How Long Does It Take To Develop An App

When a company is planning app development, you need to understand the scope of the project and predict the amount of time for the workload. With more than 2.5 billion apps available on Google Store alone, it’s natural that duration and cost of app development can’t be universal – there are too many variables in play. In reality, there’s no universal timeline for building a mobile app

However, you can trace processes and factors that influence the duration and outcomes of application development projects. In our experience, the medium duration of an app development project is about 4-6 months, but building a mobile app with extra simple or complex functionality (for instance, if you want to build a virtual or augmented reality app) will obviously differ. To determine the project duration for your particular product, take a look at the factors that influence any mobile app development. 

Factors that influence the duration of app development

It’s important for business owners to understand the specifics of your development product in order to create a precise estimate for the project. Here’s a checklist of factors that you need to go over before calculating the time needed to build your app. 

The business model and scope of the app

The scope of the application determines its functionality, business model, platforms that need to be supported. Additionally, you need to identify a core structure of the solution before you build it – here’s how to do it. 

  • Recognize the core feature. Each application has a core task, around which all other features are centered. For instance, a social media mobile app allows messaging to other people, while a task planner is primarily designed to store people’s tasks.
  • Define which devices you’d like to support. Decide if you aim for smartphones, tablets, and determine which OS (Android, iOS) you’d like to target. 
  • Analyze competitors: you need to see if other mobile apps on your niche are simple (1-3 features) or complex (dozens of possibilities, like AI, virtual or augmented reality, and others). 

Determine what kind of final user experience you’d like to achieve in your app. It’s helpful to experience your own user preferences and see what features you’d like to build in your app. 

Features and design of the mobile app

After you know the target audience and purpose of the application, it’s time to determine clear objectives that the app will solve and figure out how functionality and design can help to meet these needs. 

  • Determine the primary goal: the main feature of the app is determined by the key need that your target audience faces;
  • Translate goals into functionality themes: these are generalized goals of your application that will define its development and promotion. For a messaging tool, a fast exchange of messages is the main theme. For a booking mobile app, it’s the connection between service providers and clients. 
  • Plan in moderation: often, business owners rush to define as many features as they can, trying to incorporate all additional features that they saw in competitive solutions. Instead, build the essential app functionality for your first release – it will significantly cut the duration of the project. 

The budget of the mobile app

App’s budget is directly connected to its duration. If you have resources to hire bigger teams, you can achieve results faster. You can write multiple features at a time, pay managers who will connect the dots, and employ testing teams early on. However, increasing a budget isn’t a shortcut to a faster delivery: in some cases, managing a bigger team actually slows down the process of app development. 

If you’d like to increase the speed of the team’s performance, an alternate road to take is automation. Instead of increasing the number of involved experts, you can invest in more experienced professionals who know how to set up automated algorithms to build your app. It’s a long-term investment because these practices can be used throughout the entire lifecycle of the mobile app.

Available skills and knowledge

Lastly, the duration of the project depends on the chosen tech stack and the expertise of a hired team. If you are working on complicated projects with rare technologies and complex innovation (deep machine learning, blockchain, big data, virtual reality), the project will take more time. Obviously, if a team has experience of building such apps in your field, it might not affect the time estimates quite as much. 

Stages of app development

External factors influence the efficiency of application development to an extent. The other aspect is organization – the way you plan out the project, manage development stages and connect team members. Here is an overview of the main development stages and time estimates for each one. 

Idea collection for the app

Before sending the project into development, you need to have a vision – a defined business and financial model of the app, understanding of the market and target audiences, and collect examples from the industry. 

Dedicating 1-2 weeks to brainstorming and research saves a lot of time in the future. Before starting the development stage, it’s recommended to create a white paper (a 10-50-page long document), where you describe your app, the challenges that it solves, possible complications, and research references. 

At this stage, you can consider various concepts of a mobile app, prepare research materials for each of them, test them on target audiences via virtual forms, and choose the one that performed the best. 

Mobile app development planning

You need to schedule development activities, prepare requirements for the development team. This stage takes about a week, often less. Describe how much time you expect for the delivery of each feature, how much time you are willing to accommodate for delays, and assign responsible people for each stage. 

If you are hiring a third-party vendor, describe these details and document where both parties agree on project deliverables, the app’s functionality, requirements, risks, mediation parties if there are conflicts, and deadlines. 

App design and development: building the functionality

In this stage, the team is focused on building UI, Front End, and Back End of the application. Depending on the complexity, this stage takes about 6 weeks. The user interface and front-end design are built by graphic designers: teams prepare screens for each feature, create the visual identity, style, choose fonts, colors, and elements. The goal is to create a highly-performing app that responds to the described objectives. 

The frontend and back end are built by front-end and backend-developers. The front end design is responsible for the user view of the application. The backend developers connect it to the admin side – the database, servers, functionality, APIs – the technical aspects that enable performing planned activities. 

Testing app builds

To know that your application is finished and ready for release, you need to check its functionality, interface, speed, performance accuracy, and compatibility with devices (smartphones, m tables, augmented and virtual reality glasses, etc). This stage takes 3-4 weeks, and usually starts during the development stages.

Front-end, back-end developers and testers can cooperate. The Quality Assurance team can pinpoint technical issues in the product real-time – that way developers don’t have to rewrite so much code. Errors are caught in time, isolated, and deleted. 

To make this stage faster, you can consider automated testing – a practice of using algorithms to perform repetitive actions in the mobile app, mimic users’ interactions, and check redundant operations. Now companies can use AI to make automated testing more human and accurate – this saves a lot of time in the long run. 

The final app release

When the project is evaluated by the testing team, it’s time to bring it to the end user – this stage takes about 1-2 weeks. The ready solution is deployed to the server – here, you’ll be running backend operations and enabling the functionality of the solution. Once the app is uploaded, you need to publish the link to it on the corporate website, Apple Store, Google Play, and other mobile app catalogs. You can release a beta version first to the virtual community of volunteers – they will help to identify bugs and provide feedback. 

Conclusion: how to faster finish app development

Application development is a complex process that requires thorough planning and a clear vision. Vague project requirements, inexperienced teams, an unclear business model can stall the project’s progress. To increase your productivity, consider building app prototypes with essential functionality instead of trying to accommodate additional features, automate as many activities as possible, use virtual devices, and hire a team that worked in your industry before and knows its specifics. 

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