How long does it take to build a fully functioning mobile app?
Mobile applications help businesses enhance their digital presence and deliver a better experience to the clients. So the biggest question that entrepreneurs usually ask: how long does it take to develop a mobile application?
There is no ultimate answer because the process of developing a mobile app depends on many factors that will be specific for every business. But if you know the main stages of the development process, it will be easier for you to estimate the approximate time needed to develop a suitable mobile application.
Differentiating between the app types
Mobile applications differ by their complexity and functionality so we can single out the three main types:
If we take a social media app as an example, a small application will have a rather limited set of features like an option to create a profile, connect with people, a newsfeed, an option to post and share the news. A medium application may include integrated GPS, support of the device’s camera, an option to record videos. A complex app, in turn, will have diverse functionality, with advanced settings, personalized content, support of multiple languages, etc.
The complexity of the application directly impacts its cost and development time. Thus, companies need to consider what kind of an app would suit their business the best. A good option is to start with the MVP development in order to receive feedback from the users and assess the product performance. After successful MVP launch, a company can then gradually add more features to the product in accordance with the set goals.
Choosing the platform
Another thing to consider when developing a mobile application is choosing the right platform. Depending on your target audience and desired exposure, it will be either iOS, Android or cross-platform application.
The platform choice impacts the development time and cost. It will obviously be cheaper and faster to write one app for one platform than create two apps for two platforms. Plus note that iOS development is usually faster due to the fact that all Apple products have practically the same hardware so one app will suit them all. In the case of Android, the diversity of devices and their hardware demand the creation of highly versatile Android apps that will run equally well across all the intended devices.
Another factor to keep in mind when choosing the platform is target audience. Users from different countries prefer different platforms (i.e. the USA loves Apple) so it’s important to do the target audience research before getting down to the application development.
Once you are clear with the app’s scale and platform, you can move on to the actual development and estimate how much time each stage requires.
Stage 1: Research
Research is crucial as it helps companies evaluate their ideas, analyze the competition and market and come up with unique product features that will make the app more competitive. Here are the questions to ask during this stage:
Who is your target audience?
What are your business goals?
What will your unique competitive advantage be?
What is something that your competition lacks and that you can propose?
What value will the app bring to the users?
At the research stage, you will need to invest quite a lot of time and effort into business analysis. Do not underestimate its importance: if you don’t know about the preferences of the target audience or if you develop a product that’s already in the market, it will bring you zero profit. At this stage, it is important to make sure that you will be offering the right product to the right audience.
Approximate time: from 1 - 2 weeks (small app) to 3 - 4 weeks (complex app).
Stage 2: Planning and scoping
Once you have researched the market and the target audience, you can start planning the functionality and design of the app. At this stage, you will closely collaborate with the development team in order to pass them the requirements for the project and ensure there are no misunderstandings. As well you will estimate the duration of the development process, negotiate on the reporting frequency and the development method (waterfall or Agile). It is important to clearly define the budget and the desired deadlines as well as establish solid communication processes so that everyone on the team stay on the same page.
Planning helps determine the features to include in the app and the desired layout. In order to exclude unnecessary features and ensure the app’s value for the users, it is recommended to write user stories. A user story is a description of an action that the app user will take. Writing of such stories helps the team see the possible user actions and come up with the best way to implement them.
Once the development team receives the requirements, it can move on to the next stage - the actual development.
Approximate time: 2 - 4 weeks.
Stage 3: Development
The quality of the code will impact the future app’s performance so it is vital for the entrepreneur to find a knowledgeable development company to work on the app. As well, it is always better when the company is capable of providing full-cycle development, including design, as it significantly reduces the development time and minimizes misunderstandings and delays.
Backend is the “invisible” part of the application as it is managed and can be seen by developers only. It is responsible for the functioning of the whole application and incorporates such processes as database management, business logic, API development, server-side logic, push notifications.
It is recommended to start with the backend development and then begin working on the frontend. And, since backend development can be rather cumbersome, many software development companies like Kinvey offer MBaaS, which stands for Mobile Backend as a Service.
MBaaS providers offer developers a readymade backend for their mobile application via the available APIs and SDKs. So mobile developers only need to take care of the frontend while the backend part is ready and waits for integration with the frontend. Such an approach allows clients to save a significant amount of time and money by purchasing the available solution that will be 100% compatible with the designed frontend.
The frontend is everything that the user sees and interacts with. It incorporates user interface and user experience, synchronization, caching, and wireframing.
The frontend is tightly linked to the backend so both development processes need to be performed simultaneously. The frontend is responsible for the user experience so it is crucial that developers ensure the seamless performance of the app and make it interactive and engaging. Despite the great idea behind the app, it may fail if the app’s appearance does not attract the users and vice versa: if the app looks great but does not provide the necessary functionality, the user will delete it and switch to the competitors.
Approximate time: from 6 - 7 weeks for small apps to 20 - 21 weeks for the complex ones.
Stage 4: Testing
Even though you might have a brilliant development team, you can never be 100% sure about the absence of bugs, errors, or mistakes. Thus, another crucial part of the app development process is testing.
A 360-degree mobile app testing includes the following stages:
Compatibility with devices
Testing of interruptions by third parties
In this way, the QA engineers can ensure that the app performs equally well under different conditions, like loss of connection to the Internet, incoming calls, etc.
Approximate time: from 1 to 3 weeks.
Stage 5: Release
The release is the most exciting part of mobile app development but there are still many things to be taken into consideration.
First, you need to learn the guidelines by either Apple or Google on the app submission to the store. Both companies have different rules and provide useful and clear documentation for developers and entrepreneurs.
Second, make sure you have a solid marketing and PR strategy. It is recommended to start working on marketing in advance so by the time the application is ready, users are already aware of it.
Finally, before the release, it is obligatory to perform beta-testing to ensure the app runs smoothly and does not have any bugs.
Approximate time: about 1 week
To sum up, mobile application development includes many intricate processes that have to be treated with professionalism and experience from the developers’ side. If you do not have a robust in-house development team, pay attention to the outsourced development companies. From our own experience, such a collaboration is more cost-efficient yet it guarantees high results that correspond to the set expectations and business goals.
SoftTeco has developed over dozens of mobile applications for clients from the most various industries. Contact us to learn what we can offer specifically for your mobile project.