How long does it take to build a mobile app?
To start, you need to think about how much time it takes to build a mobile app.
A timeline is super helpful information that will guide your app’s launch to success. A timeline also makes it easier to know the best time to start your marketing and PR, to ensure people are aware of your app.
However, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how long it takes to build an app. The length of time depends on many factors, such as the app’s size and the amount of pre-launch testing you do.
No matter what, be prepared to give this project some time – just like Rome, apps aren’t built in a day!
Key stages: What’s required to develop an app
As a rough time frame, it can take anywhere from three to nine months to build an app, depending on the complexity and size of the app, as well as the number of people working on the project.
The key stages of developing an app are:
Four to six weeks of research
Six- to twelve-week design sprints
Twelve to sixteen weeks for development and testing
Up to two weeks for app store deployment
Continuous improvements behind the scenes - these need to be carried out during the app’s life
Let’s go into more detail for each stage, so you know what to prepare for.
App development timeline
Remember: it will take less time to develop a smaller app than a larger one, so let’s consider three differently-sized apps to show how the timeframe can vary massively.
Writing a project brief
To start developing an app, a project brief must be written.
This is a task that many individuals overlook, especially if getting app development companies like ADASTRA·ONE to help develop an app for them.
Although a brief may seem time-consuming, it’s vital to remember that the more clear and concise your project’s details, the less time it will take for us and other app developers to comprehend your project and requirements. When writing the project brief, consider the following questions:
What does the app need to accomplish?
What is the importance of this mobile app to your company?
Who is going to use it? Who is the target audience?
Who is involved in this project, and what are their responsibilities?
What are the steps involved?
No matter who you're working with, there are a few things you should include in your brief, in addition to the basics, such as your contact and company info. These include:
What measures you’d like to use to determine whether the project is a success
An ideal final delivery date
Research to understand the market and potential users
The next stage in developing any app is to acquire more detailed information about the target market and ideal users.
While this sounds similar to the project brief, this research-heavy stage goes further. It makes sure your app is aligned for proper market fit, is something that has the potential to be a success, and will fulfil its aims.
You will also deep-dive into competitors – and if there aren’t any direct ones, you’ll need to find inspiration and ideation elsewhere. By looking at other apps, you will be able to form a foundation of what features are necessary for your mobile app. All great innovation starts by looking at what's working well, and improving on it.
Keep in mind that smaller apps take up to two weeks at this stage, whereas mid-sized apps take up to three weeks, and larger ones take up to four weeks to complete.
User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) design sprints
Developing a mobile app would be hard without first putting together a design concept to see how things look.
Design concepts often use wireframes based on the feature and layout requirements specified in the previous stages. They provide a great birds-eye-view of the entire interface of the app. As wireframes are fast to mockup and easy to grasp, they can be quickly reviewed and adjusted.
After the wireframes have been finalised, the graphical UI design of the app, including the font, colour, theme, and images, must be added in. For a small app, you’re looking at up to four weeks. For a mid-sized app, plan for seven weeks. And for larger apps, budget for up to ten weeks as numerous UX and UI experts may need to be involved.
Often, app development involves sprints, such as design sprints. Sprints involve putting your app through its paces in a short period of time, roughly a week per sprint. This method allows problems and required changes to be addressed early on in the project so they don’t eat up a lot of time.
Don’t forget to ask potential users for feedback where possible. Although this is an early stage, making sure your app has key features that users need is important.
Development and testing
Development is where the planning and wireframes come to life. You can also start to physically play around with the app and its interface.
During this stage, a small app takes roughly two months, a medium-sized app takes about three months, and a larger app takes about six months. This includes the continuous design of the UI, the development of the backend, functional implementation, and integration. The backend, as well as the mobile apps for iOS and Android, should all be developed simultaneously.
This part also requires testers - at ADASTRA·ONE, we recommend having at least five testers for this alpha stage.
Rapid prototyping is when rough versions of your app are created quickly, instead of the whole app being finished at once. You will save a lot of time by prototyping in this manner instead of waiting until the final release and realising you need to make many changes. When used in conjunction with design sprints and alpha testers, rapid prototyping allows you to quickly iterate your app and test it with real users, allowing you to make quick and easy adjustments based on their feedback.
Beta testing and deployment
Here’s a good rule of thumb: never stop testing!
You should conduct beta testing on your app once it has been fully completed to discover any further potential flaws. Depending on the scale of your app, beta testing can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Once your app is as polished as possible, it’s time to deploy it to the App Store or Google Play store.
However, this isn’t as easy as a simple click. You’ll need to provide lots of information and particular assets, such as:
Contact information for your company
Screenshots of the app in action
App store descriptions
Demonstrations of the app, such as video footage
Be sure to allow for a lot of time for submission and review. There’s no telling how busy app reviewers are, especially when it comes to Apple, which adopts a much more rigorous and personal review of each app submitted, compared to Android, which uses an algorithm.
Continuous updates and post-launch support
This one is more difficult to give a timeframe for. Why? Even after you've launched the app, you'll need to devote time to it for continued updates and regular maintenance.
As you get feedback from actual users, a backlog of app ideas and features might develop. If you’re planning on bringing these in, they could require time and money to implement.
Initial concept: How long does it take to build an app prototype?
The word "prototype" doesn’t have to refer to a completely working app. It can be very bare-bones, rough around the edges, focused on only a few features, and nowhere near completion. None of that matters, as prototypes are there to help test and validate the most critical aspects of your project before moving on with development.
Giving a simple answer to how long it takes to build an app prototype is impossible. As you can see, the time it takes depends on the app's size. There are no set rules that say “this is a prototype”. Go with your gut and plan to develop prototypes when you need them.
Building an app with ADASTRA·ONE
You, your organisation, your team, and your app's end users will all play a role in developing an app.
There’s no denying that it takes a lot of time and effort to build an app. That’s why having an experienced team working on your project is essential - otherwise, delays will stack up. This is especially true for new or inexperienced developers. Before starting an app development project on your own, ask yourself whether you or your company can spare the time and resources required for up to nine months.
If that amount of time and effort is too much, get in touch with ADASTRA·ONE instead. At ADASTRA·ONE, we have been developing apps for over 10 years, with over 100 projects under our belt. With our experience and your ideas, a game-changing app is within your reach. Come and share your thoughts with us today.