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How long does it take to build an app?

September 23, 2016

12 weeks. If you have the spec documentation ready and the features are limited to the core purpose of the product, V1.0 of the product can be built in 12 weeks. Read more to see how this is done.

time-to-build-an-app

Umpteen parameters can be defined to set the success criteria of a mobile app. Naturally, a lot depends on the category of the app you want to build. If it’s an internal enterprise app, number of downloads is not going to cut it. If it’s an eCommerce app, number of downloads is just one small factor of it. How many users are returning to your app? How long does it take a user to complete one transaction? Is your conversion rate less than 2%? With 2 major operating system updates and several new devices launched every year, it is imperative to keep up with the technology and market trends to run with competition. It typically takes 12 weeks to design, develop, test and submit an MVP to the Play Store or App Store. In this blog, let’s take a look at how long it takes to build a mobile app – a successful one.

Why?

First, why do you need to build a mobile app? What problem are you solving with the app? Is it peer pressure that is making you build an app? Is it competition that is making you want to build an app in the quickest possible time? Have you documented all the details of what you want to build? Building an app is the easiest piece of the story. A user interface and a few thousand (if not less) lines of codes is all that it takes to build an app. But to build a successful app, it takes a lot more than few lines of coding and graphic designing. If you have a solid convincing answer for the questions asked earlier let’s call it a start.

Duration to build an app is very subjective. It depends on the product, number of integrations, platforms, features, screen sizes, operating systems, the team and a lot more. There is no easy and concrete answer for timelines. However, the major stakeholders of building the app – visual designers, front end developers and backend developers can be efficiently managed to build the product in a short time. A lot depends on how the project is managed too. There are different project management techniques like waterfall model, spiral development and various types of agile methodology.

App Scope, Wireframe, Visual Design, Development, & QA:

Once the requirement is documented by the client, it is passed to the Project Manager (PM). The PM studies the requirement and shoots his feedback to the client and ideally with V1.2 of the scope document – including sprint cycles and deliverables, the project can be kickstarted. With the guidance of the PM, the Creative Director heads the wireframe sprint. This ideally takes 2 weeks with numerous interaction with client for branding guidelines and other user journey inputs. The design team will need a few user journey to understand the flow of the app. With the user flow, the designers prioritize the features and functionalities for discoverability. Along with the wireframe, visual design rollouts of major screens will help the client to see the progress and gives them a better feel of the app. With a maximum of 2 feedback cycles, wireframes are locked and visual design development runs in parallel.

Cycle:

As there is progress in the wireframe, the front-end developers and backend developers can start their R&D. Their feedback in parallel will help the design team to function faster. Ideally, the backend developers should start developing key features first. And as the front-end developers start developing – they have the backend APIs to integrate with and at the end of each sprint, there are actual screens that can be tested. By the 4th Week, all the teams are in full steam. Visual design and slicing will be rolled out for front-end developers. There will be major progress in the backend development as they start to work on data storage, user management, server-side logic, data integration, push notification, etc. Front-end developers will work on the front-end logic, caching, and UI design & development. The QA team will be testing the releases by each team, integration and coordinate the sprint releases with the PM and the client. The QA team plays a crucial role to test every pixel in the book and the features and functions with respect to the scope defined earlier.

In an overview, this should be how a 12 week app development cycle should look like:

project-timeline-details-spreadsheet

If there are features and functions not fitting in this cycle, then the product and planning needs to be through again for V1.0. If not, then you’re not building an MVP, you’re building a complete product which will take more time, budget and longer cycles to see the progress.

  • W1 to W5 for the design team will get the wireframe, visual design and slicing of the visual design.
  • W2 to W10 for backend development.
  • W3 to W10 for front-end development.
  • W4, W6, W8, W10, W11 for QA.
  • W11 is a team sync up for feedback, QA, UI/UX feedback and improvements and testing.
  • W12 has to be an extensive testing between all the stakeholders before the release of the final build to be launched in the App Store or Play Store.

Take Away:

The project manager’s role is to not just manage the process. He/she has to look at what is imminent for the product and what is needed for V1.0! Continuous feedback from the PM will help the team debug and troubleshoot, use better practices of coding, and support the developers and designers to build a great product. V1.0 is not the Facebook or amazon you see today. It is probably the Facebook that was launched in 2004 with super basic features that helps a user to complete key cycles and transactions. This methodology reduces the number of unknowns and launch for public beta. As the product evolves, other features and functions can be added eventually.

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How much does it cost to create an app?

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