“It will take as long as it takes”, said Mr Bull when asked about how long the construction of the road will take. However, building software is not the same as building a road, and especially not so when you’re dealing with clients (and not characters from Peppa Pig, where Mr Bull is from).
When I was a budding entrepreneur, I would often keep asking my team how long it takes to build an app. Although I understand that this question often annoys developers and project managers, it is essential to know the answer so you can offer your customers a timeline that sets their expectations right at the outset. Remember, no one likes to wait indefinitely.
How many hours does it take to develop an app?
For most developers and project managers, this question is as vague as it can be. The reason for that is the number of stages that an app goes through before it finally takes the shape of a downloadable and installable app in the app store. Remember that mobile app development is a process and not an activity. Each idea goes through the following stages in the mobile app development process before it transforms into an app:
1. Project management
A professional development company will always assign a dedicated project manager for you. Your project manager will work with you from ideation and planning to the deployment and maintenance phase and become a single point of contact between you and your development partner.
Although this is not a development stage, we’re mentioning this here as it is crucial for the success of your project. A well-managed project has much higher chances of success than an unmanaged one.
Time taken: 6-7 weeks or up to 60 hours.
In the planning phase, you will prepare a brief for your project, get a basic idea of what it requires and research your app idea.
3. Creating a project brief
Your project brief is a dossier that contains all the information about your idea and some more. The brief gives all parties (customer and developer) a clear understanding of the project. Here’s what your brief must contain:
- Project aim
- Project requirements
- Metrics for success
- Tech stacks
- System diagramming
- Project Roadmap
- Budget assigned for the project
- Approximate go-live date
4. Idea research and validation
This is a crucial step that goes beyond ensuring that your idea will work. You must have a clear idea about your project, what the MVP should cover, the user stories and a prototype.
- Your MVP or minimum viable product: This is a stripped-down, minimalistic version of your product that covers all your user’s needs. Do not include any non-critical feature during the launch phase after creating your MVP.
- User Stories: These will give you an idea of how, why and what your customers will use your product for.
The planning phase of any project is often underestimated by both project owners and developers. A well-planned project puts enough thought into the project at the outset to reduce the time needed to develop the product.
5. Design phase
Time taken: 8-12 weeks or up to 100 hours
The design phase takes cues from the planning phase and envisions the user experience of your app. This is an extremely critical phase for your app idea—as the user experience can make or break the app that you are planning to build.
- Prototype: A prototype will showcase the most important functions of your project so that you can validate them before you begin. It is easy to run prototypes through user groups so they can see if your design idea is working. Once a prototype passes testing, you can then work on creating a UI mockup for the prototype.
- UI and UX design: Most apps that fall out of favour have not put enough effort into their user experience. As the UI design and the UX are the first impressions of your app, putting enough thought into this phase will ensure project success. Remember, fixing a design is much cheaper and quicker than fixing an app already developed.
6. Development phase
Time taken: up to 12-30 weeks or up to 300 hours
The development phase is where your app will begin to take shape, and you will see the various bits and bobs come together as one cohesive unit. Here’s what happens in the development phase:
- Front-end and back-end development: This includes all development needs of your project, including the user interface (front end), all the design elements that are a part of the interface, the corresponding back-end, and any server-side components, including third-party API integrations.
- Testing: Although testing teams will continuously test your app throughout the development phase, most apps get a final, end-to-end test before deployment and submission to the app stores.
- Deployment: This phase will include readying the infrastructure that is required to deploy your app. This includes more than just hardware and software resources. Deployment requirements for app stores include:
- Company documentation
- Application screenshots
- Product documentation and help files, if any
- Platform-specific Icons
- Demo video
A lot of apps get rejected at the Apple and Android app stores. A rock-solid deployment regimen will ensure that you have all the requirements in place before you move to submit your app to either of the app stores.
7. Maintenance phase
Time taken: Variable
Creating an app is not the end of the road. You must constantly fix user-reported bugs, add enhancements in your product roadmap, and consistently improve your product for users to take your app seriously. Users get bored of Apps that do not release updates and move on to other, more interesting and innovative apps.
This phase includes the following:
- User feedback analysis: Collecting and analyzing user feedback is essential for every app developer. Your users are your most critical resource. They will tell you what is wrong
- Bug fixes: This is a critical part of your app’s maintenance. Fixing bugs as soon as reported will enhance your credibility and have higher rates of user satisfaction.
- Updates: Keeping your app up to date with the latest security features and OS updates is critical. This showcases your commitment to the app.
- New features: Adding features is an excellent way to keep users hooked. Additionally, use the feedback gathered from your users to add them to the product roadmap as you improve your product further.
Ok! It took some time to type it all out, but I am sure it will answer your basic questions about mobile app development time. If you have not found a development partner yet, this is a good time to schedule a free 15-minute session with me so we can help you create an amazing app, and answer, “How long does it take to build an app?”
If you are already working with a development partner, you should have a conversation with them to know how long it takes to build an app from your idea and all the stages and processes that it includes.
At Volumetree, we take pride in our transparent, entrepreneur-friendly and world-class agile development services that are second to none! Our apps empower millions of people worldwide as we work tirelessly to make them better every day!