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How long does it take to develop an app blog

How long does it take to develop an app

Paradoxical as it may sound, creating a precise app development timeline requires experience and time. Companies and clients understand the importance of establishing a timeline. They use this to meet the investor requirements and stick to product deadlines.

This article takes a detailed look at each stage of app development. The aim is to cover specific topics. That way, you clearly understand the app development timeline and what is possible and what isn’t. Listed below are the main questions this article discusses:

1)      How much time is spent transforming an app from an idea into a working product?

2)      Which stages of app development take the most time?

3)      What are the factors that could impact the app development timelines?

4)      Is there any way to speed up the app development process?

A summary of the app development timeline

The development span for a regular app may take anywhere from four to seven months to complete. The timeline here relies primarily on the project complexity, the total number of features to add, and a team of experienced software developers

App complexityApproximate development time
Simple app2-4 months
Medium complexity app4-7 months
Large scale app7-12+ months

Simple apps

Simple apps are template-based with very little work done in the way of custom coding. These apps have basic functionality and a simple UI. Also, these apps do not have any APIs, meaning they cannot send and receive data from other systems. The apps store data locally since there is no synchronization with any cloud services. Hence, these apps take anywhere from two to four months to complete.

The best example of this type is a to-do list app. Here, the user can add, edit, delete, and mark tasks as complete.

Medium complexity apps

These apps have more features compared to the previous type. They also come with a customized user interface. A medium-complexity app integrates external APIs and enables you to log in via social media accounts. Some apps use the device’s built-in features like the camera and GPS to function properly. Also, apps in this category support databases and cloud services.

The best example of this type is a fitness-tracking app. These apps measure physical activities through the device’s sensors. These apps also integrate with third-party devices like wearables.

Complex or large-scale apps

This app comes equipped with advanced features and functions. It has a complex backend system always working. Large-scale apps integrate with multiple systems and synch with cloud services. They handle complex user interactions like activities that require real-time data exchange, payment processing, and more. The development time for these apps spans anywhere from seven to twelve months or beyond. That timeline can increase based on any additional features added to the app.

The best example of these types is a mobile banking app. These apps have multi-factor login, multiple payment options, mobile check deposits, money transfers, real-time account insights, customer service features, and integrated financial planning.

These are a few examples of the different apps in the sector and their development cycle. Do keep in mind that each app varies. Complexity is but one of many factors that affect the project’s timeline.

Stages of app development

Every step of the development process impacts the overall timeline of app development. These include steps like discovery, initial planning, task allotment, and more. Here, we’re breaking down the typical durations of each app development phase. That way, you know what to expect as the project moves forward.

The discovery stage

The start of any app development begins with the discovery process. Here, the idea moves from something fluid and unclear to something defined. Altogether, the discovery stage takes six to eight weeks to complete.

Often, many founders or product owners underestimate this part. The reason is that they have an idea and don’t know what to do next. Research helps ground the idea by checking if there’s a place for it in the market. It also checks if the audience wants or needs the product in the first place.

Research also helps expose areas in the market ripe for improvement. Here, companies also perform market analysis to prioritize the needs and define the features. Research also ensures that business goals are to be met.

There are only two instances where a company can skip the research part. The first is when the research is already done or if the team involved are experts in the industry. Despite that, it is recommended to always carry out a study as it helps gather and collate the data into a single place.

Time taken to validate the idea– Following the research comes the validation. This process takes one week to complete. Here, the team polishes the knowledge gathered during research. Validation is where the company talks to potential clients, checks ideas and ensures the audience wants the product.

Time taken to create a product strategy– Product strategy goes beyond a simple step-by-step product development plan. Here is where you describe the business goals and how the product reaches them. Typically, this process is done within the span of two weeks.

This process provides clarity to everyone involved in product development. Now, everyone understands what is needed and required. That way, there’s minimal room for error in delays and miscommunication.

How long to prototype the app- This step is where the team begins developing a product prototype. Note that the app development process is not linear. A good app development process keeps studying the market, following the competition, and making tweaks to the product.

Do not confuse a prototype with a PoC or an MVP. A prototype is the first try and visualizing a working solution. The prototype does not have animation and complete functionality. The product here is built for two users and it means to test the app’s key features. This process takes around one week to complete.

How much time does it take to validate the prototype?

Validating the prototype requires testing it with at least three or five users. They provide feedback and insights into things like user interaction, clear navigation, and valuable features. Typically, a company completes this process within one week.

Design and development

The discovery stage helps you build the first version of the app, and test and adapt it based on user feedback. This stage is a very important part of the app development process. Passing it saves you from wasting additional time during design and development.

Time taken to design the app– App design encompasses the user interface and user experience. This stage and the development part are the unpredictable parts of the process. Much time is consumed thanks to the changing requirements and new technologies coming out at great speed. The question then becomes how to make the design process constant and less unpredictable. One solution to this problem is through a lean UX design process.

The primary deliverables here include detailed wireframes and accurate prototypes. The wireframes lay out the app’s structure and framework. The prototypes give a realistic preview of the app’s feel and look. This process takes at least two or three months.

How long to code the app– Coding typically takes two months to complete. A medium-sized app takes four or five months to complete and a large app easily takes six months. Coding involves setting the technical architecture, UI coding, backend development, implementation, integration, and testing.

Often, management assumes they can reduce development time by adding in more people. However, this does not decrease the development time. It increases the time.

Imagine a scenario where two developers work on a project. Their combined efficiency is at the level of five thanks to things like knowledge sharing, communication, etc. When you add more developers to the work, the work doesn’t go faster.

Product launch timeline

Only after the company completes the research, idea validation, product strategy, test prototypes, ready design, and perfectly coded app can they reach this point. Now, they have a product ready to introduce to the world.

Preparing for the app launch comes down to two parts. These parts are the beta and alpha releases. The alpha release is an early pre-release version of the app. This app is reviewed by testers within the company. Beta testing is done by the end-users and there are more of them than alpha testers.

A big part of the pre-launch process is the cyclical nature of submissions and reviews. This reason is why the pre-launch phase takes anywhere between two weeks to one month. The iOS store and Google Play Store have different viewing processes.

Apple has a very detailed reviewing process. However, Android uses an algorithm to pre-analyze the app. Apple conducts the review by a team of reviewers. On Apple, the apps are reviewed within 24 hours but it can take longer. Google says that app reviews can take upwards of seven days or longer based on exceptional cases.

Factors that influence app development timelines

Features and complexity

As said, the complexity of the features you want your app to have affects the software build time. These features affect the coding part and it impacts the design efforts. An app dealing with multiple functional components or dealing with real-time data cannot be completed in just a few weeks.

For example, developing an app like TikTok or something similar takes 9 to 18 months or more. The timeline increases when aiming for a high-quality product that supports a broad audience from the start. This timeline assumes the company has the right people for the job and is capable of growing the team over time.

Team experience

A team’s expertise level plays a significant role in the project timeline. An experienced team can often overcome complex tasks and reduce the development time. The converse is also true.

Platform choice

Making an app for multiple platforms like the web, Android, and iOS increases development time. Cross-platform development tools can reduce the time but they come with their limitations. 

Design complexity

Once again, design is one of the biggest time consumers in the app development phase. An app going for a highly customized UI with intricate designs stretches out the timeline. The designs here refer to animations, transitions, and engaging interactive elements that make the UX pop. These extra flourishes help the app stand out but also demand more time during the development process.

Testing and QA

Testing takes place across different devices, use cases, and platforms to ensure the app works as intended. Note that testing for all these outcomes influences the overall development timeline. The deeper the testing, the longer the development cycle extends. The timeline further increases if bugs are found that require backtracking and reworking parts of the app.

In summation

This information gives you a clear idea of the app development time. Altogether, the time taken to fully develop the app takes around seven to twelve months.

Many factors affect the development time. Of course, there are a few ways to decrease the development time. Communication is important here and never aim for the stars. Clear requirements, timely responses, and shared responsibility all come together to help a company develop and launch a successful app. 

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