So, you have an idea and an initial fund to start the development of your new product? That’s a great start! And now you probably would like to know how long does it take to build an app and how soon will people be able to download your app from stores or sign up to your service online.
Well, if you google around for some time you might come up with a 4-6 months span. Which is not unrealistic. However, taking this number for granted for all the projects might mislead you into thinking that it is true for your particular app as well. To save you the stress of not falling within this span, SOLVVE decided to make a breakdown of different stages in the software development process to help you calculate for yourself the time it is necessary to bring your app to life.
Thus, without further ado, let’s dive in.
How long does it take to build an app?
Before even stepping into the waters of the development, consider if you are dealing with sensitive information. And if you do, start the conversation with the development provider by signing an NDA. It is a good practice for development companies to provide NDAs beforehand.
How long will it take? Good agencies would handle your requests within 24 hours or provide you with information about when to expect the documents.
Getting to know your partners
Presuming you are here, we’ll make an assumption that you understand the perks of outsourcing the development of your app. When choosing an outsourcing agency you should get to know its principles, practices and people better. Be sure to collect references about your potential partner to make sure the company has enough competencies, expertise, and skilled staff to accommodate your project. Building trust with the future service provider is the way to go.
Speaking of trust here is one more thing to pay attention to. Make sure that the project manager will provide you with reports about the project and provide you access to necessary documents so that you are always aware of how things are moving along and if there are any roadblocks that require your attention. You should always have means to contact the project manager and the team members directly as well as meet people who will be working for your project in advance and have your say in case you want to change one or several team members. This will most likely happen during the planning stage and the time required for the team to be formed can be counted as part it.
Planning and defining requirements
Before you even get to building an app there is a huge amount of work to be done that has nothing to do with coding. No matter how soon you want to see a working version of your app, first, you need to sit down and think about how your business goals should be resolved or optimized by using an app/software and how it will work in as many details as possible. Oftentimes, a poorly written brief for the project and the lack of market research for your app can significantly increase the development time.
The better you plan, the sooner your application will be ready. That is why it is crucial to cooperate with the business analysts and compile requirements for your future app to the tiniest detail. Do not underestimate this step in a hope that you will figure things out as your project moves on. To avoid future delays here is a (not full) list of things to consider:
- Who is the future target audience for your app? Who are these people, where they live and what kind of lifestyle do they have, what language do they speak and what kind of problem your app is solving for them, etc? Take a look at your competitors and define your key selling point, i.e. how your product is different from your competitors’ and why people should choose your app over the others of the same type.
- Define your minimum viable project (MVP). Try not to pursue perfection. The sky’s the limit and there is always space for improvement. Thus, you may postpone the release date on and on endlessly. Instead, decide on what is the bare minimum that will satisfy your audience and set quality acceptance criteria for this bare minimum of features.
- Access the technical side of your project. What features do you want to have? What technologies are required to deliver them? How many technical experts will be working on the project? Where will they come from? If you do not have a technical background, analysts and lead developers will advise you on what technologies will suit this project best and what kind of service model suits your needs.
- Write user stories. These are special formulas that will tell developers what kind of goal we are pursuing and what it should look like in the end.
- Prototypes. These are coarse approximations of how your app will look like to the end-user in terms of buttons, screens, layouts, etc. We cannot stress this enough: this is not how your final product will look like visually. At this stage, you need to figure out how it should work for the user to ensure a good user experience. It is easy to notice the feasibility issues or inconsistencies and define the functionality even clearer.
- Once your MVP and prototypes are ready, make sure that you have clear goals and ways to measure the success of reaching them. What metrics are you going to use and how are you going to collect them?
- Estimate the budget. Analysts will help you match your wants with your budget. Maybe you will need to shorten the list of features, or maybe you will find that you can add some extras.
- Delivery date. Similar to the budget, analysts will help you balance the amount of work that can be done for your desirable release date or suggest your preliminary release date for your MVP.
As you can see, there are a lot of discussions to go through before you’ll get to work. SOLVVE always starts each project with business analysis. To learn more, read our dedicated article about the business analysis approach at SOLVVE in 3 easy steps.
To sum it up, we start by defining and crystalizing the core ideas behind the product.
When dealing with business goals our analysts interview the stakeholders or research the competitors’ products, then move on to set the priorities by assessing the different aspects of the project. As for the technical requirements, we work with use cases, page descriptions, and other methodologies that suit our customers’ case the best.
SOLVVE accommodates products of different sizes and complexity and is very flexible about the type of documentation and instruments that we use for analysis and requirements finalization.
How long will it take? At least 1-2 weeks for small to midsize projects. But it could easily go over 5 weeks for complex or large-scale projects.
At this stage, our designer team will create prototypes to visualize future products and settle on the data architecture and functionality requirements. But did not we deal with prototypes during the planning stage? Yes, we started the process but painted your app in bold strokes.
Now, during this stage, designers will keep on refining and iterating on the initial ideas to turn crude prototypes into a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing interface that the end-users will see in real life. At SOLVVE, this is a very well-polished process. Moreover, our design experts can advise on the latest UI/UX trends to make your app more appealing to the users.
Expect a close work with the designer as they will be presenting you with new versions of the design every week or two. These are so-called design sprints. During the planning stage analysts and the lead designers can provide you with more details on how many sprints will it take to finalize the design.
How long will it take? At least 6-12 weeks. Then again, the larger your project is, the more screens there will be, the longer it will take to design them all.
If you are a non-technical person, this part will probably be where all the magic happens. Yesterday you had a pile of paperwork with briefs, project plans, prototypes, etc., and today you can have hands-on experience using your app at the early stage of its development. What happens here?
We start building up the first version of an actual product for further testing and improvements based on the clients and users’ feedback for prototypes. New iterations come through development sprints that last for two or three weeks and result in an updated version of the project. We keep on improving the product until it is ready for release.
More specifically, our mobile, web, and cloud experts work on two core elements of the app. These are the backend solutions (e.g. data storages and integration, server-side logic, versioning, etc.) and frontend engineering (e.g. UI design, caching, synchronization, etc.). You do not have to understand what these terms mean, but it is crucial to understand that each of them requires time to be done. Tech leads of your project can advise you on what your app will require and how long will it take to build these parts.
How long will it take? At least another 6-12 weeks.
QA and testing
The quality assurance team looks at the product from the users’ perspective and designs the necessary testing methodologies and scenarios to eliminate possible problems that might influence user experience and overall satisfaction with the product. SOLVVE quality assurance team runs several different types of testing, including manual and automated as well as functional and non-functional.
This stage is full of surprises. All sorts of unexpected bugs can show up and postpone the release date. However, if you would take our advice, accept this fact and work towards fixing your app before uploading it to the store. You only have one chance to make a first impression and not be yet another app that gets installed and deleted after 5 minutes because it’s buggy and impossible to use.
How long will it take? It depends on the size of the project and the number of business scenarios involved in it.
Deployment and maintenance
After the product release, you might want to leave it to the developer to keep on maintaining the app and to fix any occurring errors and deliver updates for better performance and reliability. This is an ongoing process with no specific end-date unless specified by the contact.
How long will it take? It might take around 1 week.
What else can affect the release date?
You probably do not want to hear it, but almost always it takes more time than expected. And here is why it might happen.
It was absolutely necessary to make changes midway. Whether it is an outside factor like a new iOS release or changes in a third-party integrated product or internal factors like discovering too many bugs during the testing period, it will take time to bypass these circumstances. This is also true for situations where you decide to throw in a few new features or have lost focus of your goals due to poor planning.
Your project requires very complex technologies. If you need to integrate an AI-and-ML-powered element, like a recommender system for a social network, or facial recognition options, or human behavior assessment tools (yes, they exist!), you will need more time to build, train, and integrate these elements into your project.
Industry greatly influences the outcome because it dictates the level of complexity and features needed to succeed on the market. To give you some examples, building an app that connects patients and healthcare providers for home service took SOLVVE several months. On the other hand, building an online eCommerce platform that serves several markets in their languages took SOLVVE 2 years. If you check our case studies, you will see that the time frame varies greatly. Some projects even have been paused for a while only to get back on track later on.
The answer to the question of “How long does it take to build an app?” depends on each project specifically. You will only get an approximation of the required period after you have gone through the planning stage. If someone gives you a number from the top of their head right away without going into the details of building your app, that is an alarming sign.
Building top-quality apps that are beautiful, easy-to-use, and working stable round the clock takes time. Thus, be sure to talk to the development company about the estimates. SOLVVE team would be happy to discuss your project and advise you on the development time. Thus, do not hesitate to contact us. Let us make it happen!