It can take anywhere between three and nine months to develop an app, depending on the complexity of the project and the app development company you're working with. I sit down with Chief-Changemaker Sophia Story (AKA Puff) to talk through the app development process, its most time-consuming stages, which questions you should be asking your developers, and what their answers should sound like.
In this series of posts, we look at the most important questions to run past app developers and what their answers should sound like.
As the Head of Client Success, Gabby often fields the most commonly asked questions surrounding considerations that need to be made in order to bring your digital product aspirations to reality. While, “how much does an app cost to develop” is hands down the #1 query she says, “how long does it take to develop an app” comes in at a close second!
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but this blog will expound upon the process, and hopefully give you some clarity on the roadmap to realistically expect your app to be out there and ready to change the world!
When it comes to what it takes to develop an app, here is what Gabby had to say:
While every app project is different, apps can take anywhere between three and nine months to build, depending on the complexity of the app and structure of your project. If you’re making an app by yourself, that timeline could be anywhere from 24 to 36 months, which is why having an experienced team on your side can be crucial.
Let your mobile app development company talk you through the process and stages of the project, to give you an indication as to which stages will take the most amount of time and leave room for testing, feedback, iterations and improvements. Check out this standard timeline illustrating how long takes to develop an app:
In our experience, people often underestimate how long it takes to make an app development brief. The better and more transparent the brief, the less time it will take to fully understand your project and requirements.
There are a few things that you’ll need to include no matter who you’re working with (things like contact and company info). But to give your development company a real understanding of your project, you’ll also need the following:
Be careful writing requests for proposals!
RFP’s create a road map of sorts and should be sent to app development companies looking to pitch for your project. The problem with RFP’s is that they force companies down the same funnel; they take away opportunities for developers to show how they do things differently.
If you use RFP’s, make sure you provide the opportunity for mobile app development companies to challenge, explore and include additional information or ideas that help them stand out from the crowd.
Researching your app idea means a whole lot more than just making sure it will work. That’s the first thing your development company should say to you. The purpose of the research stage is to create a shared understanding of the market, your users, the problem, and what the success of your app should look like.
By the end of this stage you should have the following:
MVP (Minimum Viable Product):
The very basic stuff your app will need to do. This should cover all the things your initial users are looking for, without considering additional features that are not crucial for launch.
An idea of how people will use your app and what they will use it for. These stories outline a user and their end-goal, as well as the pages/navigation they use to achieve this goal.
This is where our lovely D&D process sets up the entire project for success! With all that research done initially, you can reduce the time it takes to develop your app.
Wireflows help figure out the structure of the product – the flows between sections and key interactions. This is done in a low fidelity format outlining the buttons and sections, so things can be quickly drafted and evolved. The client will then review the wireflows to validate thoughts.
Design sprints then apply the user interface, brand look and feel and explores delighters to bring the product to life. Along with creating the design system for developers to implement. These are used to test certain aspects of your app. They typically take around a week (for each sprint) to complete, but if you don’t use them, problems and changes will occur later down the line and take up a lot more time throughout the project.
If you want to include a specific feature, this stage in the process lets you build a basic design which can be tested with users to provide a number of insights. Like how much users actually value that feature, how they use it, when they use it, if it’s difficult to use, if navigating to that page is easy or difficult etc.
If your developers don’t mention design sprints?
Houston we have a problem! Just accepting what you tell them is a major red flag, they should always be testing, challenging and adapting the app’s designs based on feedback from real users
Development is broken down into two week sprints, at the end of each sprint you will receive an update on progress. Each sprint will have a series of dependencies, from third party data, content or integrations. These should be raised by your development company so you can help resolve blockers.
If your app is relying on third-party data, it can take a lot longer, just make sure developers have had this conversation with you before-hand.
The time taken during the deployment stage in the process can be broken down into two main areas: submission and review. While submitting your app to either the App Store or the Google Play Store, you’ll need a few things:
Which store takes longer to deploy your app?
iOS – which can mainly be credited to the fact that Apple has a far more detailed reviewing process. Android uses an algorithm to pre-analyse your app for obvious violations, whereas Apple conducts the review completely manually by a team of reviewers.
This one is a little harder to predict. Updates and maintenance mean that even after you launch the app, you’ll still need to dedicate time to it.
There’s no telling how much time will be taken up by continuous improvements as the backlog of app ideas and features could be of any length, in any priority, taking any amount of time and cost to develop.
But at this point, you should have already had this conversation.
Your app developers should already have a rough idea of how much time and budget you want to put towards continuous improvements and 24/7 support.
Published on June 23, 2022, last updated on May 22, 2023