A mobile app development timeline can vary depending on the type of app being developed. For example, a mobile game app might need to go through extensive client testing and mobile application store approval. In contrast, a mobile app for internal use within an organization might progress from idea to launch in just a few weeks.
The following is a breakdown of the development cycle of a mobile app and how long you can expect each stage to take.
Stage 1: Business Analysis – (2-3 Weeks)
A business analysis helps determine if there is an audience for the mobile application and clarifies whether developing the application aligns with your business goals. You will need to gather information from various sources, including current customers, industry reports, and future trends.
During this stage, you will also need to create a mobile application strategy that includes the specifications of the mobile app, such as the features and functionality. Consider making a Specification Requirements Document to describe the app's intended function, purpose, user interface elements, and more.
The time it takes to perform a business analysis depends on how clear the app's goal is. If the app addresses a specific business need, the analysis may not take as long. However, if the app's intended purpose is unclear, or if the key functionality and features of the app are still being debated, it can take longer.
Stage 2: UX/UI Design – (3-4 Weeks)
The app's user experience (UX) will depend significantly on its user interface (UI). The UX of the app refers to how it will work for the end user, meaning the user journey, navigation, flow for task completion, and interaction with the business and its products.
Essentially, it's about giving the user the control to perform tasks within the app with as much ease as possible, whether it is finding content or making a payment using a credit card.
The UI of the app includes the practical elements that create the user experience, such as the color scheme, font pairings, spacing, responsive design, and more. These touch points are heavily linked to how the user experiences the app.
The amount of time it takes to design the UI will depend on how complicated the app is. The more screens there are, and the more functionality and features the app provides, the longer it will take to design an effective UI that produces a positive user response.
Stage 3: Back End Development – (6-8 Weeks)
The back end refers to the mobile app's server-side code, which is responsible for sending and receiving data. Back-end development includes setting up data storage, data integration, server-side logic, user management, and push notifications.
The mobile app back end will serve as the foundation for all mobile application development and can be used to add new features later on during mobile app development. Because the back-end architecture serves the functionality of your app, the more complex the app’s function is, the longer it will take to develop the back end.
Stage 4: Front End Development – (6-8 Weeks)
The front end refers to the elements that determine the UI and UX. Front-end development includes setting up the app's caching (temporary data storage), data synchronization (which enables the app's offlineoperation), wireframing, UI design, and UI development.
During this stage, internal testing is also conducted to ensure that these elements appear and function the way they should on the user end. Again, the timeline is highly dependent on the complexity of the app's functionality and features. However, it may also take longer if the testing phase discovers issues on the front end that need to be addressed.
Stage 5: Testing And Launching – (3-6 Weeks)
You must thoroughly test an app upon completion before it can be launched. If you don't, it can affect the UX. The last thing you want is an app with bugs and issues, or one that doesn't perform as intended. Users will simply abandon the app if this is the case.
After the app's completion, several different tests must be conducted, including functional testing, integration testing, and unit testing. Any bugs or other issues that are discovered must then be fixed and addressed before you can launch the app.
The more problems that are found, the longer this stage will take to complete. It's also worth noting that internal testing is called "alpha" testing.
You may also want to conduct secondary “beta” tests, which can extend the project timeline as well. Beta tests are performed by real users in the target market and usually takes between three and four weeks to complete.
Stage 6: Support And Maintenance
The last stage of development requires mobile developers to provide ongoing mobile app support and maintenance. You'll need to monitor your app's performance as well as pay attention to user feedback. During this time, you may need to fix issues with the app or address problems users have.
You may also need to update your app to optimize security and add new features and functionality. As long as your app is being used, you need to provide constant support and maintenance. Therefore, there is no estimated timeline for this stage as it is dependent on factors specific to the project.
Your App Category
There are many different categories that your app may belong to. Both the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store offer dozens of different app categories to choose from.
Apps in different categories serve different functions–some of these functions are more complex than others and require longer development times. With that in mind, the following are a few examples of different app categories:
- Educational Apps
Most educational apps are relatively easy to develop, especially if their only function is to provide new content (such as a news app). That doesn't mean that some educational apps won’t take longer to develop than others.
For instance, translation apps, such as Duolingo, may take longer because of the amount of information that must be accessed based on user input. Moreover, some educational apps are more information-based and require real-time data to remain relevant to users. Such apps, like the Weather Channel app, can also be slightly trickier to develop.
- Lifestyle Apps
Lifestyle Apps include dating apps, such as Tinder, and drive share apps, such as Uber. These apps are challenging to develop as they require a lot of features and functionality, which means that you can expect the development timeline for such an app to be much longer than apps in other categories.
- Productivity Apps
Productivity apps tend to serve one primary function, which means they are not too complicated to develop. However, they are still more complex than apps whose only function is to provide readable content since productivity apps require user input.
For example, a calculator app, a note-taking app (that organizes your notes), and a to-do list app are all productivity apps. While most of these focus on just one primary function, they do typically require user input, a good search function, organizational systems, and an excellent user interface–all of which can take some time to develop.
- Game Apps
As you can imagine, a game app can be quite complex to develop since it requires significant user interactivity and high-quality graphics. Some game apps are a bit simpler to build than others. For example, games that require the user to play alone, such as a virtual card game (like Solitaire), won't take as long to build as an online game where multiple users play with or against each other.
Factors Affecting Your Mobile App Development Timeline
The previous timeline is an estimation of how long it takes to develop a mobile app. However, many factors can affect the development timeline. You must understand these factors in order to better predict how long development will take for your mobile app.
With that in mind, the following are some of the common factors that will affect your mobile app development timeline:
Your App's Features and Functionality
The mobile app features you want to include in your mobile application will affect the mobile development timeline. The more mobile features and functionality included in the app, the longer it will take to develop your mobile application.
For example, do you want your app to provide push notifications, user authentication, geolocation tracking, search functionality, or payment capabilities? Adding such features will lengthen your development timeline.
If you're building a more content-based app and want basic functionality, such as a search feature and push notifications, development will probably only take two to four weeks. However, if you're building a drive share app that requires geolocation, audio calls and text messaging, and payment capabilities, it will likely take much longer–as long as four months.
The Platform You're Using
There are two main platforms for mobile applications: Android and iOS. However, choosing between the two can be a challenge. Each platform requires the use of different programming languages, tools, and technologies.
However, iOS is for Apple products only, whereas Android runs on various mobile devices. As such, developing for iOS will take less time–about 20 to 30% less time–than it would take to develop for Android.
But, if you want to develop your app for both platforms and reach the largest audience possible, you'll need to keep in mind that doing so is essentially like building two separate apps. There are other options, but developing natively for each platform is generally the best bet to achieve the best performance for your app.
The Complexity Of Your App
It might seem obvious, but the more complex your app is, the longer it will take to develop. This complexity refers to the number of features your app offers and the degree of user interaction.
For example, a mobile game app that allows user control will be much more complicated to develop than a news app that delivers static content. Knowing how complex your app is will make it easier to determine how long it will take to develop.
Simple Mobile Apps
Suppose you're developing a simple mobile app with only one or two primary functions and limited interactivity.
In that case, it shouldn't take too long to develop. Such an app is essentially just a way to deliver new content to the user. If your app is basic, it probably won't take more than one or two months to develop.
Moderate Mobile Apps
A moderate mobile app is an app that goes beyond just delivering static content to users. For instance, if the app uses real-time data to provide up-to-date information in the app, it might be a bit more complex to develop. Such added functionality can be considered "moderate" in terms of complexity. Expect a moderate app to take three to four months to complete.
Complex Mobile Apps
The most complex apps to develop include apps that require a lot of user interaction (such as games) and apps that have complex functions (such as navigation apps, which use GPS). These apps are the most complicated to build due to the amount of functionality required. As such, they can take as long as five to seven months to develop.
Tips To Shorten Your Mobile App Development Timeline
A mobile app development timeline is affected by many factors. However, you can shorten your mobile application development timeline by planning ahead and using the following tips:
MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a version of an application with just the primary features and functionality in place. An MVP is typically bare-bones, and includes only the features that are absolutely required for the app to be useful and satisfy the user.
The idea behind an MVP is to get your app into the hands of users as quickly as possible so that you can receive and use feedback to continue the app’s development. Releasing an MVP can help cut your development timeline by as much as 30%.
Cross-platform App (Hybrid App)
Building a cross-platform mobile app using Xamarin, React Native, or other frameworks could be your best option if you want to develop an app for multiple mobile platforms, namely for both Android and iOS.
By creating a hybrid app that runs on both platforms, you avoid having to develop two separate native apps, which will help cut down your development timeline significantly.
Keep in mind that although a well-developed hybrid app can perform well, it won't quite match the high-level performance of an app that has been developed natively.
White Label Solution
If mobile users are your target audience, you can significantly shorten your mobile application development timeline by choosing a mobile platform or framework that uses components that users are already familiar with. This strategy is known as a white label solution. You can save a substantial amount of time implementing a white label solution.
Test Using Automation
As mobile app development progresses, it is essential to test mobile application features and mobile functionality. Mobile developers can save time by testing mobile apps with automation tools instead of manual testing.
Who Is Developing Your App?
There are different ways to develop your app, and each way will affect your timeline differently. Building your app in-house should, theoretically, have the shortest timeline since you can monitor your team more easily and hold them all accountable. However, few companies can afford to hire an in-house team full-time.
Software developers are expensive, and you may need to purchase expensive software tools and programs for your team. Additionally, the hiring process for external software developers can be arduous–and there's no guarantee that the people you hire will do a good job.
Another route is to hire freelancers. Doing so can save a significant amount of money since you're only hiring them temporarily. The problem with freelancers is that there won't be nearly as much oversight.
Moreover, the quality of the work can vary significantly, and a lack of communication can delay your timeline as well. Not to mention that if one freelancer doesn't do their work, it could affect the ability of the rest of your freelance team to complete their tasks as well.
The last option is to outsource to a development agency. While this may be more expensive than hiring individual freelancers, it's much more cost-effective than hiring an in-house development team. Agencies are also way more reliable, and can ensure the quality of the work.
On top of that, there's a lot of flexibility in how you can work with an agency. If you have in-house developers, an agency can help to temporarily fill any gaps in your team. Moreover, if you lack any in-house development capabilities, an agency can handle the entire development process on your behalf.If you are looking for a mobile app development agency, Brainspire can help you get your project done faster, without sacrificing the quality you expect.