If you have a great idea for the next best app, you may be wondering “ how long does it take to develop an app?” Great question, and researching the answer is the first step in bringing your idea to fruition.
As you can imagine, there are quite a few steps and a whole lot of planning involved in developing an app, so establishing a reasonable timeline and scope of the project is key. In this article, we’re going to take a high-level overview of a few of the things involved in the app development process as well as how long different milestones can take so you’re prepared to take the next step.
How long it takes to develop an app depends on a variety of factors, including the size of your development team, the app’s features, and budget.
Let’s first take a look at what category your app falls into: small, medium, or large-scale app project. Here are some key features of each to give you a better idea:
Overall, it’s important to first analyze the complexity of your app—is it small, medium, or large? This largely has to do with the number of features and functionality your app will offer users. An app like Facebook is a large application because it offers every single item on this list, and then some.
It’s a good idea to first write out a list of every feature and capability your app will have, and then move on to creating a storyboard. In case you haven’t heard this term before, a storyboard is essentially a visual depiction of how users will interact with your app—from logging in, sharing photos, tagging friends, and so on.
A storyboard will show various screens from your app which will display how your app will function. This is a great practice in web design and development, with “stories” being the unit in which you can express app functionality.
This process by itself can take anywhere from 1-4 weeks, depending on the size of your app. A small application will only require about a week of analyzing the app’s requirements and features, whereas a large app can take about four weeks.
Design and development is the crux of your app. This is the fun stage where you take all of your ideas and visions from your storyboards and start fleshing it out, adding color, and starting to code.
Designing an app isn’t just about making things look pretty and finding that perfect shade of millennial pink, it’s about creating a cohesive project with the right user flow, which breaks down into two components—UI (user interface) and UX (user experience). What do these two terms have in common? The user.
Each refers to different parts of the design process but ultimately work together to ensure a product’s success. UI is all about how users interact with your app. This includes things like buttons, touch screens, sounds, icons, checkboxes and so on.
An example of a website with great UI is Duolingo. After answering only a few questions, you’re on your way to learning a new language. Competitors like Rosetta Stone require users to move through several steps and screens to get started, which only adds friction to the process.
UX is more about analyzing and researching how a user is interacting with an app and if their needs are being met. Good UX means an app delivers a clear and simple interface that is user-friendly. It makes navigation through an app seamless.
Unlike app design, which revolves around the design elements of an app along with prototyping and wireframing, app development involves taking your designs and giving them life. This is the the crucial step where a web developer works closely with the designer to start coding all of the components of a project, which takes time.
At this stage, you’re ensuring the front-end and back-end of the project integrate seamlessly. Just keep in mind that even the best developers will still have to deal with bugs and errors in the app development process, which of course can delay the project.
Here are some common bugs that can occur when developing an app:
There’s plenty of issues that can and will arise when developing an app, which is why testing is so important. For a small app, design and development can take roughly between 8-10 weeks, and up to 30 weeks or more for a larger, more complex app.
As mentioned, this stage is absolutely crucial and enough time should be allotted to fully test out your app. Not only will this help catch bugs and errors, but testing your app will also allow your development team to identify UI/UX issues.
Testing typically happens in conjunction with the development of an app, not once the app is complete. Continually testing the app and all of its features allows developers to rectify any issues or glitches that can emerge. This process is known as alpha testing, and occurs before the release of the app.
Beta testing is performed by users—typically a limited number—rather than the development team to obtain additional feedback on quality, design, and development. This is the final stage of testing before the product is released to the public.
Overall, the testing process can take around 2-4 weeks depending on the size of the app, which includes multiple rounds of testing, feedback, and fixes. This part might not be automatically considered as part of the how long does it take to develop an app question because it’s a separate part, but we consider the whole process from start to finish as a whole, which makes it important enough to affect the development time.
As you can see, there are three broad strokes involved when it comes to developing an app: analyzing requirements and features, implementing design and development, and testing out your app, which can take anywhere from 13 to 38 weeks or more, depending on the size of the app.
Of course, this is just a rough estimate and can take less time or more time. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and expect it to take longer, especially if this is your first rodeo, as things rarely pan out exactly as you might plan.
With that said, you never want to skimp on any of these three stages as they’re all incredibly crucial to a project’s success and deserve enough time to be completed, thoroughly and efficiently.
This rough estimate also assumes you’re working with an experienced team of professionals. Working with newbies to save a buck can cause one too many headaches and result in delays. If that’s all your budget can afford, expect a longer timeline for the work to get done.
Creating an app is no easy feat, and just like with anything else, experience makes all the difference. If this is your first time taking an idea and turning it into an app, it will take time to not only get started in the development of the app, but also to research everything involved in the process, from design and development to testing and marketing.
Now that you have a general idea on what to expect and how long it takes to develop an app, the next step is to push forward in sharing your vision with a professional team that can help make it happen.
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