Mobile App Development Process: 6 Steps (2023)
Over the last decade, Invonto has built over 100 mobile and web apps. Our work has impacted the growth of companies across many industries. During project consultations, clients always ask, “how long does it take to make an app?”. You are wondering the same thing. In our experience, it takes an average of 4 to 6 months to develop an app. We have built applications in one month. We have built applications that took over a year. Many factors can contribute to how long it takes to develop an app. It depends on the complexity of your app and the development process. Let’s take a closer look at the app development timeline.
The app development timeline
A successful app needs strategy, execution, and promotion. You can’t just build an app. First, your mobile strategy must establish your goals. The strategy guides the app development process. You must hire the right talent to develop your app. And you need a persistent marketing strategy to promote your app. The work doesn’t end after the launch. You must continue to support and maintain your app. App maintenance includes fixing bugs, improving performance, and adding features.
We cover the complete mobile app development process in a separate article. Let’s briefly talk about it within the context of an app development timeline.
Before you build anything, you need a plan. During this stage, you solidify the scope of your app’s functionality. You need to document how your app will solve a particular problem. Are other companies or apps solving the same problem? You will need to conduct competitor research to understand the market. Identify your short and long term mobile app project milestones. This will help you avoid common development mistakes. You will need to decide who will be developing your project. Will you be developing mobile apps in-house? Maybe hiring a mobile app development agency is better? We have a detailed guide on mobility strategy here. Expect to spend between 2 – 4 weeks creating your app development strategy.
At this point, you should have a detailed mobility strategy. Now, you will want to begin developing your app. Being by identifying project requirements, milestones, and deliverables. You will need to design the app user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). Most apps begin as simple wireframes and expand into prototypes. Once you approve the prototype, the development team will build the app using app development software. Throughout development, the team must conduct mobile user testing. This ensures the app is functional and performs well. The app will need to be deployed to the App Store for approval. App development can take between 16 – 20 weeks to complete.
It is pointless to build an app if you have no plan to share it with everyone. Without a plan, your app will not be found by customers and you won’t get downloads. A marketing strategy to promote your app will take time to create.You want to consider different marketing channels. Share your app online with social media, ad campaigns, and press. We don’t recommend using every marketing channel. Invest in channels where your audience congregates. Developing a marketing strategy takes 1 – 4 weeks. The execution of that strategy will be an ongoing process.
Just because you rolled out the first version of your app doesn’t mean the work complete. You will receive tons of user feedback about your mobile app. Feedback should prompt you to spend time rolling out regular updates to the app. These updates can include bug fixes, new features, security patches, and more. You should support your app throughout the mobile app development lifecycle. Anticipate ongoing changes as customer needs evolve. Immediately after launch, expect to spend at least 2 – 4 weeks on updates
Understanding Project Scope
Let’s talk about project scope. Project scope outlines the app’s purpose, user stories, technical requirements, project timeline, and business goals. By defining the project scope, you will improve your chances of success. Understanding the scope can help understand the complexity of the app. This can reveal time and cost estimates for your app.
Low Complexity Mobile Apps
Low complexity mobile apps have a few screens with a simplistic UI. These simple apps do not require a back-end or API integration. Low complexity apps include calculators, clock, or to-do lists. They have limited functionality, usually serving one purpose. A strong development team can complete this within 8 – 10 weeks.
Moderate Complexity Mobile Apps
Data-driven mobile applications are moderately complex. These apps require a back-end, database, and API integration. These apps will have a user login and require methods of authentication. They may utilize custom UI design. Moderate complexity mobile apps include mobile banking apps, project management apps, product catalog apps, field service apps, and logistics apps. These apps take 4 – 6 months to complete.
High Complexity Mobile Apps
Most successful applications fit in this category. They include custom UI design, a back-end, API integration, and payment processing. These apps may require multi-language support, third-party integration, custom animations, and real-time features. Social networking, games, and e-commerce apps fit in this category. High complexity mobile apps include Netflix, Facebook, Uber, TikTok, Instagram, Amazon, eBay, TripAdvisor, and Duolingo. To deliver these apps, you must plan for more than 12 months of development time.
What can slow down app development?
The complexity of app features can affect how long it takes to develop the app. However, there are other factors that could delay app development further.
Changes are a natural part of the creative process. The best development teams won’t account for every aspect of the project. As development of the app progresses, unforeseen changes can come up. Not all changes are crucial for a project to be successful. It is important to find a balance in prioritizing changes.
In the middle of project, it may be tempting to introduce new features. You don’t want to encourage scope creep. Scope creep will force shifts in your timeline and can make a dent in your budget. Ongoing scope changes can also impact your team’s morale. Avoid scope creep by identifying all requirements before the project starts. Encourage your team to be transparent and communicate with all stakeholders.
Hiring Inexperienced App Developers
All developers are not equal. Who you hire matters just as much as what you build. Freelancers, in-house developers and app development agencies build apps. It depends on your needs, but you should consider a few things. Firstly, understand that building an app requires a team. This team consists of different skill sets. Teams can have a manager, designer, app developers, back-end developers, and testers. If you hire freelancers, you’ll need several to fill each role. Managing their work can become challenging and time-consuming. Hiring in-house means you are adding fixed costs to your payroll. So you will have to commit to your mobile app projects for at least a few years. If you need specialists, an app development agency is an option. The developers you hire should have enough experience for your project. Ask them to showcase a portfolio of their app development projects. Inexperienced developers could mean a lot of trial and error. Hiring them will be more expensive. Not only will you lose time, but you may receive a poor quality product. You don’t want to launch an app that does not function.
Innovating with Emerging Technologies
Companies are implementing emerging technologies into their apps. These include virtual reality, augmented reality, and machine learning. They offer immense value to companies willing to make the investment.
To develop a virtual reality or augmented reality app, you need to consider a few things. Both VR and AR require additional hardware and software. Invonto uses Oculus Quest and Unity to develop virtual reality apps. We recently assisted Merck in building a virtual reality simulation of their laboratory. The project required Unity developers, 3D modelers, and knowledge of Oculus hardware. Augmented reality requires specific SDKs to develop apps for each platform. If you want to develop an AR app for iOS devices you need ARKit. If you want to develop an AR app for Android devices you need ARCore.
You can build machine learning powered applications using platforms like Amazon ReKognition services, Microsoft Azure Cognitive services, and Google AI services. To implement machine learning, you need data. You need ALOT of data. ML is powering businesses through image recognition, predictive maintenance, and process automation.
The success of emerging technologies is mostly unproven. Today, we are seeing these technologies implemented in different industries. Large enterprises are investing heavily in these technologies because there is high potential. Naturally, this introduces risk. We suggest developing a proof-of-concept to ensure your investment is well-placed.
How can you speed up the app development process?
Delays are inevitable. However, you can take steps to be proactive and speed up the process. Follow these tips to deliver your app on schedule and on budget.
Developing a Product Roadmap
A product roadmap states the vision and direction of your application. It documents the why, what, and how of your mobile application. A product roadmap will help your development team stay on track. With an established plan, you can measure progress accurately. You can also pivot quickly when the project falls behind schedule.
Building Your MVP
Developing your mobile app can be an exciting venture. Most business leaders want to be the next hit success. They want to be the next Uber or the next Instagram. These high aspirations are great, but don’t make the mistake of feature bloat. Feature bloat is the result of packing too many features in a product. The first version of your app should be distilled to its essential components. Remove the “bells and whistles” and focus on core functions. This reduces how long it takes to create an app, and reduces the cost. Build an MVP first and test it with your market. User feedback will help you determine future direction. If feedback is negative, you need to take a step back and reevaluate.
Hiring Experienced App Developers
We covered how inexperienced developers can cost you. Choosing the right talent is crucial for the success of your project. Select an agency with a strong portfolio of client work. Ask them to show several case studies spanning different industries.. These case studies should illustrate their process and the results of their work. Examine the app design of their past work. The app development company should be adhering to current design trends. If that company is only showing work from ten years ago, that’s a huge red flag.
Top app developers will have high customer ratings. Check their social profiles. Can they provide client references? Go the extra mile. Contact these businesses and ask them about their experience.
When you choose app developers, think long-term. Remember that development doesn’t end when your product launches on the App Store. Choose app developers who can handle updates and provide support. You should be able to rely on your app development team to extinguish any fires.
How do you estimate how long will it take to make an app?
Estimating the time it takes to develop an app requires a deep understanding of app development. You need to understand the technology and process thoroughly. You will also need to review project requirements to identify scope and effort.
If you prefer giving an estimate on your own, we recommend following the 10/15/50/20/5 rule. What does this mean? Essentially, the average app will require a percentage of time to complete each step of the project. Gathering requirements and deciding on strategy will take 15% of time. Designing the app will take another 20% of time. Development time will account for 40% of time. Afterwards, testing will need 20% of time. Set aside the last 5% for the launch process and devops. If you need to spend 4 weeks on strategy and requirements, you can estimate that you will need 6 weeks on design. You will need 20 weeks on development. You will need 8 weeks for testing. Finally, you will need 2 weeks for the launch and devops.
You may have heard that some stages in the app development process can be completed simultaneously. While it is possible in some projects, the general rule is that you need to stagger each step of the timeline. This would mean that 40 weeks of estimated time, does not mean the app will be completed in 40 weeks. You must account for the time for feedback and unforeseen changes. We recommend you add 20% – 25% to your initial time estimate.
Each app development project is different. There is no “formula” to calculate an app development estimate. This is why it is important to rely on an expert to get a proper estimate.
Some apps are overnight success stories. Most apps require months, even years to find that success. App development requires skills and a methodical approach. To figure out how long does it take to make an app, you need to understand the full project scope and know how to create an app. The team you hire and the complexity of your app impact costs and timeline.
Interested in learning more about our mobile app development capabilities or want our app developers to analyze your idea and provide an estimate? Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with our team.