What Is App Development Timeline & How To Shorten It?

Time is of the essence. Especially in the business sector, you should know how to grab the right opportunity at the right time. 

Imagine identifying a market gap and coming up with a brilliant app idea. You sit with your team to refine the idea, decide to hire app developers and make its pre and post launch marketing strategy. 

Further, you decide to launch this app at a specific time to create hype among the customers. 

Everything seems fine here. However, there is one thing that will mess up all the planning. Unaware of the mobile app development timeline, you planned everything around the app.

Now if the app development timeline doesn’t fit with your release date, the launch will be a flop. 

Therefore, you should be aware of how much time each development stage takes. From ideation to market research and deployment, you should have a clear idea of the timeframe. 

This will help you plan your business objectives effectively and avoid delays or mismanagement.

This blog takes you through the mobile app development timeline step-by-step. Plus, we also have tips to shorten the timeframe of app development and help you accelerate your time-to-market. 

What Is mobile app development timeline?

The mobile app development timeline is the total time involved in ideating, designing, and building the app from scratch. The timeline gives you an idea of how much time each development stage will take and ultimately when you app will be ready.

The mobile app development process is divided into smaller stages. So, the timeframe for each of these stages is also different. For example, the research stage for an app development may take 1 week whereas the building of the prototype will take 2 weeks.

Moreover, the app development timeline is based on several factors. They are:

  • App size
  • Features
  • Functionalities
  • Complexities
  • Development team size
  • Customizations requested
  • Development approach
  • App development methodology and more

These are the definite factors that impact the app development timeframe. However, there are times when things don’t work out according to our plan. 

You may come across minor hurdles in your app development process which can elongate your delivery timeframe. This is completely normal until the delays don’t get exaggerated. 

Sometimes the client asks for more features, customizations or a change in designs during the development. Plus, it is also possible that developers or designers face some technical glitch for a moment. 

You can count these factors as normal and part of the development process. It is because as development teams, we always take your feedback into consideration and work accordingly. 

The best approach to evaluating app development timeline is to take a time range of 2-3 months instead of a fixed date initially. Then as your project progresses, you will have an idea of the exact date your app will be ready.

What are the factors that affect the timeline of app development?

Only a few projects successfully meet the original app development timeframe. The variables in the app development process can reduce or elongate your time-to-market

Here are some factors that greatly impact mobile app development.

1. Mid-project Changes

It is not unconventional that your mind may change during the development process. 

You may have started with a different app functionality or design in mind. But midway through, you had a change of plans and decided to shift the approach.

Moreover, sometimes the development team fails to transform your exact idea into an app. Or they might have built the interface in a way that isn’t up to your expectations. You can then give your feedback to the team and ask them to improve those elements.  

It’s completely fine until the changes are minor. However, there is a major difference between incremental changes or feedback for improvements and radical shifts due to poor communication and documentation. 

We have seen radical changes in the core functioning of the app that have extended the delivery time. It is due to ignorance to clearly document requirements, objectives, and specifications. 

Plus, your development team should also carefully consider documenting requirements. Further, every change should be first documented and approved by the stakeholders to ensure that you are the team are on the same page.

Most importantly, you should ensure that they have understood your requirements and have no doubt regarding the project.

2. Complexity of the app

The app development timeline is directly linked to the complexity of the app. The more complex your app is, the more time it will take to develop. 

For example, a simple weight-tracking app takes less time to build than a shopping app. This is because the shopping app includes more features, integrations and UI design specifics. It takes careful planning, research, designing and coding to build a captivating shopping app. 

Further, if you decide to integrate sophisticated technologies like AI, AR & VR, the development time will further extend. 

However, this doesn’t mean that you have to compromise your app functions for faster delivery. A feature-rich app always attracts more users than a basic app. 

So, we suggest you to have all the integrations and features you want in your app. But do not overcomplicate your app with functions that are not useful for your customers. 

3. Requirement understanding

Imagine you want to build a beauty app with features like virtual try on and more. Now, if you don’t clearly communicate with your development team about your project requirements and expectations, how will they build it the way you want? 

This will only result in a vicious cycle of feedback and changes.

It is your responsibility to state your accurate requirements and discuss them with the team. The best way to do this is to document everything in a structured way and present it to the team. 

According to IBM, a good project requirement should be:

  •  Specific
  • Testable
  • Clear and concise
  • Accurate
  • Understandable
  • Feasible and realistic
  • Necessary

Ensure your sets of requirements effectively express business needs while avoiding redundancy. Failing to accurately define requirements may lead to unforeseen changes and uncontrolled growth in your project’s scope, commonly referred to as scope creep. 

To prevent this, document all software requirements in a comprehensive Software Requirements Specification, aligning them with your business, user, and software needs.

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What are the stages of app development timeline?

The mobile app development timeframe spans across 6 key phases. Here is an overview of each phase in detail.

Stage 1: Forming Your App Idea 

Your app journey begins with a spark of inspiration. However, before diving in, you must refine your business idea and shape it into a clear vision for a future mobile app. This is where the research phase comes into play. 

During this stage, you and your mobile app development team will craft a concise overview of your app idea, grounded in thorough research and analysis.

Your initial research should cover the following key areas:

  • Market Analysis:  Delve into market dynamics, saturation, and current trends.
  • Competitor Research:  Identify your competitors and analyze their products.
  • Common Features for the App Category:  Explore core features found in similar mobile solutions.
  • Target Audience Analysis:  Collect data about the users most likely to embrace your mobile app.
  • User Persona:  Create a detailed description of a fictional someone who represents your target audience.
  • Customer Journey Map:  Outline the steps your customer takes when engaging with your company.
  • Value Proposition:  Define the promise of value that your app delivers.

At the end of this app development stage, you’ll have a brief that provides a snapshot of your mobile application, including the target users, mobile platforms, and other essentials for a seamless development process. 

A comprehensive mobile app brief is a cornerstone for an efficient development process. The more detailed your brief, the quicker and smoother it becomes to establish software requirements and project scope.

On average, the research stage takes around 1 to 2 weeks.

Stage 2: Planning Your App Journey

Now that you’ve defined your app’s essence, it’s time to shape it into a practical strategy. In the next phase of your app development process, we dedicate 2 weeks to craft a comprehensive plan. 

During this period, our team formulates a product strategy that delineates the high-level objectives, user personas, platform choices, monetization strategies, success metrics, and other vital components for a triumphant app.

In this stage, your team not only outlines the app’s overarching strategy but also meticulously plans the development process. 

The outcome of the planning stage materializes in three crucial project-related documents:

  • Technical Design Document:  This document delves into every aspect of your mobile app design, encompassing system architecture, business logic, interfaces, and more.
  • Product Roadmap:  A detailed plan of action with short- and long-term goals intricately tied to specific timelines and costs.
  • Technical Requirements Document:  This document translates your product requirements into technical specifications.

This planning stage is pivotal in laying the groundwork for a successful app development journey, ensuring that your vision is translated into actionable steps.

Stage 3: Crafting and Validating Your Prototype

While generating a brilliant idea may seem straightforward, its universal appeal isn’t guaranteed. Therefore, validating your product against real-world expectations becomes a crucial step in ensuring a viable solution. 

The good news is that you can validate your idea without delving into the actual development of your mobile app. Instead, refine your vision by conducting interviews and surveys with potential customers, testing app flows, and revisiting your competitors.

On average, dedicating about a week to proving the viability of your app idea is a wise investment. Throughout this stage, update your user personas, fine-tune your marketing approach, and provide your app developers with additional insights for the imminent development process.

Rapid prototyping stands out as a surefire method to validate your product vision. A prototype serves as a preliminary clickable mock-up resembling a real app, showcasing design flow and function. While lacking code or full-fledged features, it enables you to gather valuable feedback from actual users.

This prototyping process is an outcome of design sprints. It takes your UX/UI team approximately one week to construct a prototype and an additional week to validate it, further refining your app’s direction based on real user insights.

Stage 4: Crafting the Design

Once the UI/UX designers have validated a robust app prototype and mapped out the user flow, they delve into the creation of detailed design layouts for each screen of your upcoming application. 

Your design team also crafts a style guide, a foundational document that articulates the design principles governing your product’s user interface, ensuring uniformity in UI construction. 

This guide encompasses visual elements such as typography, colors, and other components, all aligned with your brand identity.

In total, your development team might invest approximately 2 to 3 months in the design phase. It’s worth noting that the ever-changing landscape of design trends, evolving technologies, and shifting requirements could influence the duration of the design timeline.

Stage 5: App Development & Testing

Embarking on the app development journey is a significant undertaking, and this stage is where the bulk of the time is invested. Setting up both the front- and back-end of your application typically spans an average of 4 to 6 months

Before diving into coding, your mobile app developers make critical decisions regarding:

  • Technical App Architecture 
  • Technology Stack 
  • Development Milestones 

The timelines and technology choices are contingent upon the complexity of your digital product:

  •  Simple App:  Takes around 3 to 4 months.
  •  Medium Complexity App:  Requires more input and averages around 5+ months.
  •  Complex App:  Encompassing rich features, advanced design, and a diverse tech stack, this demands 6+ months for delivery.

Additionally, the number of platforms is a pivotal factor in determining development time. Developing an Android or iOS app is faster compared to creating two native applications, one for each platform.

Throughout the development process, every feature, code change, and update undergoes validation by your QA and testing team. 

QA engineers function as your initial users, ensuring the quality and performance of each software element. Their meticulous testing is integral to delivering a polished and reliable application.

Stage 6: App Launch

The culminating point of the mobile app development cycle is the launch and publication of your application on app stores. Typically, the primary release is preceded by a beta version—a fully functional product that may contain known or unknown bugs. 

This beta phase allows your development team to gather feedback from end users, address any issues and refine the solution before the official release.

The meticulous reviewing process is the primary factor influencing the duration of a product launch, which may span up to 1 month. App stores rigorously review your application to ensure its compliance with guidelines before accepting your submission. 

It’s important to note that the Apple App Store and Google Play Store have distinct reviewing processes and guidelines.

The release stage should also encompass pre-release activities aimed at preparing your application for launch early in the development process. This ensures a smooth transition into the hands of your users once the app is officially available.

What is the average timeline for app development?

The average timeline for app development can vary widely depending on factors such as the complexity of the app, features required, platform (iOS, Android, or both), and the development approach (native, hybrid, or cross-platform). 

However, considering:

  • research takes 1-2 weeks, 
  • planning and prototyping takes 1 month, 
  • designing takes 2-3 months, 
  • development and testing takes 4-6 months, 
  • product launch takes 2-4 weeks

We have an average app development timeline of around 8-12 months.

5 ways to shorten the app development timeline

In this competitive market, time-to-market is one of the factors that can make or break your app. If your app is delayed by 3 months, your competitor might launch first and lead. 

Here are 5 ways to shorten your app development timeframe.

1. Take the MVP approach

Instead of building a full-fledged app with multiple features, go for a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It enables you to transform your app idea into reality faster. 

The MVP approach involves launching the app with only core functionalities and features. 

The purpose is to build the MVP version with features that are valuable to the customers. The nice-to-have features can come at a later stage. This reduces the development time significantly as there are fewer features to build.

So, the time spent on designing, coding and testing is much less than on a fully functional app with rich features.

Another benefit you get with the MVP approach is the flexibility. You can test the MVP version of your app idea to see how it fares. The basic idea of the app is to build.

Now, in case you want to change the direction of your app or add new functionalities, it can be done at the second development stage.

2. Go for hybrid or cross-platform apps

Having two teams separately build two apps for different platforms will incur double the time and resources. Even if you decide to build and launch an app on Android first and later on iOS, the time and cost factors don’t change.

The solution is to opt for cross-platform or hybrid app development. These two app development approach enables you to use the same source code. Therefore, you don’t need to have to two teams coding different for two platforms.

Cross-platform apps take half the time and resources in development. However, native apps offer an unmatchable user experience. 

But the faster time-to-market which leads to initial user adoption that hybrid and cross-platform apps offer is a huge advantage as well.

So, analyze your requirements carefully and go with cross-platform or hybrid apps if you can.

3. Hire an experienced app development company

In-house hiring is tedious and can extend your app development timeline. Sorting out the candidates, interviews and the onboarding process in itself is tedious and time-consuming. 

The time which could have been used in refining your app will be wasted in finding the right developers. Instead, we recommend you outsource your app development by hiring an app development company like Netweb Tech.

A professional app development company is well equipped with proven experience, expertise and knowledge to build robust apps.

Their development team is well versed in app development tech stack and market dynamics ensuring assistance at every step of the app development process. 

All you need to do is to find the right app development company that aligns with your requirements. Here are some factors that you should consider while choosing a mobile app development company.

  • Company’s portfolio
  • Team’s knowledge and experience
  • Bandwidth to handle your project requirements
  • Development process
  • Pricing structure
  • Adherence to compliance and standards
  • Understanding of app UI design and security protocols
  • Approach to the ownership of IP rights
  • Contract terms and conditions

Hiring the right tech company will be an investment made towards your business success. It will guarantee you a risk-free path to quality mobile app development within the deadline.

4. Build app prototype

Building an app prototype is like building a map for your developers to code the app. A prototype guides the designers and programmers on how to move forward with the app development. 

An app prototype with clear specifications on incorporating the features and functionalities into the app interface significantly shortens the development time

Nowadays you have several prototype tools where you can build clickable app prototypes for better clarity.

5. Follow agile app development methodology

64% of the companies that follow agile methodology have witnessed streamlined and faster app development. 

In the Agile philosophy, sprint planning, customer involvement, and cross-functional teams stand as foundational pillars, forming an ideal framework for swift and high-quality release cycles. 

The Agile app development team adopts an iterative approach, constantly adapting to feedback throughout the development lifecycle.

This methodology emphasizes the continuous building of app functionalities and simultaneous testing, inherently accelerating the overall development process.

The beauty of iterative delivery lies in the early shipment and validation of your app features within the lifecycle.

This proactive approach allows for swift adjustments and tweaks, minimizing disruptions and ensuring that changes are introduced efficiently. 

The Agile philosophy thrives on flexibility and responsiveness, fostering a dynamic environment where the development team can seamlessly adapt to evolving requirements and user feedback.

Conclusion

A shorter app development timeline leads to an increase in revenue by capturing early adopters and higher customer satisfaction and loyalty by delivering new products. Plus, it also reduces the app development cost and risks by minimizing the complexity of the project.

However, while targeting a shorter app development timeframe, you shouldn’t compromise on quality and standards.

Hastily launching an app that fails to meet the customer’s expectations does no good. You should look to optimize the timeframe while upholding the quality, performance, and security of the app. 

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