How Long Does it Take to Make an App? Full Timeline

How Long Does it Take to Make an App?

Having a mobile app developed can be a time-consuming project. It can be reduced drastically by knowing the key time-consuming factors, having clarity during the pre-development phase, and prioritizing success over complex features.

Updated on :
November 26th, 2020
Twinkle Kalkandha
Twinkle Kalkandha
Product Strategist

Creating an application can take anywhere from 3 to 10 months depending upon the magnitude and scope intended for the app.

This doesn’t represent an actual fact. A simple application can be developed in less than 3 months and more complex ones can take a lot longer than 10 months. This however is an accurate range for the average time to develop an app.

To truly understand how long it will take for you to develop the app, you need to break it down into phases to measure the time taken for each individual phase.

How Long Does It Take To Create An App? 7 Steps Of Development & Their Timeline

All stages of development come with its own timeline and focusing on them separately can help in reducing the total time.

1) Creating a project brief ~ 2 weeks

The first and most important step for app development is creating a project brief. A typical brief covers the following components-

a) Defining project goals & metrics of success

Setting the right expectations for the development and quality of the app is essential to get the most out of your app development company. This also helps in setting a foundation for development strategy & success.

b) Request for proposal or RFP

A request for proposal is a general road map that needs to be sent to the application development company of your choice.

RFP’s usually make the development process too rigid, this takes away some creative opportunities that developers might want to explore.
It is important to hear the developer’s perspective on the project and leave room for innovation and exploration.

c) A non-disclosure agreement

To safeguard the application idea/technology/USP or any important aspect of the project, a non-disclosure needs to be signed by the app development company.

d) Setting a budget

Deciding on an application budget in advance and then creating a plan around the budget is a good strategy to save money.

You need to take note of all operational factors, employee’s salary, long term financial health, ROI, etc before setting a budget for the app.

Do note that the budget also depends on the complexity of the app & platform used.

e) Defining project timeline range

An approximate deadline for the app development process will help in setting time goals for each stage of development.

2) Project research ~ 3 to 5 Weeks

The research can be done by you, the application development company, or a third-party research firm.
Here, project research doesn’t just mean figuring out whether the app will work, there is a lot more to it. The objective of pre-development research is to cover the following points-

MVP (Minimum Viable Product)

An MVP refers to a simple minimal version of the product that is used to test customer feedback on the features and the market demand of the app idea.

User Need

Getting an idea about the users and what they can get from your application. In the process, also getting an idea about pages required and the chronology of app navigation.

Base Prototype

A prototype at this stage means a basic structure with some direction towards the layout, features, and functions of the app.So the viability of this prototype can be used for user testing & subsequently app development.

3) Technical Feasibility ~ 1 to 2 weeks

The research stage gives a good idea about how your idea will appeal to the audience and what features the application should have & which feature should have more focus.

Looking at the idea from the point of view of developers will answer these 2 questions-

  • Which technology or development framework is best suited for app stability and features?
  • Which technology is most scalable and future-oriented?

It is important to come to a conclusion with supporting evidence. The cost & time to switch from one technology to another can be very high.

4) How long does it take to develop an app? Prototyping & Development ~ 10 to 16 weeks

The development phase takes up the biggest chunk of time. 4 major elements of development time-

Prototyping – Even if the initial project plan had a base prototype, it is still extremely important to develop a functional prototype so that all participants in the app development phase are on the same page when it comes to execution.

UI/UX & Graphic Design – Developing a smooth user interface for rich user experience can make or break an app.

Backend Development – Laying down the foundation of the app “the brain behind the operations”. Back end development is a delicate and time-consuming task which defines the app logic and server communication.

Frontend development- The face of the app or the layout that users interact with is built with front-end development.

The development phase takes up the most amount of time because this is the step where the actual product is being given shape, brain, and muscle. The role of a project manager is to manage the development team & ensure that the whole process is done within the timeframe.

5) Testing Phase ~ 2 to 5 weeks

Application testing is an extremely critical aspect of mobile development.

Even after months of planning and development, there is always going to be some operational or UI related problem. Extensive beta testing before an app release aims to check all quality parameters for the application use.

Multi-device compatibility often creates some discrepancy from the intended performance. These are identified by quality testers throughout all platforms & devices.

Once testing detects non-functioning elements of the app. The development team jumps in to fix those defects and the app goes through testing again to check the success of implemented changes.

This is the reason testing can be a bit time-consuming. It is essential to give enough time to vigorously test the app before launching it on app stores.

6) App store Deployment ~ 1 to 2 weeks

Finally, your product is ready to shine, testing is done and you are all set.
Releasing the application on Google play store & iOS is the next step. There are two-time affecting aspects here-

a) Submission

Application submission is a pretty straightforward task. You are expected to submit the following details to the app store (for both Google Play store & Apple store).

  • Details of the company and contact information
  • Relevant Screenshots
  • Description of the app
  • Icons
  • Demonstrations

b) Review

Google Play Store: They have an automated review algorithm in place. This automatically scans the app to check for violations & eligibility.

Apple Store: Their review process takes a lot longer than google play store, credited to their detailed review process. Apple reviews each application manually before allowing its entry into the apple store.

7) Application Maintenance ~ Ongoing

Once an application is live on app stores, it has officially become a full-fledged product that your users can enjoy but the task doesn’t end here.

A MoEngage study stated that 56% of users uninstall their application within 7 days of installation. A big reason for that is out of date features or app instability.

Maintaining an application isn’t a one time task, it is constantly ongoing to ensure a better user experience.

App Maintenance factors in the following points:

Customer Feedback regarding the application – If the app users face any issue in operating the app then it would be wise to consider a modification. A customer-centric approach increases user satisfaction & retention.

Feature update – New features are to be added based on any technology trend or competition. This keeps things fresh for the users.

Performance check – Through regular app maintenance, developers can keep a check for any bugs or glitches and fix them before it becomes a big inconvenience for customers.

Server maintenance- Applications offering multi-layered rich experience have to manage a lot of user data. This puts a lot of load on the server which can cause complications in-app functionality.

Through regular maintenance & updation of the system code, this complication can be easily managed. Application maintenance makes sure that the app is high performing & customer-centric.

Factors Affecting App Development Time

The question “how long does it take to make an app” can also be approached from another perspective.
There are various factors that impact different stages of app development and can contribute to production delays. When you decide to create an application for your idea, there are a number of things you need to consider for the nature and scope of the app.

Make sure to ask yourself the right questions when developing a mobile app. These things have a major impact on the app timeline.

When deciding on “how long does it take to build an app?”. First, ask yourself what you expect from the app. The scope of the app is a resounding factor for development time. It covers the following:-

Application Complexity

More the layers and interconnected communication networks, more the complexity.

When there are many pathways interconnected to each other than it requires an intricate, well thought out back end structure. A solid foundation would support application performance.

Creating such a foundation can take a long time that brings up the total development time to 8 – 12 months. Advanced applications also require a large amount of maintenance & regular updation.

Number & Nature of Features

The number of features and their respective purpose contribute to development time. An app with a single purpose and with very limited features can be developed in less than a month.

Platform (Android or iOS)

As a business, your core objective would be to reach as many customers as you can. Now, this begs the question, where are your customers? Android? iOS? or both?

Remember that the answer to this also has to align with your application budget.

Creating 2 separate apps: 1 for android and 1 for iOS will be very time consuming and expensive.

If you target only 1 platform then you can significantly reduce development time and money.

If your answer is both and you don’t have a strong budget then you will have to consider going for a cross-platform app.

Devices

The application interface has to be modulated according to devices – Phone, tablet, Smart TV, wearable, etc.
Although multiple device support isn’t as time-consuming as it used to be, it can still affect app creation time if you choose to develop an app for numerous devices.

App development budget

Most small businesses benefit from mobile apps due to the increased reach, command over user experience, and increased conversion rate of mobile phone apps. It can also be a challenge for startups to create their dream app within their budget.

To get the relation between budget and time, understand that the cost involved in app development factors in:

  • Number of developers assigned to your app
  • Resources used to make the app ( Development frameworks, third-party API’s, off the shelf solutions, etc)

Now consider the question “how long does it take to make an app?” Well as long as you have the money to support the developers & resources, you can have your app built.

Evaluate how long will the budget fund your app, this is also called a “runway”. You have to make sure your app gets made within the “runway” period.

If the complexity & number of features will take about 6 to 8 months to develop but you only have the budget for 4 months then consider cutting out less important features so you can make the app within the four month window.

Having a strong budget doesn’t mean that you have an indefinite time frame. In fact, this often makes people uncertain about the development time.

Remember the initial time frame & add an extra 1-2 months at the most but stick to that timeline.

Operational Timeline

An essential part of running a business is setting goals and setting up a strategy of achieving those targets.
Setting up an operational timeline for your company will give you more clarity about the task at hand, when to expect completion and what your next plan of action will be.

Consider this, if you have set an operational timeline for app development as 6 months then you can plan your pre-launch & post-launch detailed marketing strategy on the basis of this set timeline.

Furthermore, this can also act as a base for you to sort other functions of the app and align them with the application timeline:- Hiring a marketing team, industry tie-ups, customer support outsourcing, etc.

Hence, setting up a business timeline for development will give your app development agency a good idea about the deadline and they can plan the different phases of development accordingly.

Stick to The Time Schedule But Not Too Tightly

Answering “how long does it take to build a mobile app, is about setting standards for complexity, choosing the right platform and factoring in your company’s budget. Development time is influenced by both controllable & un-predictable factors. An effective pre-planning ensures that minimal time is wasted during the development stage.

When communicating with a development company, it’s important to communicate your timeline expectations and also understand their process workflow.

Sticking to the timeline keeps the whole team focused and goal-oriented but there needs to be some wiggle room for creativity. After all, the quality of a product is an uncompromising end result for every business.

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