Planning to build an app?
Let me guess the two burning questions you have – how much will it cost and how long will it take to build it?
I wish I could look at your product description and immediately state the app development timeline, accurate up to one day. But that’s not how things work.
Yet, having worked in a mobile app development company for nearly a decade, I can tell you in details what goes into determining the project scope and the respective time required to build a certain product.
How Long Does It Take To Make An App: 3 Key Determinants
Time is often the most critical factor for startups. And your first question should be – do I want to build a full-feature product or an MVP to present the concept to potential investors and validate the business concept with the actual users?
Obviously, the time to make an app will vary accordingly. MVPs take on average 2 to 4 months to develop. Full feature products may take between 4 and 18 months, again, the exact number largely depends on the requested features, technology, and some other product specs.
So let’s start with the basics for determining the app development timeline:
Before hiring the developers to build your custom app, you’ll need to do some homework too aka scrutinize your target audience.
Why does it matter so much?
For starters, it will help you refine your app concept and answer the next key questions required to determine the exact project timeline:
- Which platform and device range will I target? Do you want to build an iPhone app only, or launch an Android version as well? What kinds of devices are more popular within my target market?
- Who’s my competition? What kind of features does their product offer? Do I plan to build the same ones or offer additional perks?
- What features does my target audience need in the first place? If you are aiming at an MVP, you should cut down the list to the key top-5s.
Now, how does that correlate with the time and costs?
According to the Next Web, building a Pinterest-like MVP will cost you around $120, 000 and will take 6+ months.
Building a simpler version, for instance, the one that allows curated link submissions sans images and without an external “Pin it” add-on, will cost you half the price and take between 3-4 months.
Bottom line: Don’t let the scope creep roll in. If you need to build an app fast, refine your features list to the bare minimum; validate your assumptions with the target audience and hire a proficient team in your domain (aka people who have already developed similar products and know exactly what they are doing).
Platform and Device Range
Deciding whether you should build an iOS or Android app first can be crippling, especially if your target audience uses both kinds of devices.
Here are some tips to help you make the right decision:
The mobile app development timeline for Android apps is 10-20% longer compare to iOS. The reasons are quite simple:
- Due to Android’s open-source nature, apps require more testing prior to releasing.
- Currently, there are over 12,000 types of Android devices out there, meaning you have to either design for a large number of screens or settle for supporting only a certain range of devices.
- Android users, unlike iOS, don’t upgrade regularly to the latest OS, meaning additional complexity blends in to support older OS.
Probably, that’s the answer why 30% of the 50 top paid and 50 top free iPad apps are not available for Android as well.
Yet, building an Android app certainly makes sense if you plan to tap into a larger international market. After all, there are three Android users in the world for each iOS user. If you wish to scrap large demographics with a free/freemium product, building an Android app first certainly makes more sense.
The Most Time-Consuming App Development Elements
Clutch has made a rather accurate timeline breakdown of various app features, which you can use as a cheat-sheet for your project:
Additionally, I’d like to comment on widest variables in terms of price.
The prettier you want your app to be – the longer this stage will take. Graphical apps with custom animations and transitions can take well beyond 14 hours to draft. If we are talking about games, the number can go up to 30-40 hours.
Hence, opting for a sleek minimalistic look and asking the design team to user existing design patterns versus creating custom ones can be your best bet.
App Scalability and Backend
If we are talking about a social networking app, for instance, scalability is essential. Facebook uses well-supported MySQL and PostgresQL databases for structured data and those may take longer to develop.
As a powerful alternative, though, you can opt for a noSQL database like MongoDB, which is equally robust but takes less time to integrate.
Admin Portal and/or CMS To Manage The App
Again, depending on the type of the product you may need a simpler or more complex admin panel to overview the relationships and processes within your app. Do inquire about the best tools and tech stack to use for your product in advance.
So how long does it take to build a mobile app? The short answer is – 2 to 4 weeks for simple projects and at least 6 months for more complicated products.
Yet you should always remember that you can only pick the two elements from this triangle:
You can build a great app fast, but it will likely cost you a lot.
Or you can get a cheap and well-made one, but it will take much longer.
And there are always chances that a cheap app built at supersonic speed may end up being quite a mess.
Hence, set your priorities accordingly and seek for faster development options through refining your project scope, rather than reducing the research or testing timeline.
About the author
Slava Bushtruk is CEO+Founder of Alty, Inc. He’s been in software and app development for nearly a decade with over 75 successful projects under his belt, ranging from startups to enterprise clients. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or shoot a quick hi at[email protected]. Tech Blog and Website