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How Long Does it Take to Build a Custom Mobile Application?

Big Fish is a B2B custom application development company in Tampa, Florida. We specialize in designing and developing native iOS and Android applications for businesses.

I’ve written about how much it costs to develop a custom app. Now I’ll tackle a related question: How long does it take to develop a custom app?”.

Let’s start with a phase-by-phase breakdown of the timeline for developing a custom mobile application.


Phases of Custom App Development

1. Creating Your Software Roadmap (avg. 3 weeks)

Before designing the application, and definitely before writing a line of code, it is imperative that time is allocated to creating the blueprints.

This phase is often referred to as “Discovery” or “Strategic Planning” because your development team is using it to discover what you need, and to create a plan to bring it to life.

At Big Fish, creating the roadmap includes:

  • meetings with your company to define the requirements
  • drafting up some initial wireframes
  • creating a project budget
  • drafting the technical plans

This process takes about three weeks. If requested, extensive research, job shadowing and user interviews will require more time; very small projects require less.

This is time well spent and will help guard against a failed project that wasn’t thought out. It will also guard against creating an application that no one wants to use.

2. Design, Develop, Test (avg. 8 to 16 weeks)

Working iteratively, our team begins cycles of designing, developing and testing features. For a small project, such as a utility app that does a couple things well, you can expect about eight to twelve weeks. For a more complex application build out, the design, development and testing phase could be up to 16 weeks or longer depending on how far you want to take your version one.

The time needed to develop your application is directly related to the complexity of the features and functionality being developed.

To put it into home-builder speak, we can build you a dog house in a week, but a four bedroom bungalow, that’ll take months.

3. Acceptance Testing, Miscellaneous, Launch (avg. 2 to 4 weeks)

Before going live there are miscellaneous tasks that need to be completed, we’ll call part of this a buffer for things like final tweaks, finalizing the set up of your live server environment and so on. There’s also the process of submitting the application to the App Store and Google Play, but these days that happens in as little as two days.

As with everything else, the time needed will vary depending on the complexity of the project. Expect 2 to 4 weeks.

4. Ongoing Development and Maintenance (ongoing)

Like your house or car, software isn’t something you build once and then use forever without maintenance. Ongoing maintenance and new feature development is the topic of another blog and important to not forget.


So What’s the Grand Total?

Adding up those numbers you can see that the time needed to roadmap, design, develop and test a solid, version one custom mobile app is 3 to 5 months.

That said, anything more than four months and we really recommend launching sooner and saving the less urgent features for version two and beyond. Speed to market matters when it comes to innovation and the last thing you want is to spend a year talking about it while your competitors just do it.

As you’ll see below, the fact that Big Fish is an experienced team that specializes in native iOS and Android development means we can get you to market faster. We’re proud of that.

Is your company planning a custom application build? Reach out and request a complimentary consultation with our 100% senior level development team.


Final Thoughts

There are a couple factors I’ll draw attention to that will affect how long it takes to develop your custom app.

1. An experienced team of mobile application developers will complete a project faster.

It’s easy to accept that a more experienced team gets a job done faster.

Experience lends itself to getting really good at something, and that cuts the time spent in a “learning curve”. It also cuts the time spent fixing your own (or someone else’s) mistakes. Experience also creates efficiencies, which results in a finished product sooner.

2. More features takes more time

Naturally, the more complex and involved your application, the more time needed to create it. But you already knew that. 🙂

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Sara @ Big Fish

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara MacQueen is the Founder and President of Big Fish - a custom software design and development studio in Tampa Florida and Raleigh North Carolina. She was named one of "25 Mobile Women to Watch" and has been interviewed by local and national media for her expertise in mobile technology and business.