So, how long does mobile app development take? Well, it isn’t the shortest of processes, but it probably won’t take as long as you’re thinking either. Going through each phase carefully is essential, because if a critical mistake is made in one stage of development, it’s going to carry on to the others.
Typically, an app will be ready for launch in 19 to 40+ weeks.
The above is a rough estimate, as each mobile app will have its own specifications and required functionalities. It must undergo careful research, design, development and extensive QA in order to be deemed market ready. Of course, the more customization you want, the more it’s going to take (and cost).
A standardized product with a simple UI and features, versus a completely bespoke one with complex functionalities, have different requirements. Here at Five Pack Creative, we’re eager to earn your business no matter the scale of your desired project. Just get in touch if you want to start a discussion.
If you’re looking for more information first, we’ve got you covered.
Mobile App Development Timeline – The 4 Stages
To simplify the idea, think of the whole process as fitting into 4 stages. They must be done in this order, and there’s no stage that’s more important than another one. As such, you should drop the idea of skipping stages and/or expediting them from the get-go.
We know that speed is of the essence when you’re excited about an app and want it launched ASAP. However, it’s just as important to deliver a quality product that will satisfy your target group. If you have to pick between “fast” and “good”, we’d always recommend choosing the latter.
These are the 4 mobile app development stages:
- Research and Analysis
- Requirements and Design
- Architecture and Development
- Quality Assurance (Testing)
Stage 1: Research & Analysis (2 – 3 weeks)
Outlining the scope of your mobile app is the foundation on which everything else is going to be built. In this day and age, coming up with something completely original is going to be a real challenge, but you don’t have to limit yourself to this train of thought.
Just as innovation is important for an industry, so is iterating on great concepts that already exist. Research must be conducted on what’s already out on the market and serving the same audience that you want to reach.
After you know what you want your app to do, just browse the iOS and Android stores and see for yourself what’s available. Consult with the mobile app development agency you’re working with, and determine if you should follow the same path as what others have already done.
It’s a great idea to keep the core pillars, and then come up with your own twists that are going to convince users to make the switch. For example, there are loads of food delivery apps already available. But, it’s hard to find one that lets you save your shopping basket and continue adding products at a later time. That’s just one thing you could want to implement for your product.
If you have grander ideas, run those by your development agency as well. They’re the most qualified to tell you what’s achievable in a given timeframe and for your budget.
Try to find an answer for all of these questions:
- What’s the purpose of your app?
- How is it going to generate you revenue?
- Who’s the target group/audience that will be using it?
- What does your target group actually want from such an app?
- How will you convince the target group to switch to your app from a similar one?
- Have you done your marketing/keyword research as well? Don’t go forward with an idea because it sounds good to you; see if other people are searching for it as well.
Stage 2: Requirements and Design (4 – 7 weeks)
After you’ve determined that you have a great idea that’s also going to be profitable, it’s time to make it look good (literally). UX and UI are crucial beyond belief. You could have the best app of your niche, but it won’t matter if your audience can’t figure out how to actually use it.
If you have an overall idea of how you want the app to look and function, that’s great! Share that with the team you’re collaborating with, and the UX/UI designer is going to create what’s known as a “mock-up”. This is basically the prototype, which you’ll approve or disapprove of.
Of course, aside from looking good, the design must also fit in all the functionalities that the app must have. A balance must be struck between ease of use, functions, and the cosmetic beautification of the app.
UX (user experience) design is making sure that your target group will understand how the UI is supposed to be used. When you’re drafting the UI, everything will be intuitive to you, because you’re the one who designed it from the bottom up. But, the important question for a UX designer is if other people will understand the functionalities as well.
For example: user accounts are usually standardized to a button with an icon that resembles a human shape. You could use a drastically different icon that would suit your app, but it would most likely confuse users. So, bottom line, it wouldn’t be a great idea.
UI (user interface) design is all about creating an amazing interface. Where do you place the buttons, how are certain parts of the app reached, are you going to use sliders or carousels, etc. The purpose of the UI designer is making the whole app attractive. They will finalize a concept that’s both impressive, and properly branded to your business.
Additionally, the design should also be built to allow further improvements down the line, or to easily fit in new features/product catalogs/etc.
This is why you need both UX and UI design. They lay down the visual side of how everything should work, and then the developers can start building the technical side.
- The design must fit in all technical requirements
- The UI must be optimized for UX
- The design should allow for improvements of the app down the line
- The design should create a complete brand image together with your website; avoid diverging designs between platforms
Stage 3: Architecture and Development (12 – 24 weeks)
Keep in mind that the whole order isn’t necessarily a waterfall. It’s better to think about it as an iterative process, where steps can be done “dynamically” as well. For example, development could be mode for only a part of the design that can be implemented quicker, while the designer still finishes up other parts of the app.
This is also important because it allows feedback throughout the whole mobile app development stage, rather than doing everything at once, and keeping feedback for the end. It also means that changes based on feedback can be done more efficiently.
You can opt for an MVP (minimum viable product)/demo before going further with development, or have the team work directly on finishing everything.
The advantages of an MVP is that the MVP itself will be the testing grounds for the overall idea. You can release it to the public even for free, or treat it as an open beta, with the purpose of gathering feedback. After all, it’s most important your user base finds the UX intuitive, and the app helpful or useful.
Similarly, some parts of the app can be left unfinished for this stage, if they aren’t crucial functionalities. You can use placeholder buttons, or graphics that aren’t fully implemented. Of course, the more incomplete a mobile app is, the more we recommend that it’s only tested in-house.
Even if you release a clearly branded beta version to the public, you risk some parts of your audience taking it at face value as an almost finished product.
In any case, mobile app development will proceed with both the front-end and the back-end parts simultaneously. It is very important these sides are worked on in parallel, as parts of the front-end heavily depend on the back-end.
The front-end is what your users see, and how they’ll navigate the app’s sections. It’s basically the UI, and it must be implemented in a proper way to guarantee a great UX. The most important part of it nowadays is responsiveness.
This means no visual glitches depending on screen size; no hidden buttons that you can’t press because they aren’t showing up on your device; no slow or laggy responses from the app’s interface. Front-end is also responsible for implementing all the other parts of the UI/UX design; from user accounts, to a products catalog, to a checkout section, etc.
Users might forgive a technical/functionality issue, but the user interface has to be spot on from the beginning. It’s the way they interact with the app; if it doesn’t work as expected, your audience won’t just wait for an update to make it work, they’ll switch to something else.
The back-end is the code that usually involves the server-side of things. These will be the elements that make the app connected between all users. Without back-end, an online app will not be able to function.
Intense attention to details and checking one’s own work are core parts of being a back-end developer. If the codebase (the “foundation” of the code) is made with faults in it, then it’s going to affect everything else that’s built on top.
Back-end will handle architecture aspects such as setting up and connecting a database, data synchronization, or setting up the app’s server. When a user launches the app, this data is compiled dynamically from a pool of information, and sent as instructions to the front-end part, so that the user can perform their desired action.
The more complex the project, the higher the need for skilled & experienced staff. If you’d like to hire our professionals for your staff augmentation needs, or you need an outsourced development agency, let’s talk.
- It’s advantageous to create an MVP/demo of your app first
- Development will happen at the same time on both sides: front-end and back-end
- Front-end will create the UI of the app, and refine the UX
- Back-end will create the code for the technical side, the functionalities
- Both front-end and back-end are equally important for a software product, but your user base will only interact directly with the front-end part
Stage 4: Quality Assurance/Testing (1 – 6+ weeks)
After a feature is considered to be done, it’s time to take it apart piece by piece, and analyze each piece in particular. This is known as QA, or quality assurance, and it’s spread throughout your mobile app development timeline. All the parts will go under the microscope, with reviews being done on the UI, the UX, the front-end and the back-end.
Of course, QA happens during the entire development process (in the alpha and beta stages of the app too), but one of the baseline principles of QA is that some bugs will “get away” anyway. So, additional testing is done at the end of the development’s lifecycle, to iron out all existing issues.
It’s only when the whole app is put together into one coherent piece that unforeseen issues can occur, so remember that you should never launch it the second it is done. Test it first.
Some common practices include:
- Load and performance testing – checks for errors
- Stress testing – checks if the app continues to functions with multiple users on it at the same time
- UI/UX testing – checks for graphical errors, responsiveness issues, correct implementation as per the design, ease of use of the interface, etc
- Scope testing – checks if the integrity of the original scope was respected 100%, or if additional development is needed
- Gathering feedback and compiling them into detailed reports
Launch and Post-Launch
After the mobile app development is completed and the app is ready to launch, it’ll be sent for review to both the Google Play Store, and the ioS App Store. The approval processes are rigorous, and they check all facets of the product.
If any irregularities are found in the code, or if parts of the app don’t respect the store’s rules, it’ll be disapproved. Both manual and automated reviews can happen at this point, and even minuscule aspects (like the app’s icon) can be reasons for refusal.
If the app does get refused, then the development team will swiftly solve the reported issues, and the app will be resubmitted.
When the app is in the store though, it’s not all said and done. Depending on user feedback, you could consider implementing further features, updating existing ones with more functionalities, etc. This is called “post-launch support”, and it’s one of the reasons why continuing the collaboration with your chosen agency is advised.
The greater support you offer your app in the days, months and years following its release, the more pleased your community will be with the end-product.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What’s the average mobile app development time?
Between 19 and 40+ weeks. There’s no clear answer, because it all depends on the type of app that you want, and how complex it’s going to be.
2. How is a mobile app developed?
The process is a collaboration between you, the holder of the intellectual property, and the development agency you’ve chosen. In order to create a proper app, it has to go through the 4 following stages:
- Research and Analysis
- Requirements and Design
- Architecture and Development
- Quality Assurance (Testing)
3. What’s the most important part of a mobile app’s development timeline?
There is no single moment that can be determined as the defining factor of the process. All stages have their importance, and their reason for existing. By combining the effort that’s being put into all of them, you get a market-ready product.
4. How can I shorten the development process?
Quality takes time, and there’s no way around it. If you’d like a product that’s ready to launch ASAP, we suggest inquiring about an MVP only. This type of mobile app will only have a few features, and will be as standardized as possible so that time-to-market is expedited.
5. What’s the best way to get my mobile app development done?
If you have an in-house team of developers, but you want extra contingent talent, we recommend staff augmentation. If you are looking for an outsourced option, then a managed services approach is for you. We offer both of these services.
Let’s Create An Amazing App Together
Are you looking to bring your app idea to life? We can’t wait to work on it! Over our 10+ years of experience, we’ve collaborated with businesses from all types of industries, some of them being Fortune 500 companies.