App Development Stages: how long does it take to make an app?
6 April 2023
16 minutes read
25 minutes audio
Table of Contents
What elements have an impact on the app development time?
Type of an app
The type of app is one of the crucial factors when you want to develop an app.
Every app has a different set of requirements, which affects the timeline of development. Whether it is an e-commerce, gaming, or dating app, each requires its own unique set of features and capabilities.
The platforms you want to develop an app for (iOS, Android, or Web) will have an impact on the time taken to develop and launch the app. Each platform has its own set of requirements that require additional time to integrate and test.
The features you want in your app will determine how long it takes to build and launch the app. If you are building a simple app with limited features, it may take less time compared to an advanced app with complex functionality and integrations.
Overall, the app development time is dependent on an app's complexity and can take anywhere from 4-6 months and even longer if unexpected issues arise or additional features are desired.
With proper care, a well-built and maintained mobile app can last for years.
Development and business model
You also need to take business and organization matters into consideration. These include for example setting up a business model (freemium or subscription-based pricing, in-app purchases, etc.) or strategizing an app development timeline.
The possible models of app development are outsourcing or in-house development. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages.
Outsourcing, for example, is a great way to get the early pre-release version of the app built quickly at an affordable cost. However, this option may not provide you with the same level of control over the app development process as other models do.
On the other hand, in-house development can give you more control over the process, but it may be difficult to find skilled personnel and provide them with the necessary resources. Selecting a professional app development company is an important step in ensuring that your project is successful.
Applications with secure finances or with a strong founder will be developed earlier than those who are still searching for an investor. At the same time, a big company with a complicated decision process will need a lot of time to just start working on a product, since budgeting and legal issues are more time-consuming for them. That's where startups, who are more agile, have their competitive advantage.
Typical stages of development - from an app idea to app stores
The first and most important stage of app development is creating an idea for the app. It is important to think of all the details that our application should include and create a clear vision of it.
Not less important than the first stage, Product Discovery, it is essential to develop a thorough understanding of user needs and then identify the best methods for solving these problems. This helps refine your idea into something that will deliver meaningful value.
The next step in app development is designing an application. This stage will involve creating wireframes, prototypes, mockups, and visuals that represent the final product. The goal here is to create a visual representation of the app.
After the design process is complete, the app development stage begins. The source code of the app is written in this stage and all features are tested to make sure everything works as intended.
An important part of the development process is testing. This includes both manual and automated testing to make sure that the app performs as expected in various conditions, such as varying network speeds, different device types, and with users from different demographics.
Once the app is ready, it must be submitted to Google Play Store or Apple App Store for review. After the review process is complete, the application will be accepted and made available for download. The goal here is to make sure that the mobile app is safe and secure for users.
The stage of maintenance includes bug fixes and customer support and it's one of the most time-consuming stages since it works on a fully functional app. Maintenance is essential for ensuring that the application continues to function properly and remains relevant over time.
Finally, no app development would be complete without constant care. This includes analyzing user feedback, tracking usage data, and making updates to the app to keep it current. Constant development is important for ensuring that the application remains successful over time.
Agile app development methodology
Crafting a digital product is an intricate endeavor, as each stage intertwines with several others and necessitates careful management. One of the best ways to ensure success is adopting an Agile methodology.
Agile development helps startups and businesses build, launch and manage their products rapidly.
It focuses on delivering working software quickly through rigorous planning, incremental delivery cycles, and collaboration between multiple teams (development, design, business). This process also allows for iterative improvements and changes throughout the life of the app.
Agile vs waterfall
The difference between agile and waterfall is that agile is an iterative approach to product development, while waterfall emphasizes a more linear process.
Agile allows for rapid changes and iterations throughout the life of the project, while waterfall requires each step to be completed before moving on to the next one.
Additionally, in Agile, tasks are often divided into smaller chunks called “sprints”, while in waterfall they are broken into larger chunks.
Ultimately, agile allows for faster and more flexible development compared to the rigid nature of a waterfall.
That's why it is important to have an experienced Product Manager and Project Manager called a Scrum Master in the Scrum methodology. Luckily, it is possible to outsource them together with the dedicated development team.
The product manager will ensure that all tasks are completed in line with product strategy, while the Scrum Master will be responsible for coordinating meetings between stakeholders and developers to ensure smooth progress.
While efficient and organized, this form of development requires the Product Owner (Founder or Manager from the App owner's side) to be fully immersed in the project. They must have a clear vision and be able to communicate it to the product development team to ensure that the final product reflects their original ideas and goals.
Stage: Ideation - explore your app idea
The idea of the mobile app is the beginning of the whole process. That's why it is so important to give your creativity all the time it needs. Take time to explore every aspect of your idea and think about what you want from it.
Do not hesitate to verify the app ideas with someone close to you - pitching it, meaning presenting it to someone else, is a great solution to find mistakes in your chain of thought or develop new features for the app, as well as to get the idea validation you need.
You can also research the idea by yourself, before reaching the app development company. Who is the target audience of your product? Is there a market analysis that shows how many users will potentially use this app? How would it help your customers in reaching their goals? What platform will be the mobile app released on - will it be an Android app, an iOS app, or a cross-platform app.
It is important to compile the business plan in this stage of planning. In what ways would this app enable you to generate more revenue?
Don't rush this process. The planning stage can take from a few days or a few weeks to months, depending on how complex the app you would like to create is.
Sometimes the app is a result of the founder's experience in some field, which lets us reach the product discovery stage immediately, but sometimes the concept needs a lot of polishing before you will be able to visualize the app concept.
Stage: Product Discovery - challenge an idea at let it evolve
Unearthing the product's capabilities before beginning app development is crucial to Product Discovery. This process helps you gain better insight into and define your product, setting it up for success in the future.
Product Discovery is divided into a few stages, which are: understanding the customers’ needs, researching competitors' products, and validating the concept. All of these steps help you create an efficient app development strategy, additionally helping to decide which features should be included in the final product.
By following this process, you can create an efficient app development strategy for your product focused on customer satisfaction.
As an additional benefit, this also helps you make well-informed decisions regarding which features should be included in the final version of the product.
Through Product Discovery, you will be able to develop an efficient strategy for your product that meets both customer expectations and your goals as a business.
Design Thinking is also worth mentioning. It's a creative problem-solving process that starts with understanding the users' needs.
The difference between Product Discovery and Design Thinking is that the latest is more focused on the user and their needs, whereas Product Discovery is about understanding what features should be included in the final product.
How long does it take? The average time of Product Discovery varies from a few weeks to 2-3 months, depending on the idea.
Stage: Product Design - let's get into details
Product Design is a process focused on UI and UX.
UX stands for User Experience - it's responsible for creating the most comfortable, enjoyable, and intuitive user experience that our app can provide. While projecting UX, it's important to use wireframes and user journey maps.
Wireframes are used to create a basic, mostly black-and-white visual representation of our app, and user journey maps are used to define the different steps that the users have to take to complete a goal within an app.
UI, short for User Interface, shows the ways how the app user will communicate with our application. In other words, the UI Designer is responsible for creating a visual side of an app.
Creating a good user interface requires practitioners to think both visually and strategically. It is important to pay attention to details when designing the product such as typography, color palettes, icons, and button positioning.
Remember that the interface is not only graphic - it can occupy voice, sounds, haptics (engaging touch, f.e vibrations of the device), and in AR/VR applications - also movement.
Taking into account the intricacy of the app and how expansive our dedicated team is, Product Design can take from 3 weeks to 2-3 months.
Stage: Development - when your idea becomes digital
At the beginning of the app development process, the first thing to decide on is the definition of MVP. MVP is a minimum viable product - it should include the most basic functions that are necessary to develop an app.
The mobile app developers team usually contains backend developers, who are working on the server-side software (with which the application is communicating) and mobile developers who are focused on the application itself. Other specialists who may be needed based on project specification, f.e. frontend developers, DevOps engineer or data science analysts, are also the part of the team.
In the mobile app development process very helpful is the cross-platform app development, which you get with f.e. React Native, since with this technology it's possible to build both Android app and iOS apps on the same codebase.
It is suggested to develop an app as a hybrid app when constructing mobile apps; however, having specialists from both platforms can be incredibly beneficial to your project.
The average app development time should take from a few months up to a year. If it's taking more than a year to plan, then either the mobile app development company is lacking in resources or the Minimum Viable Product has been defined too expansively.
Stage: Testing - perfect experiences make perfect products
How do Mobile App Testing Models affect the time of development?
The time taken for testing is often overlooked but it is one of the most important app development stages. Testing ensures your app is bug-free and ready for launch. It also helps to identify any potential issues that may arise in the future, saving you time and resources in the long run.
A detailed reviewing process is strongly required while building a complex app - it helps to keep the flow of the development process and helps app developers fix any errors quicker.
The testing stage is divided into two processes: the app can be tested automatically and manually.
Automated testing uses specific tools to ensure the app is working correctly even in the codebase writing stage.
Manual testing, on the other hand, involves testers manually checking each feature of the application and making sure it works as intended. Both methods should be used depending on what kind of product you want to create.
Real-device testing - how long does it take?
It is essential to conduct manual tests when discussing mobile apps. Automated testing may overlook small changes in interactions, as well as how different devices respond; nevertheless, these details can have a huge influence on user experience.
Additionally, every mobile device is slightly distinct—having different dimensions and specifications which also affect how its corresponding mobile app works.
There are also wearables, which are even smaller in size and need to be tested separately from smartphones and tablets. All this affects the amount of time needed for testing as it requires multiple check-ups on different devices, sizes, and OSs.
Beta testing mobile app
As the development phase ends, it's time for the crucial beta test of your app. This is when external users will assess your product and offer feedback based on their experience.
Google Play and Apple App Store have tools to invite people to join this stage of testing mobile apps; however, don't expect a quick turnaround.
Beta tests can take anywhere from several weeks up to two months with corrections being made as needed before final implementation.
Stage: Deployment - how to plan app publishing smartly
To create a successful mobile app marketing strategy, it's best to start planning several months before launch and build up anticipation for users. Marketing automation tools can be immensely helpful!
You can also set an alpha release publication date and tell your customers about this milestone by using mailings or countdown timers.
One of the challenges is syncing both app stores' release times - something that isn't always easy because of varying verification processes on each platform.
Android App Deployment
In the Google Play store, the verification and publication of an android mobile app is usually a much simpler process. You can upload the app in minutes and it will be checked by Google's anti-piracy filter before being published in less than 24 hours.
iOS App Deployment
In the Apple App Store the publication process is much longer and more complex. Your app needs to be checked by a real person who will review it according to Apple standards; this can take up to two or three weeks.
Mobile App Development Timeline - examples and averages
When considering the app development process, numerous elements contribute to both its complexity and timeline.
To illustrate this better, we at Memory Squared conducted a brainstorm with our development team to estimate the app development timeframe taken from Product Discovery through to app deployment. So now you may rightfully ask - how long does it take to make an app?
Food Delivery App
Focusing on a particular market with an ordinary product, such as a pizza-ordering mobile app for a Boston-based brand that employs its drivers, the development timeline could be 4 to 7 months.
On the other hand, if we were to develop an app for a multi-national chain of restaurants across the US and Europe – one with various legal standards and currency types in addition to varying dishes and delivery services – it would require significantly more time due to all of the tech stack.
Micro SaaS App
Micro Saas is a software-as-a-service app crafted with intent and precision, specifically designed to accommodate the needs of small businesses or individuals. Instead of targeting a wide audience, Micro Saas is focusing on a certain niche, which has specific needs for the app. An MVP strategy for a Micro SaaS development timeline can take about 6 months, based on the average complexity of this kind of app.
When it comes to these types of applications, the length of time necessary for deployment is largely dependent on the e-commerce model being used. If an update or extension of an existing shop is all that's required, then full deployment should take 3-4 months.
However, if constructing a brand new store with features like layered service management and custom products - such as a personalized diet app - you may need up to twice as much time for completion.
To migrate an existing customer loyalty program to a mobile app, it is feasible to complete the task within two or three months. But if you are aiming for something more advanced with gamification features and complex dependencies, then plan the app development timeline for eight to ten months to adequately develop an app.
Social apps can highly vary in their complexity. The products trending lately like BeReal or Clubhouse are quite straightforward without complicated features. Developing the first version of a social mobile app like those can be achieved in merely 6 months. But to launch it successfully, building a user base is key - without one all features are futile as they rely on network effects strongly.
Summary - tips for founders and stakeholders
Many aspects are involved in the mobile app development process, yet selecting a good model of development and a trusty app development company is paramount. It's important to keep in mind that the time of development isn't dependent only on the complexity of all the features or design and programming time. Very often business issues are a time-consuming part of the project. Poor organization management, indecisiveness, flawed planning, lack of clear product vision, and success metrics can change even a super brilliant idea into a fiasco.
One thing worth mentioning at the end is that as the development process continues, making any changes becomes more difficult and costly. That's why good Product Discovery is fundamental for an effective mobile application; it helps you plan and avoid unnecessary complications later on down the road!
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