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How Long Does It Take to Develop An App

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

Big Fish is a boutique app development agency.

With nearly ten years experience developing mobile applications, we can answer the “How long does it take to develop an app?” question.

We’ve also written about how much a mobile app costs, if you’re interested.

Now, let’s start answering your question with a phase-by-phase breakdown of the timeline for developing a custom mobile application.

Stages of App Development

1. App Development Project Plan (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 plan.

This phase is often referred to as “Discovery” or “Strategic Planning” because your app 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 project plan includes:

  • meeting with your company to discover and define the requirements
  • drafting up some initial wireframes
  • designing the system architecture
  • creating a project budget

This process takes about three weeks for complex projects and one to two weeks for more simple app development projects. If job shadowing and user interviews will benefit the project and are needed, this can be done and will require more time.

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

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

With the app development project plan in place, our team begins 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 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.

To put it into home-builder lingo, we can build you a dog house in a week, but a five bedroom two-story with garage will take a few months.

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

Once development is done and before launching your app, there are miscellaneous tasks that need to be completed.

We need to set up your live server environment, your team needs to do your final review (acceptance testing) of the app. There’s also the process of submitting the app to the App Store and/or 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 for this phase.

4. Ongoing Development and Maintenance (ongoing)

Like your house or car, custom software isn’t something you build once and then use forever without maintenance. Ongoing maintenance and new feature development is important to plan for but doesn’t impact the initial timeline of getting your app to market.


Final Tally of How Long it Takes to Build an App

Adding up those numbers you can see that the time needed to develop a custom mobile app is 3 to 5 months (13 to 21 weeks).

There are some outliers. We’ve seen complex, multi-platform app development projects with frequently changing requirements take longer – but at that point you’re really beyond version one and getting into ongoing enhancements.

We like to see our clients getting their app to market sooner.

Anything more than a six month timeline and we recommend really scrutinizing how you’re prioritizing features so you can get your app to market faster by saving the less urgent features for version two and beyond.

Speed to market matters when it comes to innovation. The last thing you want is to spend a year talking about it while your competitors just do it.

Is your company planning on having a custom mobile app built? If you may be interested in hiring our team, please reach out and start the conversation so we can answer your questions and see if Big Fish might be a good fit.

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara MacQueen is the Founder and President of Big Fish - we turn revolutionary ideas into reality through custom software design and development. Sara 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. When she's not working, Sara enjoys hiking and cooking meals from scratch with ingredients found at farmers markets.

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