Building an app is a complex operation with many factors that affect the timeline. On average you can expect a 3-12 month timeline to create an app. Like building a house, the length of time it takes to build an app will depend on the app’s size and features. While there’s no single answer to the question, “How long does it take to make an app?” there are five factors that have a significant impact on the timeframe. Knowing these factors and evaluating them for your specific project will allow you to get an accurate estimate of the launch date you can expect.
5 Factors that Impact the Timeline to Create an App
When you build an app, you want to get it to market as quickly as possible so you can recoup your investment and start making money. While some delays may be out of your control, here are the primary factors you can affect that will help determine how long it will take to build your app.
Any development project should start with market research. The research sets the foundation for your app by creating a shared understanding of what you are building, who you are making it for, and the problem(s) it will solve.
Start by creating user personas that reflect each user group’s behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and goals around the app’s usage. These data-driven representations ensure you’re building something that meets a need for your target users. Personas help you to stay aligned with your users, prioritize features, and envision success. You may have some of this done already, but if not, be sure to devote the time necessary before you start developing. Completing this research ahead of time helps to keep you on track with your timelines every step of the way.
Once you determine who you’re building the app for and why they need the app, you’ll want to dive deeper into its purpose and how it will accomplish that purpose. What problem(s) will it solve? What features will it have? How will it work? You should know the answers to these questions before you begin to build.
To complete this part of the process, you’ll want to define the features in more detail by breaking them down into user stories. Then create a mockup or prototype of the app. This helps you continue your research by getting validation from users that the app does indeed solve the targeted problem. Although this may feel like an extra step, it will save you time in the long run by making sure that you are on track and that what you build will be loved by the users you’re creating it for.
Consider building an MVP, or Minimum Viable Product, which includes the foundational must-have features that will solve your users’ problem(s). Tightening your list of features with a defined MVP will help you to manage the scope of your initial release, as well as the time it takes to build it. An MVP also allows you to get an app out to the market quickly to collect valuable feedback from users instead of speculating on what your users need. This validated feedback is the best way to improve the app continuously and to shorten development time.
It may come as a surprise, but your budget plays a crucial role in how long it takes to build your app. Budget, scope, and timeline are very much intertwined for any development project. Together, these factors make up a “three-legged stool,” where any change to one of the three legs also impacts the remaining two legs.
For example, to finish by a specific date, you could add more developers to the project. Doing so, however, could add extra cost to the overall budget. In the same way, you may need to assess the scope of work and make adjustments according to what can reasonably be done within your desired timeline and budget. Before you even start building your app, you need to understand how much leeway you have with your budget. Keeping an eye on budget, scope, and timeline is the most effective way to manage your app development project.
Learn more: How much does it cost to make an app?
4. Skills and Expertise
There are many different skill sets required to build an app. If you decide to build an app in-house, but your team doesn’t have all of the necessary skills, it will take longer, and the project may experience slowdowns. However, if you work with a development partner who possesses the required skill sets, the build will take less time, and you’ll reduce your risk of budget overruns.
If you partner with a development agency, make sure they have the skills you need and can guide you through the entire process of app development. Their expertise should cover the whole lifecycle of your app, from understanding how to leverage your research to building an MVP to assessing budget and timeline impacts, all the way to listing your app in a store or marketplace.
5. App Development Process
Building an app is a well-orchestrated feat, and you’ll want to be sure that you or your development partner has an established process. A good process ensures that nothing is missed when it comes to developing your app. Without a process, it’s unlikely you’ll hit your target launch date. There are many different ways that development projects can go off the rails. To be sure your app doesn’t become a statistic, make sure there is a development process to support it.
How Do You Calculate the Amount of Time to Build an App?
It can be challenging to establish a timeline for building your app, as there isn’t a standard guideline. But, with some generalizations, building an app typically takes 4 – 6 months to bring an MVP to market. This will depend on the factors above that can cause a wide swing in timing. But, if you plan out your scope, budget, and timeline and are committed to sticking with it, you can absolutely manage the time timeline you choose with continuous project management.
Don’t Forget Marketing and Time to Launch
Once you have your new app scoped out and commitments for resources, budget, and timeline, it’s a good idea to shift your thoughts to launch planning. You have a big choice to make when it comes to bringing an app to market — a hard launch or a soft launch. A hard launch is defined as releasing a completely ready-to-go product to a wide audience where your goal is making a splash. A soft launch refers to releasing your almost-ready app to a smaller market to collect feedback and performance data that will help you make final iterations.
A hard launch has a much more extensive marketing effort that takes time and budget, which is why you’ll want to plan it out early on — it will factor into when you can be ready to release your app to the market and the budget you will have for development. There isn’t a right or wrong answer, and the decision may depend on the time you have, the budget, and your development approach. If you are developing an MVP, you may want to focus on a soft launch.
There are a lot of factors that go into calculating how long it takes to bring an app to market. Make sure you are familiar with them and take control to improve your chances of releasing your app on time and on budget.