There are a billion mobile apps available on Apple’s App Store and Android Play Store, and these number will be growing year after year. Although the countless amount of mobile apps are added to download every week, there is hardly any information available on how long does it actually take to develop a new app?
While the answer varies greatly, and a relatively common answer claims that approximately 3-5 months are required to create a mobile app, it can take a longer or shorter duration of time, as influenced by a number of factors that affect the timeline like quality, budgeting, creative algorithms, skills, processes and many more. Based on these we find apps that can be differentiated in their complexity and functionality. It is a back-and-forth approach which proceeds between various phases of research, processes, piloting, analysis, and release. Now, of course, the duration in building an android app and an ios app varies greatly, and we come to the analysis with the following fact.
In a collaborative research survey of mobile designers to discover the time they expected for building core components of an app on Android or iOS.
By averaging the data from the responses and with our own experience of delivering various apps, it was observed that an “MVP – quality native app” requires approximately 10 to 14 weeks to build.
Companies like Twitter have thousands of people working on their apps that get installed and on the servers supporting them. These apps have taken years to get where they are today. Many people however, have limited resources, or the capacity spending even hundreds of thousands of hours on an app. This, however, does not mean that no new app should not be built, rather provides the perspective for the correct approach to building a quality, first version of the app.
Mostly it takes a lesser time. The backend only is estimated to require 10 weeks, but various backend services can dramatically reduce that time.
The backend refers to the server, application, and database. And other Software Development Kits can help accelerate the frontend development processes, which is that part of the web which you see and interact with. All in all, the length of time is both typical and accurate depending upon the fundamental stages involved in building an app to complete the development process. Let’s now look at the key stages involved in the process.
Table of Contents
The very first stage of app building looks at answering the basic question:
Does your business really need an app? You need to look at answering the basic reason for existence for the app. How will it contribute to the world, and determine the target audience that will use this app?
After answering the above question, the second step is to perform a recce, if a similar kind of app already exists. At this stage, we look at ways to remain at the top of the game i.e. to out-maneuver the competition and seek a distinguishing factor from those already available. You also must research your competitor’s customers and business strategies.
Essentially, answering these questions requires a solid understanding of your target market. To determine this you need to identify the legitimate customer, the market size and endorsement of the product to the prospective customer.
The first step in laying the groundwork is likely to take several weeks of research and ideas validation.
After justifying the existence of your app, the ideal customers and therefore, establish the market demand for your suggested idea, you must move on to the next step of deciding the exact operations and attributes of your app.
At this stage you precisely answer the question of how you want your app to operate, what is your app capable of doing as well as the tasks and functions it will perform.
After acknowledging the above, you consider the target audience and the data framework. You will decide the procurement of data, will it be collected primarily from the users or tap into existing databases.
This level is known as “storyboarding” i.e. a visual representation of the user interface of the application, showing the display screens.” It focuses on the usability and user interface. At this phase, you develop a set of sequences or steps to map the interaction within the app i.e. process that takes place between the user and the system. These are known as “use cases”. However, the more features you add, the more complex your app will be, and the longer it will take to build.
You’ll need to decide between multiple operating systems/devices or only one operating system/device. Essentially, it refers to the operating system that your app will be available on i.e. iOS, Android, and/or Windows depending upon the timeline of your process. Developing an app for more than one operating system/device takes a considerably longer time to finish.
Although the difference is considered minimal, developing an app for Android takes up to 20 to 30% more time than creating one for iOS. This is because of it deals in a small number of target devices and OS versions. It is much easier to make sure your app runs error-free than tackling multiple operating systems at once with thousands of Android devices out there. Thus, the development and analysis of an Android app tend to take more time. However, in cases where support for the previous versions are not sought, the android versions can be developed comparatively faster than their iOS counterparts.
Again, while it’s near impossible to predict the duration, you should expect to spend somewhere between 3-5 weeks figuring out the core attributes and operations of your app.
After determining the attributes of your app and how you expect it to operate you must then clarify that it is in fact, technically possible for these operations to exist and work. It involves having your technical team ensure that what you want to should the users as a hands-on, interactive design can actually be accomplished by the programming that goes behind it. In other words, you need to ensure compatibility between the front-end and back-end systems.
Front-End systems comprise of that which is visible to the users and interactive. Back-End systems, conversely, are composed of the logistics that go behind making the front-end functional.
While Front-end development is mostly focused on design along with ensuring a seamless user experience, it manages what people first see in their app. A front-end developer is responsible for the look, feel and the ultimate design of the interface. It essentially comprises caching, synchronization and UI design and development. Backend development is the programming side of development which focuses on how the site works. It consists of a server, a database, and an application. Codes generated by back-end developers is what communicates the information for interaction to the users. It includes all those activities that happen behind the curtain such as database management, server-side logistics, data integration and many more. Constant communication between both, the front-end developers and the back-end developers is crucial to avoid risks and miscalculations.
Part of UX design is the “wireframe”. Wireframes are a grayscale, 2D skeleton that helps to carve out the information in form of visual design, depicting the interface of a page. It typically focuses on the space allocation for different content, prioritization, and functionalities. It clarifies consistent ways for displaying information to the user.
Many prefer to develop the wireframes during the operations and attributes phase, seeing these as a clear connection to the storyboards and UI- the specific colors used, fonts and other graphics to be added.
The result is a clear visual direction as blueprints to inform the interaction within your app.
The most successful apps in the world—from Facebook, Instagram, to Uber and Twitter use publicly available APIs when building their own apps. API stands for “Application Programming Interface”. In simple terms, it is a unique piece of code that allows apps to communicate with each other.
For example, Instagram utilizes Facebook’s API: Instagram users log into Instagram via their Facebook profiles, which eliminates any need for Instagram to build its own audience of users from the ground-up.
Overall, conducting the technical viability assessment and designing the front and back-end elements will likely take 1-2 months’ time to complete.
The final stage involved in building your app is the piloting and refinement stage.
While testing is part of the development phase also, as your programmers continue to take apart the app and find errors in the code at that stage. This is internal testing, within the confinement of your organization, by your personnel before your app makes it out in the real world. This is known as Alpha Testing. It should uncover the major malfunctions.
Testing at this stage, known as Beta testing, is to evaluate the app outside the confinements of your workstation to ascertain what happens when actual customers use your app. At this point, your major concern is to make sure your app performs in the desired way in which it was designed to be used i.e. when the app is freely available to download and use. Testing at this stage reveals problems that you previously hadn’t thought of and failures that can occur. You should only ever commence this testing with the public once you have positively completed alpha testing within your internal organization.
Both the kinds of testing are essential to building a steadfast, robust app.
Now, the question arises as to how do you find qualified beta testers for your soon-to-be-released app?
You don’t actually go out to the public, no. You find your Beta testers over the web. There exists a variety of web-based services that offer beta testing opportunities. Some of the websites are totally dedicated to the beta testing such as BetaFamily, BetaList, ErliBird, PreApps, and Testelf.
Then there are other websites that offer the opportunity to get the beta testing done indirectly, such as Reddit. It presents numerous subreddits users with the chance to recruit testers for their in-development apps. It also offers game developers the chance to receive free feedback on their game screenshots every Saturday.
UserTesting is also a website that can be used for testing. Though this site doesn’t exclusively focus on mobile apps, it offers a large selection of users that are willing to test your app.
While we cannot accurately determine the duration of Piloting and Refinement phase. However, after a proper alpha testing, the beta testing stage doesn’t necessarily take any longer than 3-4 weeks.
Consolidating the accurately estimated time for each phase, we arrive at a final time frame of 3-4 months to build a mobile app. There are some other crucial factors you need to consider such as Budgeting. It is the cost associated with building an app which tends to add up as time passes. For ascertaining this you roughly understand your budget, called the runway, and how long it’ll last. After understanding your runway, you further scope your feature list.
Secondly, you need to monitor your mentality for approaching the task. Many people think the first app they create will help them hit it big and so invest quite an amount of time and money into it. There’s a delicate balance that must be met.
Thirdly, you must know your strengths. If you don’t happen to be a designer, you probably shouldn’t be handling the visual design of your app. Similarly, if you’re incapable of coding, it’s not the best option to take up the task solely. Tackling parts of an app outside your expertise will increase the timeline of app building. That’s why you need a team that consists of each skill required to build an app.
Building an app is a rather long and complex process that requires lots of preparation, consistency, and dedication to execute.
You will expect delays as an unforeseen circumstance that is beyond your control, you should remain flexible in your timeline and give yourself a buffer rather than a firm deadline to complete your app. You should rather compromise on the deadline than release an app that is buggy and faulty.
Always be updated with the progress, especially if you are working a third party vendor to build your app. It required constant piloting even after the release.
So kickstart your idea and create an app that your customers will truly love and enjoy!
About Deepak Chauhan Hi, I am Deepak Chauhan, a Digital Marketing Strategist. I'm the CEO & Co-Founder of VOCSO Digital Agency, a creative web design, development, and marketing agency based in India & USA.
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