August 14, 2019

“Building a mobile application for your business is influenced by today’s market needs and requirements. Customers are looking for functionality, mobility, and convenience. When the company wants to implement the idea in life, one of the things to consider is the app development timeline. In this article, we’ll answer the frequently asked question “how long does it take to make an app”.

 

Whenever you decide to create a mobile application, your company should take into account a lot of aspects. The point is that you need to understand the app development process to estimate its timeline. Careful and detailed planning is essential as every company wants to know when they will be able to launch the mobile application on the market. Thus, it is required to find an answer to “how long does it take to make an app”. As long as you set expectations for app features and the overall complexity, you will be able to find out how long to build an app.

List of Contents

After defining needs and understanding the general app development timeline, you can estimate the approximate timeframes for each stage of the project. It greatly depends on how well and long you plan, organize, and implement the overall process. Despite the fact that all applications are different, there are some cornerstones to consider in every particular case.

APP DEVELOPMENT TIMELINE AND PROCESS

Understanding the overall process helps to estimate the approximate timeline for mobile app development. It covers tightly-connected stages that every application goes through. Let’s have a look at those stages and explain what is going on during each of them.

Business analysis

On this stage, the team defines the requirements and arranges the app development process. The business analysts help to differentiate the must-have features from nice-to-have ones, provides consultation, document everything about the future app starting with the back-end architecture and ending with wireframing of the main screens.  All this is done to make sure that the final solution will be corresponding to the business goals.

The main objective during this stage is to create project documentation (like Specification Requirements Document) where all the functionality of the application will be described and explained in detail. It also includes mock-ups of the screens and user stories which explains the logic behind everything, how users will interact with the application and its UI elements, etc.

UX design

Conducting the UX design is based on dealing with screens, fields, button positions, etc. It is organizing how everything will work and how all the parts are related. The designer plans the screen overview and where particular buttons will be located. The great UX design is always a balance between giving users what they need and initial business purposes. Besides that, UX designers are responsible for simple and intuitive navigation that all users look for.

In general, UX design is about building the chains of actions that will be required from the users to complete one or another task and giving them all the necessary controls to achieve certain results like completing the order or adding payment methods such as the credit card.

UI design

On this stage, the designers conduct attractive design like the overall visual stylistics, the color schema of the app, effects, transitions, animations where clarity and efficiency are the priority. Since every part should feel united, correspond to the general look of the application, they choose colors, textures, button shapes, font width, etc. UI designers are also looking for consistent and structural functionality across different OS using the advantages of both platforms.

Back-end development

The back-end developers are in charge of building the back-end architecture like the app server and the database. Every dynamic application requires data synchronization, storage capability and ability to keep up with various HTTP methods. All these capabilities rely on the work of the back-end developer.

Front-end development

The main task of the front-end developers is to create the interface of the application. Having the graphical assets produced by the UX and UI design teams, they try to render the app’s appearance as close to the initial conception as possible. This is, arguably, the main part of the development process from the business perspective in today’s highly competitive market. The application can have some limitations in functionality or even issues on the back-end and still be successful. At the same time, laggy or just poorly designed interface means instant and inevitable failure at the start.

Testing and launching

In order to launch the mobile application on the market, it has to go through a series of tests. It includes manual and automated QA as well as gathering users’ feedback. Testing provides important details that might not have been taken into consideration previously.

Post-launch support and maintenance

Post-launching support and maintenance is an operation which includes supporting and careful app observation by the team to manage all unexpected behavior. This stage cannot be skipped as long as the company is interested in excellent users’ experience and establishing long-lasting relationships with them.

It is obvious that quality takes time. All mobile applications are obligatory to provide excellent performance. They come in different shapes and sizes and it is almost impossible to give a certain answer to questions like “how long does it take to make an app”. However, there is a way to make some generalization. For that, we’ll use analogy and the reader will be able to make pretty accurate assumptions about his application development time comparing our example with his needs.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE AN APP: EXAMPLE OF A FOOD DELIVERY SERVICE

Let’s take an example of food delivery services like UberEats, Seamless, GrubHub. The competition is really tough here. All of the aforementioned services are basically aggregators of the menus from many places. But for this instance, we’ll shrink the variety of places to only one and imagine how long it takes to develop an app for one restaurant to provide the delivery services to potential clients.

Almost every restaurant offers delivery but the ways of carrying it out differ considerably. The customers are not interested in long ordering over the phone anymore whereas they can make a few taps on their phone. They prefer simplicity and accessibility. So how long does it take to create an app that corresponds to users’ needs and improve the business? We’ll try to go through each development stage and give their average timeline using the example of such an application. In order to shorten the app development timeline, the stages could be done in parallel however some of them must be delivered separately.

app development timeline

Planning Stage (2 – 3 weeks)

It is a fundamental stage that cannot be combined with any other for obvious reasons. Planning requires special attention to both sides: the customer and the development team. This stage is the key to the overall project success because it helps to establish realistic expectations on the budget and development roadmap. The plan usually includes the sprints (major milestones in software development life cycle), 2-3 weeks each, and the description of deliverables that should be produced during those development sprints.

Business Analysis – 2 – 3 weeks

Business analysis will take about 2 weeks where the business analysis specialists, developers, and even the project manager will collaborate with the customers and look for the best solutions. Everything starts with clarifying the expectations and defining ways to implement them. This stage is focused on defining the scope of features that will be available to users on the launch. For instance, if this is the food delivery app, the essential features will be a catalog of the goods, the ability to make an order, enter the address for the delivery, pay for it, and track the order. Some extra functionality might be the deals of the day, online coupons, etc.

Design and Pre-Development Stage (5 – 7 weeks)

The main attention is concentrated on the design where stages are carried out separately as the UI design can be developed only after finished UX design. Therefore, the answer to “how long does it take to design an app?” will depend on the following stages.

UX Design – 2 – 3 weeks

The UX designers decide how the user interface will work, which screens and buttons to add as long as user experience is determined by simple and clear app navigation. 

For example, it is a good idea to have a field where the customer can change the number of chosen meals before adding items to the cart. Yes, you can add a field with the number of servings to the checkout screen. However, your first-time users won’t know this, which can be very frustrating and the client can abandon the application without even seeing the checkout screen. Good UX design lies in the way how users interact with the application, which actions they should complete some goals. The great UX design consists of such little things as the aforementioned elements with the number of servings. 

UX design provides the special brief preview of the future apps and 2-3 weeks are usually required to plan all the functionality. In this particular case, UX designers will think how to categorize the offers to ease the restaurant search or add buttons “pay” and “save the card” for the screen with payment options to simplify the payment procedure and so on.

UI Design – 3 – 4 weeks

While UX designers are working on the way how the app works for the clients, UI designers are working on the way it looks to them. The UI design stage is 3-4 weeks long as the designers create an exceptional and attractive interface of your application. Designing the buttons and sliders is not the end at all. Presentation is everything in hospitality. In our case with the food delivery service, UI designer will be also responsible for creating a set of rules or brand books, in other words, that should be applied to the depiction of the items in the catalog. This is required in order to make sure that the application’s design is flexible enough and there won’t be any issues with adding new items to the list of the products.

The simple example – you can’t create an application with a light background and then simply take a photo of some of the meals on the background with the wooden texture and other meals on the white background that better corresponds with the white background of the app. This simply won’t look good. For the software like our food delivery application or any other services with the lists of goods, creating the unified look for the catalog should be included into the timeline estimation when you’re looking for the answer to the question of “how many hours does it take to develop an app”.

Development Stage (8 – 10 weeks)

At the moment, we have come to the point of “how long does it take to code an app?” The good thing is that the team usually works in parallel on the back-end, front-end development, and testing to shorten the app development timeline.

Back-end development – 6 – 8 weeks

Back-end development can be completed for 6-8 weeks since it requires work with the app server and the database. For such service applications, all the data is stored in the back-end server. No matter if this is a car rental application with the list of available cars, food delivery or Ecommerce, each time users launch the application the data is dynamically pooled from the back-end service and is rendered on mobile phone screen organized by the app installed on the phone. Such applications don’t contain any assets like the prices for the food, names or photos, they rather contain the instruction of how to organize and display the data that it receives from the app owner’s server. To build the app the team is going to develop such server which will store dynamic data about items stock, clients’ accounts data, photos of the meals, etc. Naturally, food delivery apps don’t need offline functionality. Thus it needs a reliable server side as it includes payment features to provide security for their customers.

Front-end development – 6 – 8 weeks

Once the server is in development and the structure of the database is ready – the development team can start parallel work on the front-end part of the product, or the mobile application itself. It will be rendering and organizing the data from the aforementioned back-end server.

The front-end developers commonly manage the tasks that enable functionality from 6 to 8 weeks. Developers use native frameworks like Swift, Objective – C, and Java to create separate versions for the App Store and Google Play. 

What’s important to know about the UI design and front-end development parts of the project is that both of those tasks require a lot of iterations. Design and fluency of the interface are much more subjective than even UX design, so the team should be prepared for a lot of discussions and edits.

Testing – 2 weeks 

The main part of the testing stage is going in parallel with the active development as developers finish features and immediately send the code to the QA team. What is important in the context of this article is that the final version of the app where all the modules are connected together and should work together. The release version of the app will be tested for the next 1-2 weeks and developers will be working on the bugs that the testers will find. Even during the final testing stage, the development team should be ready to work as much as during the active development phase, On this stage, the roles of testers and developers are shifted and the testers will be sending work to the developers instead of developers sending code to testers.

Finalization and Launch (1 week)

Final preparation is an important moment to finalize the details, fix the last bugs and publish the application to the App Store and Google Play. The publishing itself is a quite complex process that can take some time. Often even trusted companies fail to pass the App Store and Google Play moderation because of various reasons or simple moderation mistakes. Considering the number of new requests to the stores each day you can expect days or sometimes weeks needed to complete this process. There is a chance that a human moderator or automated moderation tool could find something about the app that won’t correspond with the rules. This may be anything starting with the icon of the application or low security of the transactions that are conducted via the app. In any case, app developers should estimate some time needed to pass the moderation or time for fixing the issues that should be done before resubmitting for one more review. 

Post-Launch Support and Maintenance Stage (2 weeks)

The development team has to observe the performance for about 2 weeks to make sure it works properly and corresponds to all set requirements. Careful maintenance is really effective for the overall app performance in the future. During this phase, the development team should be ready to large amounts of work and basically be in the same line-up as during the active development stage to be ready for the urgent fixes or changes.


The food delivery application of the medium complexity will take 18 – 23 weeks to complete and be published to the App Store and Google Play. This business companion software will include only the features that are needed by the clients to browse the list of goods, apply some filters, add items to the cart, and finally pay for the order with their credit card.


Adding such features as the 3D view of the meal or selecting the address for the delivery on the actual map will increase the development time and can be done later after the launch of the first app version. At the same time, it will have the commercial potential that can further be extended into an aggregator of the offerings from restaurants in the city or turned into a white-label solution that can be sold to other hospitality businesses.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO CREATE AN APP: SIMPLE, AVERAGE, AND THE MOST COMPLEX

If we speak about something really simple, it will be 16 weeks (4 months) or slightly more. Time Buddy for timezones synchronization or basic notes and reminders applications like Wunderlist can be good examples.

Applications of medium complexity, for example, collaboration tools like Asana or Ecommerce shop with advanced features like the 3D view of the items, will likely take 24 weeks or more to build. 

Complex and sophisticated apps will need 40+ weeks of development depending on the scale of the project and ambitions of the business. Such apps usually have a couple of “killer features” like AI components, AR, machine learning, unique interface, etc. or everything at once. Some of the examples: Google Drive, Uber, Telegram and many others. Not only they had been launched with a set of advanced features and was mind-blowing at the very beginning, their post-launch extension and support already took dozens of times more time and money than the release version. The point is that an answer to “how long does it take to make an app” usually depends on “what does it take to create an app of different complexity”.

app development timeline: how long does it take to build an app due to its complexity

HOW TO SHORTEN THE APP DEVELOPMENT TIMELINE

When it comes to the question “how long does it take to make an app?”, most companies try to find out whether there are some ways to shorten the mobile app development timeline. Some of them have applied reasonable strategies that considerably reduce the time spent on creating an application. Let’s see how can you optimize the timeline as well as save your resources:

  • MVP (minimum viable product) is the basic version of the software that is presented to the users to gather their feedback. As long as it covers only the main features, it enables to develop and launch it much faster. Applying this strategy, you can shorten the development time by up to 30%. Along with saving time, the company learns from this experience to withstand market demands and competition. You can learn more about MVP in our article dedicated to this subject here.
  • Cross-platform app development is implemented by creating the app with the help of such frameworks as React Native, Xamarin, Ionic. So how long does it take to build an iOS app and an Android app leveraging cross-platform approach? You have a chance to develop an application that works properly on both platforms using the same codebase and avoid building two separate app versions for iOS and Android. As you can guess, this greatly reduces the time needed for front-end development and post-launch support and maintenance. On average, developers will spend 50% less time on each of those tasks. However, it doesn’t impact the stages like business analysis and design and they will last the same period of time.  You can learn more in our article about the pros and cons of hybrid apps vs native apps.

Understanding the overall process and applying reasonable strategies, the company is bound to find the best solution for their particular case including the development time shortage.

IN CONCLUSION

We can conclude that the mobile application development timeline differs although it can be wisely estimated. When you try to find out how long to make an app, follow the proven business strategies. Make sure that each stage like planning, pre-development, development, launching, post-launch support is conducted step by step on the high level. Considering all the mentioned details we hope to answer your question “how long does it take to make an app” and give helpful advice on your solutions.

If you have any additional questions or need a consultation, feel free to contact Existek. We are an outsourcing company with extensive expertise in mobile app development that has implemented a lot of great ideas into a successful product. For any further assistance, you can contact us via the contact form, start the discussion in the chat widget on the right. We will be glad to provide professional consultation and find a suitable approach for you.