How Long Does it Take to Build a Mobile Application?

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As mobile rapidly overtakes desktop and laptop computers as the primary way consumers interact with businesses, many companies are racing to build mobile applications. I often meet new clients who have a great new idea for an app and want to get it to market as quickly as possible. However, even when using lean project management methodologies such as agile software development, building mobile apps still has costs and takes time.

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While there are a variety of factors involved in building a mobile app, in my experience at Segue, it takes at least three months to build the initial version of a mobile app, and up to six months or longer for apps with more features and advanced functionality. To understand how long it takes to build a mobile app, let’s take a more detailed look at the production process and other project factors from start to finish:

The Production Process of Mobile Apps

Segue uses an agile software development approach when developing mobile apps, which has a number of benefits, including being able to work closely with our clients throughout the duration of a project, providing incremental value and demos, and the ability to react to changes along the way. However, while using an agile software development approach streamlines the time it takes to build a mobile app, there are still a number of steps involved which add up, including:

Envisioning (2-4 Weeks): Defining a clear vision of the client’s objectives for the solution is one of the most critical stages in the lifecycle of any project. Through a series of discovery sessions with the client, the project team ensures a comprehensive understanding of the client’s vision, requirements, and design, required for a successful solution. During the envisioning phase, requirements are created in collaboration with the client, creating business-focused acceptance criteria for each requirement. Additionally, this phase includes creating design concepts and wireframes for the website’s look and feel, navigation, layout, and technical architecture.

Iterative Development and Testing (6-8 Weeks): After Discovery, the project team begins development and testing of the mobile app. The multi-disciplinary project team consists of analysts, designers, developers, and testers that work in time boxed iterations to implement a subset of the overall requirements, concluding with a client review and demo to elicit feedback and plan for the next iteration.

Stabilization (1-2 Weeks): The final development and testing iteration is focused on stabilizing the mobile app, making final changes based on client feedback and ensuring compatibility with mobile devices.

Release (2 Weeks): After development and testing is complete, the project team assists the client to release the mobile app to the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, or other mobile app marketplaces. The Apple App Store may take up to two weeks before it approves your application for public download.

Mobile App Features, Complexity, and Number of Users

In addition to the production process itself, there are other factors that determine the time it takes to build a mobile app, including:

Features

One of the primary determinants of how long it takes to build a mobile app is the number of features involved. A feature is functionality in the app, such as the ability to buy an item, send a Tweet to Twitter, or scan a barcode to look up a product’s price. As you can imagine, the more features an app has, the more time it takes to design, develop, and test. We encourage clients to focus on building Minimal Viable Products – the minimum amount of functionality required to provide value to your customers. Building an MVP keeps the overall number of features focused, creates the first version of your mobile app sooner, and allows additional features to be developed through subsequent releases as you learn more about your user’s needs and feedback.

Complexity

In addition to the number of features, the complexity of each feature also determines the time it takes to build a mobile app. For example, a feature that allows a user to look up the price of a product using a text-based search is likely less complex then looking up the same product using a photo. The latter may provide a better user experience but might take longer to build.

Number of Users

In addition to features and complexity, the number of users also impacts the time it takes to build a mobile app. Building an app that can handle 500 simultaneous users has fewer factors involved than building an app that can handle 5,000 or 50,000 simultaneous users. Additional investments in architecture, performance testing and tuning, and infrastructure are required to support a large number of users – all of which take more time.

iOS, Android, Web – Or All Three

To reach the widest possible audience, our clients often request Android application development, iOS application development and sometimes even web-based apps as well. While there is some efficiency to building multiple apps at the same time, the design, development, and testing activities are unique to each platform, requiring separate effort. While some of these activities can occur in parallel, extra time is often required to build two or three apps.

Resource Availability

When producing a mobile app, Segue prefers to have our team members dedicated to the project, ensuring they can closely collaborate with our clients and other team members. However, our team member availability varies based on active and planned projects. Therefore, there may be a delay in starting a mobile app project until team members are available and can give their complete attention to the task at hand, adding to the time it takes to build a mobile app.

Client Availability

We believe in close collaboration with our clients and their users. However, this requires a commitment of time and availability from our clients. By being available for a few hours a week for a few ad hoc questions, the time it takes to build a mobile app can often be decreased, reducing delays caused by waiting for feedback and clarification.

While we are always excited to release a new mobile app to the public, as you can see there are a variety of factors involved in determining the time it takes to make a mobile app. To determine how long it will take to build your next mobile app, contact us today.

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