342 hours, 47 minutes and 9 seconds.
You wish we had an answer that precise. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. But what we do have is a guide to help you approximate how long it will take you to build your app.
How long it takes to develop an app varies based on several factors. It depends on where in the planning stage you might be, the kind of app you need developed, and how amazing your app design and development team support is. The average time it takes to build an app is anywhere between 4-6 months, but let’s further understand the different factors that impact how long it takes to develop an app.
Let’s break these factors down into 2 main categories
The planning stage
- You have a basic idea of what is needed in the app, but not a defined scope
- You have a defined scope laying out exactly what is needed
- You have finished UI/UX designs
Let’s dive into each one. We recommend keeping a calculator handy.
The planning stage
You have a basic idea of what’s needed in the app
Before custom developing an app, it’s important to ensure it fits with your business goals. If you have an idea that you’ve thought about but need some help developing it further and aligning it with your business goals, this is where you’re at. If you’ve already figured all that out, you can jump to the next step.
This is the discovery stage and typically takes anywhere between 25-45 hours, depending on the size of your project. This stage would involve understanding various features you need in the app as well as how you’d like for it to come together. This also involves extensive competition research, studying API and code libraries to analyze feasibility of development, deciding between iOS and Android, native and PWA. This stage is used to ensure your app idea is in line with your business goals to achieve optimal ROI.
You have a defined idea, but not a UI/UX design
Now that you have a defined scope and functionalities, the next step is designing the app.
So the obvious thing to do is design the UX and UI and then move to development.
This is when rapid prototyping comes in. Imagine spending hours and hours on designing and developing your mobile app only to find out that it’s not the best fit for users. In fact, two thirds of all the apps developed fail to hit 1000 downloads and almost 24% of users abandon apps after the first visit due to a lack of user testing. Moreover, it’s 10x cheaper to fix a design flaw while prototyping than during development. The prototype is a rough UX design draft with the basic foundation but allows the design team to iterate based on what’s working and what’s not.
Image credit: Business of Apps
The UX design, rapid prototyping and UI design on average take around 50-100 hours. This includes a user journey and wireframes, therefore the time involved depends on the complexity of the application.
You have a finished UI/UX Design
This is when you’re ready to jump directly into the development stage. There are four main elements that will affect the delivery timeline:
- The actual development
- QA testing
- Project Management
- Deploying your app
The actual development involves project setup, the front end, back end, server side development, additional API integrations and averages around 350 – 500 hours. Let’s look at the various factors involved that go into estimating the effort involved.
Cross Platform vs iOS/Android
It takes 2X the time to develop two separate apps for iOS and Android while 1.5X the time to develop a cross platform app. While the upfront time and cost for a cross platform app is higher, we recommend it with React Native as it is the most optimal if you’re planning on being present on both Android and iOS. React Native will absolutely work for the majority of apps, unless you’re building a game or a graphically intense app.
Related: Swift vs React Native for iOS
Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) vs Native
Not to start another holy war (we’ve already gone over it here) but PWAs vs Native is definitely an important consideration when building your mobile app. It wouldn’t be fair to say one is better over the other, because both have their own use cases, but in terms of time and effort, PWAs take the cake because of the relative ease of development. However, it may not always be the best option especially if you’re looking for specific functionalities in iOS. This decision is usually taken at the discovery stage but in the end impacts development time and is therefore worth mentioning here.
Third party integrations
Third party integrations include GoogleFit, WooCommerce, Typeform, Mailchimp, Calendly, Twilio, etc. The average integration takes about 20-25 hours. This varies for the type of integration but the number should give you a ballpark time effort based on the number of integrations needed.
These could be things like
- HIPAA Compliance or Encryptions
- Machine Learning
- Payment Processing
- Recurring Subscriptions
The average time for each of these is hard to average because, let’s say, integration of an app with Stripe for payment processing may take around 40 hours and developing an ML algorithm for a chatbot to cater to patients with mental issues may require up to 100 hours alone.
Once the actual development is over, comes one of the most important elements of the process – QA testing. On an average, QA testing takes up around 30% of the time of the actual app development. For example, if the actual app development took around 300 hours, QA would take up around 30% of that, which is an additional 90 hours, bringing the total upto 390 hours.
Project management takes on average 15% of the total time that goes into development and QA. That would be an additional 15% of the 390 hours, bringing the total effort involved upto 449 hours. Project Management is one of the most important aspects of developing a mobile app. From keeping tabs on the project progress, to ensuring the team has everything necessary to proceed at pace to taking and passing on feedback from clients, project management can turn around the project timelines.
Once your app is ready to launch, the next and final step is to deploy it from the development environment to the actual live hosting which can take an average of 25 hours in the case of a web app, and around 8 hours for the App Store or Google Play.
External factors once development begins
In an ideal world, the amount of time it takes to build an app is dependent solely on the elements we discussed above. However, that’s not always the case. Some external factors may indirectly affect how long app development takes as well.
We can’t stress enough on how important and impactful this one is. It is important for the project team to not just understand what’s needed from the app in terms of development but how the app will ultimately impact the business as a whole.
Something to look out for in your team is the ability to understand the capital and time to market constraints and accordingly propose solutions that do not compromise quality. In a best case scenario, the team should be able to understand the goal behind the app and recommend a strategy whether it is a PWA or a cross platform app in the best interest of the business.
Additionally, the resources available to work on a particular project greatly influence the time it takes to develop the app. For example, let’s say the estimated hours for development are 449. Can the development team double up on resources and work full time on the app to go live in half the time? How about putting three or more developers on the same app to get it ready even faster? A team with decent experience will be able to tell you if that’s the case from the get-go and whether more developers would mean faster turnaround for your project.
In some cases stakeholder management can be time consuming because the app is being built in collaboration with more than one party. Facilitating regular meetings, providing regular updates to different stakeholders, getting different feedback from those involved can be overwhelming and time consuming. It’s important to account for this when creating project timelines as well as create a process to optimally streamline stakeholder management.
Unpredictable situations like new iOS releases, mid project changes, third party integration changes may impact project timelines. Ensure the project plan is concrete to avoid situations that you can control such as mid project changes. For the external factors that may not be in your control like iOS and third party updates, keep some buffer time, especially if the project is a long one (over 6 months).
Now that we’ve gone over some of the factors that influence how long it will take to develop your app, let’s walk you through how we helped develop Tygon Lyte, a light therapy IoT app, for a sense of the different factors that go into a project as well as timelines involved.
Tygon and Topflight Apps
When Dr Shaul Yehezkel approached us, he and his team had been working on a device called TYGON Lyte for 2 years and needed to build a cross-platform app for iOS and Android. This was a patented hardware device that was designed to treat conditions like inflammation, traumatic injuries, acne as well as UVC sanitizing, black light detection and more. The app was to act as a “remote control” for the medical device.
What stage was Dr Shaul in?
Dr Shaul knew what he wanted from his app but had not yet developed the UI/UX designs. That’s when we stepped in. That takes us directly into stage 2 “You have a defined idea, but no UI/UX designs.”
Also Read: Agile App Development Guide
Step 1 – Designing the UX UI (Effort = 70-80 hours)
This involved not only creating a modern, user-friendly UI/UX using simple wireframes but also prioritizing what functionalities to highlight. Since the device did multiple things, based on our experience we hypothesized that light therapy was going to be the core value proposition based on which we designed the UI/UX to match the branding of the hardware. Therefore other than UI/UX design, this phase involved us using our experience to guide the client to decide the core value proposition.
Step 2 – Development (Effort = 380 hours)
This involved collaborating with the in house development team to create a cross platform app to stay in sync with the firmware product roadmap that the internal team was working on. We used Firebase, our preferred scaffolding tool for non HIPAA user management and React Native. The product roadmap was broken down into smaller chunks to not just speed up time to market but also understand user behavior to make data driven decisions about next steps in development.
Here’s what the timelines for this project looked like:
- Design (UI/UX, Prototype) = 80 hours
- Development = 380 hours
- QA = 114 (30% of development)
- Project Management = 74 hours (15% of Development + QA)
The total project ran around 650 hours.
Also Read: App Development Costs: The Complete Guide
We continue to work on Tygon today and are going to be launching Phase 2 of the product. When working with a transformative product like Tygon it is important that the development team is constantly innovating and contributing not just from a development standpoint but also a business and growth standpoint.
Hopefully you have a better idea of what to expect when developing an app both in terms of process and timelines. It’s important to remember that the more concrete the idea and goals behind the app are before beginning development, the higher are the chances of a successful and timely delivery. On average, developing an app from the planning to launch stage takes 4-6 months, but this greatly varies on all the above factors. It is also helpful to have a partner that provides ongoing maintenance and support as apps are always a work in progress, whether that’s upgrades, feature improvements, app store changes or something else. If you’re looking to build an app and aren’t quite sure what the next steps are, get in touch for a free consultation.
- Custom Mobile App Development Guide
- App Development Costs: Budgeting for your App
- A Guide to Agile App Development
- Getting the most our of hourly app development contracts