Whether it's a mobile app, a web-based platform, or a complex software solution, understanding the time it takes to build an application is crucial for project planning, resource allocation, and budgeting.
The adage "time is money" holds particularly true here, as the duration of development directly impacts the costs involved.
But unfortunately, predicting the lifetime of a web application development project is not always an easy task.
Several factors make predicting how long it will take to bring an application to life difficult, from project complexity to technological requirements.
In this article, we will explore how long it takes to develop an app based on key considerations such as app complexity, development stages, and more.
Let’s dive in!
The development time required to build a mobile app can vary depending on many factors, where the app's complexity is primary.
On average, developing an application can take anything from five to eight months. However, this estimate can change based on the app’s specific requirements and features.
The table below estimates the time it takes to develop an app based on its complexity:
App Type - Estimated Development Time
Simple App Development - 2-3 months
Average App Development - 5-8 months
Complex App Development - 10+ months
Now let’s look at the three types of app development timelines discussed above through some examples that show how much effort goes into each type:
A weather app is a simple mobile application that provides updated weather information and forecasts.
Such applications typically have only four or five screens, such as the home screen, the location selection screen, the weather details screen, and the settings screen.
Developing such a simple application usually requires only two to three months. A developer should enable the app to access GPS locations and add an API to pull real-time weather data.
Developing such an app also requires some time to build features like:
Some famous examples of weather apps are AccuWeather, The Weather Channel, and WeatherBug.
Fitness tracking apps let us monitor our vitals and daily activities.
These apps typically utilize various sensors in smartphones or wearable devices to track metrics such as the steps you take, the distance you travel, the calories you burn, your heart rate, and your sleep patterns.
A fitness tracking app is a perfect example of an average complexity app with around eight to ten screens. For instance, it can have a login/registration screen, an activity tracking screen, a goals screen, a workout history screen, a nutrition tracking screen, etc.
Developing an average complexity application can take around five to eight months, mainly due to the higher number of screens and features.
Since a fitness tracking app will gather and analyze data in real-time, developing the back end requires more time, like setting up databases and APIs.
The crucial features of a fitness-tracking app include the following:
A social media platform has around 15 to 20 screens, making it an ideal example of a complex app. Such apps take more than ten months to develop - and for good reason.
To begin with, they have more screens and features than a simple or average app. Additionally, social media apps have to collect and securely store customer information, which requires putting more effort into implementing appropriate security measures in the application.
Exactly how long it takes to develop a complex application will depend on the number of features it has. A social media app can have features like:
As we already mentioned, many factors can impact how long it takes to develop an application.
Let’s go through them in more detail:
Project complexity can have a significant impact on the software development timeline.
The complexity of a project refers to the degree of intricacy and difficulty involved in its design, implementation, and maintenance.
The time difference caused by project complexity can range from a couple of weeks to a few months or even longer. For instance, developing a complex SaaS mobile application can take as much as eight to ten months.
The project scope refers to the specific goals, deliverables, features, and tasks required for a software development project.
It defines the project's boundaries and outlines what features and goals will be included and excluded.
The number of features can have the most impact here. Based on complexity, developing a feature can take around 10-15 hours. Hence, it is essential to prioritize features based on frameworks like RICE, KANO, Story Mapping, MoSCoW, etc.
Software development requires a lot of resources, such as custom app developers, app designers, testers, project managers, servers, networking equipment, Integrated Development Environments (IDEs), and more.
All these resources depend on each other to guarantee that the application will be developed successfully and on time.
For instance, if designers are not available, developers cannot start their part of the work. At the same time, if servers or other hardware resources are unavailable, human resources cannot begin to develop the software either.
In software development, "technology" refers to tools, frameworks, and programming languages.
On the other hand, "infrastructure" refers to the underlying systems, hardware, and software components that support the software development process.
The choice of development tools and frameworks, as well as the availability of hardware infrastructure, can all impact the development timeline.
For instance, modern development frameworks offer built-in functionalities and libraries that expedite development tasks. Similarly, robust and scalable hosting environments, such as cloud platforms, simplify the deployment process and provide automatic scaling capabilities.
This allows developers to perform their tasks efficiently and quickly, shortening the development timeline.
When a team possesses strong technical skills, expertise, and experience relevant to the project requirements, it can positively influence the speed and efficiency of development.
Conversely, a team lacking the necessary development skills may encounter challenges and delays throughout development.
One key aspect of skill proficiency that affects the timeline is how well the team knows the chosen technology stack. If the team has prior experience and expertise in the specific programming languages, development frameworks, and tools required for the project, they can quickly grasp and implement the necessary functionalities.
This familiarity reduces the learning curve and enables them to work more efficiently, potentially saving time.
Testing and Quality Assurance (QA) Test cases are executed, regression tests are conducted, and the results are analyzed.
Developers need to allocate time to fix any defects they find. The severity and complexity of the issues will determine the impact on the timeline.
Testing and QA often occur in iterative cycles within the development process. Each iteration involves testing the software, providing feedback, and implementing necessary changes.
This iterative approach helps enhance the software's quality but can also extend the development timeline. The higher the number of iterations, the longer it can take to develop an application.
External dependencies like APIs, third-party services, and programming libraries can influence the development timeline.
Integration and compatibility issues can arise when different components have incompatible interfaces, conflicting dependencies, or require additional configuration. Resolving these challenges can consume valuable development time.
Also, limited access, slow response times from maintainers, or updates requiring code modifications and additional testing can cause delays.
The app development lifecycle typically involves several stages that take the project from conception to completion.
These stages take different amounts of time and effort based on their complexity. For instance, the research stage is complicated, as it requires conducting interviews, analyzing market data, etc. Hence, it can take a little longer than the idea validation stage where the project management team will simply try to find if there’s a demand for the app.
Let's break these stages down in detail to understand how long it takes to develop an application:
The research stage involves gathering information, analyzing the market, defining user requirements, and planning the app's features and functionality.
It is crucial for understanding your target audience, identifying competitors and assessing their work, and validating the viability of the app idea.
The duration of the research stage is usually between one-two weeks but can vary based on the app's complexity.
It includes conducting:
The ideation stage is all about determining if there's a demand for your application in the market. It involves evaluating the market demand, target audience, competition, and feasibility of implementing the idea. The primary goal is to gather feedback and insights to refine your concept before investing significant time and resources into development.
Key steps in the idea validation stage are defining the target audience, conducting surveys and interviews, and analyzing feedback. Completing these steps can take up to one week.
As the name gives out, the product strategy stage is where the project managers, developers, and stakeholders sit down to define a strategy for building the application.
This stage consists of many other steps, such as defining goals and objectives, building user personas, prioritizing features, creating a product roadmap, etc.
Based on the app's complexity, the product strategy stage can take up to two weeks.
The prototyping stage involves creating a visual representation or a working application model.
Prototyping aims to validate and refine the app's functionality, features, and overall design before proceeding to the design and development phases.
It's important to allocate sufficient time for the prototyping stage as it helps identify and address potential usability issues, user experience bottlenecks, and design flaws early on. A well-executed prototyping stage can save time and resources during the subsequent development phases by reducing the likelihood of rework and ensuring a more refined and user-friendly final product.
Creating a prototype and validating it can take anywhere around three weeks.
The design stage in app development involves creating the application's visual and user experience aspects. It encompasses wireframing, creating the User Interface (UI) design, and defining the overall User Experience (UX) flow.
Generally, the design stage can take around a couple of months. It is crucial to allocate sufficient time for design to ensure that the final product meets your target audience’s desired standards and offers an engaging user experience.
It's worth noting that design activities often occur in parallel with development in agile development methodologies, such as Scrum. This allows for continuous improvement and adaptation throughout the project lifecycle.
The development stage is where the actual creation and coding of the application takes place.
It typically follows the initial planning and design phases. During the development stage, developers write the front-end and back-end code, implement the features, and build the application's functionality based on the design specifications.
Besides the front-end and back-end development, the developers will also work on database design and development, integrating APIs and services, testing, and debugging.
The overall development stage usually requires between five to seven months. However, due to any influencing factor like the number of features, design complexity, resource availability, etc., it can take even more time.
The launch stage preparation is when the app is nearing completion and is about ready for its official release to the public.
Basically, this stage involves ensuring the app is ready for a successful launch.
Some of the key aspects you will typically need to address during this stage include the following:
These tasks can take up to one month to get completed.
While the app development timeline can be long, especially if you’re developing a complex app, there are different ways to reduce it:
As businesses strive to stay ahead in today's mobile-driven market, understanding the timeline for developing an application becomes crucial.
By breaking down the development process into various stages and partnering with a reputable mobile application development company like MakeITSimple, businesses can navigate the complexities and ensure a successful outcome.
With our understanding of the challenges and requirements that come with creating custom mobile apps, MakeITSimple can help take your company to the next level.
Contact our experts today to embark on the exciting path of mobile app development and unlock the potential for growth and success in your business.
If you are looking for a bespoke software development company, please get in touch by phone by calling +44 (0) 1905 700 050 or filling out the form below.
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