App Development Process and Timeframe- Step by step

5 min read time

2018 marks the ten-years anniversary for the Apple App Store and Android Market, and both are growing faster than ever.  By 2020, mobile apps are forecast to generate around 189 billion U.S. dollars in revenues via app stores and in-app advertising.

Mobile applications have became part of our life, we use them on a daily basis for communication, shopping, working, health, etc. The average time people globally spend by using their mobile phones on a daily basis is between 3-5 hours and 90% of their activity happens via mobile applications.

As an entrepreneur or marketing specialist you need to target your audience and potential customers on the platforms where they spend most of their times. Because of the strong growth of mobile application market many entrepreneurs have started to release their new digital products and maybe you are planning to launch your company’s own app as well.

One of the most important questions to answer before starting to develop an app is that how long the process will take from zero to the time of release. It’s impossible to calculate with the necessary budget and capacity without being aware of the timeframe.

In this article you’re going to find the exact answer for your question, let’s see how long does it take to develop your own application from scratch.

It depends – but don’t worry, we’ll calculate it together

Maybe that’s not the answer you were looking for. Sorry, I didn’t want to disappoint you but it’s not possible to give you a simple answer without any information about the purpose, the complexity and the main functions of the application you are planning to launch.

But it doesn’t mean that we cannot give you an approximate timing. For the better understanding and more accurate calculation we’re going to go through the total process of mobile app development. I’ll give you the common duration on each and every stage with all the factors what can make the cycle shorter or longer.

Ready? We can start than with the very first stage of mobile app development.

Step 1: Research and validate your idea

You have a concept, which seems to be unique, revolutionary and brilliant. But sometimes the reality is totally different, your perfect idea can be already incorporated, failed or simple it doesn’t have enough potential users to download. That’s why the very first step of your mobile app’s development process needs to be research.

You can start it by analyzing your target audience. Who are your potential customers? Are they individuals or organizations? What is their age, location, interests, and profession?

Don’t forget to think about the reason why people are going to download your application. Does it have a useful feature? Or is it offering solution for a problem or painpoint? What’s the most important benefit of your digital concept?

After you’ve identified your potential audience and the motivation for downloading your application you can scan your target market and your competitors. Can you find any other apps like yours? What kind of features do they have? Does someone else providing the same solution for a problem? What is the number of rivals? Is the market big enough for you as a new joiner?

Download and test all the other applications like a normal user would dob y using all the features and benefits. How do you find them? Make a note of all the strengths and weaknesses you can notice and figure out in which aspects can your app better than all the others? What can be your niche?

The research usually takes a few weeks and it’s a key factor of your success. Golden rule: the more accurate and precise you will do it, the more problems and issues you’re going to avoid later.

Step 2: Planning

You already know the main purpose, the key strengths and the unique selling proposition of your digital product, so it’s time to start the development process with planning. Due to its complexity, this stage usually takes about a month.

First of all you have to decide which platform your app should be for, IOS, Android or both. From development perspective Android is more complex than IOS. More complexity means more time, although by applying more experienced developers you can reduce the duration.

This is rather a business decision. If you go for both platforms you have to calculate with more development time or higher costs you have to pay for experienced experts. In the other hand it means more potential users you can reach.

The next step is to figure out how your developers can put in practice all the functions your application should have. It includes from the simple ones like login options, user profile, navigation to the complex and unique features as well. 

The last part of planning is usually the wireframing, or creating the prototype of your application. At the end of this stage you’re going to have a not clickable version of your product. When the plans and graphics have been optimized, you can let developers do their magic. 

Step 3: The actual development

This stage usually takes about six weeks, it only depends on the complexity of your application. The process has three main elements: user interface, front end, and back end.

Within the stage of user interface your graphic designers are going to create the appearance of your mobile app. When it’s finished, front end developers turn the user interface into an application by using their programming language. Finally comes back end, which links user interface and data together. The three steps are often created simultaneously.

Your digital product is working now but this time would be too early for celebration. Before release you have to make several tests on your application.

Step 4: Testing

Be prepared that during the first period your app will have several bugs and issues what need to be fixed. That’s why testing is so crucial and it’s highly recommended to run alpha and beta tests as well.

Alpha testing is usually done in test environment by developers. They use the app in some unusual scenarios to find all the bugs and upcoming problems. Of course during this period they need to find solution for each topic.

However beta testing happens public. Limited version of your application is going to be unofficially released for limited number of users. The whole process is going to be monitored and at the end all the users will be asked to provide some feedback.  

Step 5: Release

After you’re done with all the testings and your app is working fine you can do your final steps before release.

First you need to find a unique name and write a description for your application. As a guide you can check out App Store Optimization (ASO) which is working in app marketplace ecosystem like SEO. Try to focus on the relevant keywords to let the users find and download your app easier.

The last steps are to submit your digital product. The approval time takes maximum one day. After receiving your approval you can celebrate. Great job!

The next steps are up on you. Although it’s advised to keep in contact with the developers. Users require from time to time some updates and new features as well.

So let’s summarize the question: how long does it take to develop a mobile app?

Calculating the timeframe of each and every stage hopefully you already have your answer for the question. The typical duration from zero to the release point is about three to four months.

The more time and energy you put in research and planning, the more time and energy you can save later with development.

Fill in this form and we’ll let you know more about the duration of your development project.

Peter Kovacs
Author - Peter Kovacs

Helps his customers to make more money with their websites’s content by writing blogposts, e-mail content and creating landing and sales pages. A writer by day and reader by night.

More article