Update: I tried the textra app and didn't like it compared to messaging+. The customization was archaic in comparison. I did like the different plug-ins for the emojoi's that was cool.As far as launchers go try LINE launcher. I have been using it for about a year and love it. The customization is out of this world. I tried Nova because everyone praises it but, didn't click with it.
I'm currently using Verizons messaging + app for texting, before that I was using the stock app. So messaging + was a huge upgrade. I may try some of the text apps mention above.
The only thing I miss with using messaging + Vs. The stock is I was able to set a system shortcut by tapping the home key twice to get to the stock text app. With the 3rd party app I'm not able to do that.