How Long Does it Take to Develop an App?
There are two questions every person with an idea for an app asks immediately: first – how much it will cost, and second – how long it will take to develop an app. Here we’re going to answer the latter question. Spoiler alert: it depends on many factors!
Establishing a realistic timeframe is one of the most crucial elements of a successful app development process. You do need to ask your team for an estimation of how many hours does it take to develop an app. Time is money and you need to manage your budget wisely.
However, there’s no fixed answer on how long does it take to build an app because there are many elements that have to be considered. Coding is only a small part of it. That is why in this article we will take a look at the app development process to give you an overview of what to expect in terms of how much time it will take to create your app – from the idea to the launch date.
How Long Does it Take to Develop an App?
You’ll find plenty of answers to that question on the web: 2-3 months, 18 weeks, 6 months up to a year. All of them could be true. But what you really need to pay attention to are the factors that went into estimating the development process timeframe.
The deciding factor is what type of app you want to create. The more complex it is, the longer it will take to create it – that’s a no-brainer. If what you have in mind is a visually stunning mobile game, be prepared to invest at least a year of your time before it reaches the players. If it’s a simple social media platform similar to what’s already popular in the digital sphere, it could take as little as 2 months from the initial kick-off to the day of release at app stores. Every case is unique.
Before You Start the Development Process – Creating an RFP
Developing an app usually doesn’t start with your first call to the software house of choice. If you want to have a fulfilling conversation with potential business partners, you need to be well prepared and show. To be precise, you need a Request For Proposal (RFP). It’s a document well-known in the world of business that has found its place in the IT market. It will be the starting point of your negotiations and an important factor in estimating how much time does it take to make an app like yours.
Below you’ll find the key components of an RFP that you can later present to software teams:
- Describe in detail what kind of problem you want to resolve with your app.
- Define the scope of the service – specify your expectations by providing a list of services you’d like to receive, a list of features your app should have, and the tech stack (it doesn’t have to be very detailed but you should know if you want web, mobile, iOS, Android, or all of them). Think about if you need consulting services, design, marketing – depending on the size of the software house, you can get a lot more than just code.
- Establish business goals – think about what will let you know that your app is successful in 1 month, 3 months, and a year after the launch date, including ROI (Return of Investment).
- Make yourself clear if you want to receive a prototype, an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), or a fully-fledged app.
- Request for the pricing of every service and details about the experience of people potentially involved in the project.
- Ask for a timetable.
- Try to specify what has to happen during the cooperation to make the end product a success to let your potential team know what you’re looking for.
It doesn’t matter how long the RFP is – it can take a few paragraphs or rival published novels. All that matters is that you communicate your idea as clearly as possible so the development team can give you a very close estimate of how long it takes to make an app the way you imagined it to be.
Key Stages of Mobile App Development
In this section, we are going to answer how long does it take to develop an app based on different stages of app development. The timeframes suggested below are a rough estimation. They will change according to the size and complexity of your idea for an app.
You can use the list below in your RFP so the software house can provide you with a schedule based on their development process.
- Research and planning (2-4 weeks)
The first stage of developing a mobile app should address two things:
- What kind of problem this app will solve?
- Is there an app similar to it already on the market?
Precise answers will help you define your target audience and competitors. Good research is the basis for not only the development of the mobile app but also for an effective marketing strategy. Think about how is your app different and what makes it better? That stage can be a source of inspiration for layouts and potential monetization techniques.
It’s hard to say how much time this stage can take: you could find relevant information on your own or along with your development team. They should have the tools and experience necessary to gain relevant insights.
Remember that you do not have to reinvent the wheel. Your app can solve a problem that has been present for years and has multiple solutions. What matters is that your solution should be easier, more entertaining, and visually appealing. That’s why research is so important.
- UX Design Process (2-3 weeks)
User experience (UX) is a sum of interactions users are going to have with your app. The more complex your app, the longer it will take to design the most useful UX. It also matters if you have a general idea of how your app will look like or if you rely entirely on the designer.
The first stage is to create the flow of your app – the step-by-step path the users will make to reach their goal. This is called wireframing. You can create wireframes on your own and present the designer with a mockup – all you need is a piece of paper and a pencil. That will speed up the process. It’s important to create the most intuitive navigation possible to minimize the cognitive load for your potential users. Wireframes will define how many screens your app should have. Later on, designers create the user interface (UI), meaning elements like buttons, logos, icons, etc. With finalized UX and UI, you have a prototype of your app.
The decisions taken during the design process should be consulted with developers and testers to lower the risk of costly changes to the initial plan.
- Development Process (12-14 weeks)
This is the stage that usually takes up the most time in the app development process. Good code is necessary for the apps’ success. When considering how many hours does it take to make an app, you need to take into account two types of development: backend and frontend. The matter of how long does it take to develop an app relies mostly on how quickly the coding process goes during both stages of development.
- QA Stage (2-3 weeks)
The purpose of Quality Assurance (QA) is to find any bugs or glitches that could ruin your apps’ potential. Quality testing checks if the app does what it’s supposed to do. It combines manual and automated techniques. Testing is essential to check the functionality and compatibility of your app. This step basically makes sure that you’re putting on the market the best product possible.
Quality assurance shouldn’t be seen as the final stage of the development process but rather as a part of earlier stages. QA is great to validate your ideas and prevent mistakes.
- Launch (1 week or less)
Now that the app is ready, it’s going to be released in app stores for users to download. First, the app is subjected to review. It is known that the time before receiving the acceptance differs from store to store.
Apple App Store is (in)famous for taking quite a long time to release the app. On average, it takes around 2 days, but that waiting time could be longer based It can take up to a week so always make sure your app complies with Apple’s guidelines before you submit it for review.
With Google Play Store, things move a bit faster. Although it takes about 3 days for your app to go live, if you ever decide to launch more apps after your first one, they will be accepted within 2 hours!
Read also: Can You Patent an App and How to Do It?
What can slows down the process of app development?
We estimate how long does it take to create an app with a positive mindset. However, things don’t always go as planned. Beware of the common mistakes listed below.
Lack of clear vision
It’s important to believe in your idea, but it’s even more important to understand how it’s supposed to exist in the real world. A well-thought idea for an app has defined functionality The goal should be clear to everyone in the development team. That is why it is so important to put effort into the groundwork of research and planning.
Not enough testing
Some believe that QA is a headache that should be avoided and that developers are able to test the app themselves. While the latter part isn’t untrue, QA is absolutely necessary. It’s a step that’s often cut from the development process for savings, but in the end, the cost of not testing your app is much higher than what you’d spend on proper QA.
Perfectionism is seen as a good quality to have but sometimes done is better than perfect. Constantly reorganizing the structure of the app, changing directions, and adding new features right before the deployment date is sure of staggering your app. Don’t make hast decisions just to retract a few days later.
Building an app in an agile environment is a good way of avoiding slowing down the app development process. However, the responsibility lies mostly on you and your ability to make decisions.
You may come across a situation where you don’t have developers with enough experience to deliver a smooth app development process. No one’s perfect, sure, but you should work with the best if you want to save time. They won’t be the cheapest option on the market, but they will be more reliable in the long run. Always check the development’s company credentials before jumping into cooperation. If there are competencies missing, don’t worry – you can look into outsourcing or body leasing.
How to speed up the time of application development?
If you’re in the process of estimating how much time does it take to make an app according to your idea, consider the following:
Finding the perfect software house with all the right competencies may take a long time. Outsourcing different tasks to specialized firms can speed up the process of developing your app. You can use outsourcing during the initial stages of app development and during the coding process. Coordinating different specialists may be a challenge but the time dedicated to building your app decreases accordingly.
- Body leasing
Body leasing is a form of outsourcing where competencies are selected strictly in terms of the required knowledge and skills to complete a project. Body leasing is popular because it allows hiring the right person for the job almost immediately when the need arises. The specialist can work on the project for just a few days. It speeds up the process because there’s no need for extensive contracts.
MVP (Minimum Viable Product) is the most basic version of your app. It has only the most essential features. It is not stuffed with all the cool features out there in the market. MVP allows you to test your app in the market with only its core functionality which makes the development process a lot shorter. This way you can see what the users think about your app. If the feedback is positive, you can invest more and develop new features.
As you can see, the clue to minimize the time of how long does it take to build an app depends mostly on smart planning and delegating tasks.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to developing an app. Time is of the essence, but you should not rush an app only to have a bad quality product in the end. Most apps die because they aren’t at the quality the market demands. Different types of apps take their individual development app. Research, a pre-development stage, is essential for quick a development process. When done right, research and planning save you a lot of time. Invest your time in creating a detailed RFP to choose the best team for your project. Try to understand different stages of the development process to grasp how long it will take before your app shows up in the app stores. Always ask for realistic timeframes and don’t expect miracles. Beware of the temptation to cut the testing stage to save money – it will come back to haunt you. Be clear about your expectations and have precise goals. The more decisive you are, the quicker you will get your app done. Constant back-and-forth and late changes will slow down the development process immensely. Keep in mind that experienced app developers have a better understanding of how to speed up development without sacrificing quality. If you find yourself in need of specialists, look into outsourcing and body leasing. Most importantly, think about if your app is going to benefit from an MVP. Developing an app idea just with the basic features is quick, relatively cheap, and allows you to really test the waters before diving into the deep blue of full-stack app development.
Remember that the timeframes shown above are a subject of change. Everything depends on the type of app you are developing and how much work you put into pre-production!
For more information about mobile app development read our related articles: