacts with the video, what headlines, sounds and hashtags they liked, what device they use, what country they are visiting from, and what language they view the content in.

How to create an app like TikTok: 5 factors to consider
TikTok is an application that resembles an unusual dessert. From the outside, its UI/UX design looks simple and minimalistic, but inside hides several layers of complex features, a smart algorithm, and many hours of mobile app development.

To give you an idea of how to make an app like TikTok in 2021, we have collected 5 important tips that you should not skip.

Study the market and competitors
If you have an idea to make an app, but you don't know how to approach it, start with market research. First, determine what problem your future application will solve and how it will benefit potential users.

Then research your competitors, learn their strengths and weaknesses, and note what customer problems they solve. If their solution targets the same users, we can download their apps and test how they interact with their audience in advance.

Write down these short results - they will be useful when developing goals and strategies for making the application.

Know your target audience
You need to get to know the people who will use your application in advance: where they live, what they do, and what language they speak.

For example, TikTok's audience lives in more than 150 countries and speaks more than 75 languages. This is quite a large reach for an early stage, so we recommend starting with one audience segment.

The same TikTok was also initially released only to the Chinese market, and then began to expand. Therefore, try to start with one or more countries and 1-2 languages, and after the first victories and results, you can start the localization process in other regions.

Design matters
UI/UX design is what hooks users and can make an application go viral. The success of a solution depends on how it greets users, what habits it creates, and how it improves their lives.

For example, TikTok is an application that saves users time: quick authorization, the ability to skip registration, choose a name later - everything to make access to content easier.

We recommend following TikTok: make the registration process quick and easy, create UI/UX taking into account the needs of the user, and come up with features that will keep a person in the application for a long time.

Find a professional team
How to make an application without a good team of experts? Very difficult. If you work with professionals, your mobile app development time will be significantly reduced: they already know how to conduct market research, map the user journey, and think through design concepts.

We always recommend outsourcing mobile application development rather than hiring specialists in-house: this will save your time and money. A ready-made full-cycle team does not need additional training - it only takes one or two meetings to learn about the project and start making the application.

Moreover, the professional team will include experts from different fields: developers, UX/UI designers, copywriters, QA analysts and project managers. Therefore, the application will not require additional specialists and costs - all problems will be solved and closed by one team.

Start with MVP
If someone asks us how to make an app to test an idea inexpensively, we always answer in the affirmative. An MVP is the first fully functional version of a product and helps many startups test an idea, get feedback from real users, and find out if your project is what the market needs today.

An MVP prevents startups from spending a fortune on a solution that may not be clear or relevant to users. Instead, you can try out your idea with less time and money without taking major risks to make the app relevant.
In general, the process of developing a mobile application like TikTok will take about 7 months and will cost $110,065.

The price includes everything the application will need: from the idea to the final release. Including a login or registration page, a video editor, a search in the content catalog, profile settings, personal messages and any other wishes.


By 2021, TikTok's audience makes up more than 2/3 of the world's population, and it only continues to grow. The application revealed a new trend: making short videos accompanied by music. They are gradually replacing all other types of content
Every day, users come to TikTok to distract themselves, find out the latest news, learn how to do makeup or cook pasta.
But how to make an application like Tiktok and attract so much user attention? The key is personalization and taking care of users. TikTok has a fast and smooth registration/login process that allows newbies to jump right into the content. It then learns their interest and customizes the feed to attract users and keep them in the app.

5 Factors to Consider Before Creating an App Like TikTok
  1. Study the market and analyze your competitors as this will help you formulate your goals, determine what makes your product unique, and set a strategy for how to make your app useful and relevant.
  2. Determine who your target audience is. First, identify your audience, think about where they live, what language they speak, and what they prefer. Then select a small market segment to test the situation and confirm the hypothesis.
  3. Don't forget about UI/UX design. An intuitive and pleasant interface directly affects user satisfaction and the amount of time they spend in the application.
  4. Collaborate with professionals. The right specialists will help you realize all your dreams and bring your wildest business ideas to life. Want your videos sorted by trends or tags? Or have private premium accounts so no one can see what you've liked, commented on, or saved? Our developers will complete any task that confirms your hypothesis.
  5. Start with MVP. Before making an application, start with a minimal but workable set of functions. An MVP will help you implement your idea faster and save your company's budget until you are sure that the solution meets the needs of the market and is aimed at the right audience.
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