Mobile App Development Timeline: The Breakdown by Type, Complexity, Team
How long does it take to build an app? To answer this question, we need to understand the stages of app development and the factors that can impact the final development timeline.
If we compare apps of different complexity and number of features, the average timeline will be:
- Simple App Development – 2-4 months
- Average App Development – 4-6 months
- Complex App Development – starting from 9 months
There can be variations in time due to various reasons, including the complexity of the product, the final structure of the model, partner app development company, and many more.
In this article, we will look closer at these factors and reasons and define the mobile app development timeline.
If you prefer visual to text, then go straight to the bonus infographic “Key mobile app development points affecting development time ?”
How Long Does It Take To Develop an App?
The development time to build a mobile app can range from 4 to 6 months and depends on app complexity.
|App Type||Estimated time|
|Simple App Development||2-4 months|
|Average App Development||4-6 months|
|Complex App Development||9+ months|
Example of a Simple App
Usually, simple applications have no more than five screens, don’t exchange data with other systems’ databases, don’t collect analytics of user stories and actions, and register users by email.
Examples of simple apps are business cards that contain the company’s info.
Example of an Average App
Average apps can have multiple processes. They have about ten screens, a personal account, authorization through social networks, integrations with a server or a website, and payment systems.
Examples include most online stores and booking systems.
Example of a Complex App
Complex apps include applications that can support real-time synchronization, interactivity, integration with any databases, animation, work with downloaded data, and much more.
Examples are popular social media apps.
Now let’s find out some more examples of what impacts the development timeline.
App Development Timeline by 3 Types of Apps
To be more specific in the examples of mobile app development timelines, let’s consider three different types of apps and time for their development.
Example 1. Healthcare App
Now it’s possible to monitor your health with the help of countless online diaries, calendars, and other “smart” mobile applications that can store and analyze data about our bodies.
Among the most popular healthcare apps are MyFitnessPal, Happify, SleepCycle Alarm Clock, and Medisafe.
On average, healthcare app development takes from 6 to 9 months because it usually requires a team of healthcare experts, compliance with HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and the development of such features as:
- Integration with real-time heart rate
- Integration with electronic health records
- Built-in messaging system
- HIPAA Compliance
- Goal setting
- Daily advice
- Progress tracking
Example 2. Educational App
With the increased popularity of online learning, more and more educational apps allow users of different ages to learn any course they want.
The most popular educational apps are Khan Academy, Duolingo, SoloLearn, edX, and Google Classroom.
On average, educational app development takes from 4 to 8 months depending on the number of features and integrations that usually includes:
- Screen sharing
- Session Recording
- In-session chats
- File sharing
- Chat admins
- Breakout rules
Example 3. Food Delivery App
The competition of the food delivery apps on the market is very high since the pandemic. More people prefer to order food online and reduce the time of going to grocery stores and restaurants.
Among the most popular food delivery apps are UberEats, Deliveroo, DoorDash, Seamless, and GrubHub.
On average, food delivery app development takes 4 to 6 months, depending on the complexity, advanced features, and type of development platform. Usually, it includes such features:
- Map integration
- View cart
- Push notifications and alerts
- Social media integrations
- Tracking delivery system
- Tracking order status
- Restaurant filters
- Delivery tips
When you decide on the type, it’s time to consider other factors that can significantly affect the development timeline of your startup or business mobile app.
Factors That Impact the Development Timeline
While developing an app and estimating its development timeline, don’t forget to consider numerous factors.
Here we collected some of the factors and calculated their impact on the timeline.
Factor 1. The Complexity of an Idea
The complexity of an app is the prime factor affecting its timeline. It involves the number of screens, features, and roles in the product.
The complexity of the app idea defines the required software development and design efforts.
Designing a simple app can take you several weeks, while a complex one requires months. Subsequently, back-end and front-end development, and testing.
However, if you look to build something unique, for example, SaaS, it can take more than 1200 hours.
Factor 2. The Precise Requirements
A description of requirements incorporates the core features of an app and what it is all about. Hence, the more detailed the requirements, the less time it will take to build an app.
The functionalities such as backend infrastructure, selecting CMS, third-party service integration may increase or decrease the time to develop an app.
In addition, if you decide to add more features, the overall cost and time will surely shoot up. The indirect costs will grow too. For example, expenses on project management or business analysis.
Below are some features founders look for solutions:
- Sign up through social media or email
- Chat or messaging
- Push notifications
- Portrait or landscape view
- Payment integration
- Maps integration
- User login and more
There can be additional features, based on the type of application.
The time to build the necessary requirements in the apps like chat applications can take from 80 hours while apps like Ads Manager can take more than 160 hours.
Factor 3. The Accuracy of the Final Result
The documentation is essential to get an idea of the final goal and app development timeline.
These documentations are later used by the design team in the process of wireframing mockups. The latter are digital blueprints displaying how the minimum viable product will look like.
It does two things, primarily:
- It provides information required to identify potential pitfalls.
- It includes only essential functionalities.
If the final product requirements are not clear in the beginning, it will lead to more change requests in the middle of the project. Thus utilize agile methodology for product development.
With a wireframe, you look to resolve all customers’ pain points while creating a unique user experience for them. This is what happens during the process:
- As a team, you can use a digital wireframe tool to create a wireframe first.
- Then you present it to the stakeholders for feedback and possible shortcomings.
- You make changes as per the suggestions.
- Repeat the process until you get the desired outcome.
Note that depending on the scope of the project, wireframes for a simple app like a meme generator may take 2-3 days to complete.
Factor 4. The Business Expertise
If you are someone who is an expert in coding, then you only need assistance in product and design strategy. But if you are a fresh entrepreneur, you would need help from start to end.
In addition, there are other aspects as well. For instance, if recruiting an in-house team is part of your business model, then consider the time to hire and train the team for the project.
If you already have a team, then only the design and development timeframe will be counted.
But if you have less time, hire a developer or a product development company and share your mobile app development timeline. You will save a lot of time in this case.
App Development Timeline and Stages
Every stage of the app development determines the scope of a project and the process you need to follow.
That’s why you need to take into consideration the amount of time for each stage starting from the planning of your app.
It is the key stage in estimating the development timelines for an app. . It focuses both on the development team and the customers.
This stage helps to determine and set the expectations for creating a project roadmap. It takes about 2-3 weeks.
In this stage of application development, you collect and analyze information about the project, the market, the competitors, and the audience.
The time to perform the discovery stage varies. Here are some aspects that you need to focus on:
1. Requirements and Specifications
Writing and handling specifications may take up to two weeks. To give you an initial idea, here are a few things you must add to the brief:
- Project goal and success metrics
- Request for proposal (RFP)
- Budget range
- Non-disclosure agreement
- Approximate date of delivery
2. Design Low-Fidelity Wireframes
Low fidelity wireframes are the initial visual representations of the product. It helps designers and clients get a clear picture of the design and the product’s functionalities.
They are highly flexible and speed up the process while keeping initial expenses low and helping in reducing the average app development time.
3. Define Tech stack
It is also necessary to analyze the technology stack that you will need for developing an MVP.
There are three main mobile app types of mobile app development projects: web, native, and hybrid.
A native app is an application developed for a mobile operating system (Objective-C, Swift for iOS app and Java, Kotlin for Android app) while a hybrid app is a web app built using Flutter, React Native, Xamarin, and others.
The entire discovery process may take 40-80 hours of the app development timeline. For example, at Spdload we worked on an app, MyWishApp and the discovery phase took us about 72 hours.
In the design stage, you conceive and iterate the UI and the UX design of the product. This process leads to a blueprint to be handed over to the app developers to start building the product.
1. Create High-Fidelity Wireframes
High fidelity is a computer-based representation of the product and is the closest version of the final product.
High-fidelity wireframes provide testers with the final representation of the product. First, it starts with low-fidelity wireframes to match storytelling with the content strategy. Then it creates high fidelity wireframes for the layout and the hierarchy of the app.
You can check the wireframes made by Spdload for the dating app, SwiDate.
2. Create UI Kit
The user interface components of the UI kit provide the functionality to the users. Application elements like buttons, navigation buttons, checkboxes, widgets, and progress bars are all included in a UI kit.
Most importantly, UI kits incorporate all the UI design elements, so you don’t have to design them by yourself. They imply strict adherence to the mobile app development timeline.
The design stage takes about 40-80 hours in total. However, both planning and design stages can take from two weeks to 1 month.
For the SwiDate project, the UI/UX design process took us 150 hours.
The development phase is the core part of the app development process. It focuses mainly on the frontend and the backend development. Besides, it includes beta testing and uploading process to app stores.
1. Backend Development
Backend is the hidden part of an app responsible for storing data and providing security. It serves the same purpose as the server.
You can access it via the internet using API (Application Public Interface). Some commonly used alternatives for backend servers are a custom server, a cloud server, and MBaaS.
The backend includes the following components:
- Data storage
- Server-side logic
- Users management
- Data Integration
The storage capacity provided by the backend can also be taken from a third-party company. You can also hire an in-house app backend development team. But remember, not all apps require a backend.
In our practice, we experienced an interesting case. The founder of Videonext contacted us as they wanted to move their website into the cloud.
The biggest challenge was to create backend integration for the existing platform’s functionality.
But our team managed to surpass it with the API made by the customer’s team. You can read the entire case study here.
2. Frontend Development
The front end of an app is everything that a user can see.
Besides, it is responsible for the responsiveness and performance of the app.
Take a look below as the frontend includes the following:
- Frontend logic
- UI Design and development
Generally, the average time to develop an app varies from 3 months to launch an MVP and up to 9 months to scale it to a big product.
Testing is one of the concluding and critical phases of the app development process. It may take you anywhere between 4-6 weeks.
For the SwiDate project, QA testing took us 340 hours.
If you want to know how long does it take to build a successful app, share your list of requirements with us, and we will provide you with the average time to develop your app.
You can also get in touch with us here!
Here you’ll find a summary of our in-depth guide. Learn the highlights of the mobile app development timeline.