The Reality Behind App Development Timelines (And How To Launch Quickly)
Mobile application development has become a must for every business ranging from newly emerging startups to well established enterprise level organizations. Having an app idea is just the beginning. Clear insights on how resource intensive the process is and the estimated timeline of app development is helpful in planning the long term strategy for your business.
It also helps you make budget estimations for your project. The longer the app development takes place, the higher the development costs associated with it would be. Understanding what app development timeline involves ensues that you always put the right foot forward and maximize your chances of success in the competitive app market.
Mobile apps make your business more accessible to a larger audience by literally putting it inside people’s pockets. Time to market is critical when it comes to mobile app development but the process itself involves a number of steps. The timeline for app development depends upon a number of different factors, app complexity, platform targeted, design requirements, scope and app size being a few.
While the actual timeline of app development varies according to the unique specifications associated with the individual app, a general app development timeline template can help you determine the timeframe required for you to get your app from ideation stage to out in the market.
Stages in Mobile App Development Cycle (to Understand App Development Timelines)
The app development process is a complex one and the timeline begins even before the actual development begins to take place. Here is the list of stages that constitute mobile app development and the estimated timeline of each stage.
If you are aware of the app development stages, go straight to tips to shorten the app development timeline.
1. Market Research
The beginning of any mobile app starts with an idea but in order to ensure long-term success, it is necessary for the idea to be rooted in a problem. What is the problem that your app solves? Who is the target audience for whom it would be beneficial? Is there a similar solution already available in the market? If yes, what are the shortcomings in that app that you can improve upon with your app?
These are just a few questions that need to be answered during the market research phase. This stage extends for about 30-45 days and includes requirements analysis, defining the buyer personas, conducting competitor research, holding stakeholder interviews and reviewing the best practices to be followed during the mobile app development process.
2. Project Estimation And Planning
Project estimation involves defining the scope of the app, the set of features to be included and the complexity of these in order to determine the budget and personnel requirements for developing the app. The development team has to be assembled including the software developers, testers, designers as well as the personnel responsible for project management.
The user stories need to be defined in order to understand the requirements of the project. Along with all of this, the decisions regarding the platform you are building the mobile app for (whether it is apple, android or both) as well as the technology stacks need to be taken during the planning and estimation phase which lasts between 21-35 days.
3. UI/UX Design
User interface and user experience design is essential for making a visually appealing and engaging mobile app. App design is directly linked to user satisfaction. UI/UX design thus goes a long way to ensure the success of the mobile app.
The foundation to an enticing app design is always based in creation of wireframes and prototypes. They act like a design guide and provide an insight into how the different app elements would integrate with one another. The actual UI screens are formed as mockups and coded by the front-end developers in the next stage.
Depending on the complexity of the design, the UI/UX design can take anywhere between 18-20 days. If the graphics requirements within the app is high, the stage can even take longer to complete.
4. Frontend and Backend Development
Typically, mobile app development requires two sets of developers, one working on the front-end or the client side of the app while the other working on the back-end or the server side of the application. Coding at both these ends seldom takes place simultaneously so the actual development of a typical app takes anywhere between 120-150 days.
The numbers are significantly higher in case of app involving a multitude of features as coding for each complex functionality would take a significant chunk of time. Front end development involves translation of the user interface design into code. The back end development is actually the foundation for the front end code which involves coding of the server side logic, data integration and storage, and user management.
The backend architecture serves the application functionality while the frontend is the client facing side where all the user interactions take place. In case of multi-platform development, the time to develop the app also doubles because separate coding has to be done for both iOS and Android platforms.
The testing phase is critical for weeding out any glaring errors in the code. Once the development stage is over, testing follows. There are multiple stages of software testing involved in mobile app development. These include functional testing, unit testing, integration testing and device testing. The motive behind this is to ensure a seamless user experience and catching and rectifying any bugs discovered.
Any defects raised are sent over to the development team for their correction. The testing stage should take no longer than 21-30 days to complete. The app testing done internally constitutes alpha testing. The second phase of testing is done by the initial users and is termed as beta testing. Collection of user feedback at the end of beta testing and incorporating it in the future versions of the app is critical for the long term success.
The final step to get the app out in the world is to get it published on the app stores. Depending on the platform chosen and developed for, the rules of publishing the app vary. There are more stringent norms for publishing on the Apple App store as compared to the Google Play store. The costs associated for publishing your app also vary for each platform.
App store optimization is the key to successful deployment. If everything is done right, it takes between 7-14 days for the submitted app to be published on the app stores. All you have to is to spread the word around to ensure that the target audience gets to know about it and you get the much awaited downloads.
7. Maintenance and Support
The last and final stage of app development cycle is not a part of the timeline but is nonetheless a critical one. Maintenance and support is an ongoing process. It includes taking periodic data backups, server monitoring, periodic app updates and upgrades and bug fixes.
Contrary to the common belief, app development doesn’t end when the app gets published on the app stores. That milestone just marks the beginning of the race. The actual journey still lies ahead of you. The shorter the actual development timeline, the bigger head start you have over your competition and lower the cost of development would be. Here are some steps you can take to shorten the mobile app development timeline and help let you launch quickly.
Tips to Shorten the App Development Timeline
1. Take the MVP approach
The minimum viable product lets your mobile app go from idea to reality at a much faster rate. The MVP approach involves launching the first version of the app with just the core functionality and features. This version is designated to contain only the must-have features within the app, those that are aimed at providing value to the customers. The additional nice to have features are added to the app in its subsequent versions and updates.
Since the app only contains a limited number of features, the development time required to finish with its coding and testing gets reduced significantly thus shortening the app development timeline considerably. It also provides ample flexibility in case you feel that the app needs to take a new direction after the initial launch. Once the proof of concept has been established via a MVP, further development can take place in the second stage.
2. Go for cross platform development
Having two teams developing separately for iOS and Android platform requires double the amount of time and resources it would take to just focus on one platform and develop an app specific to that. The advantage with hybrid or cross-platform app development is that it allows for code sharing so that you don’t need two different development teams coding separately for both the platforms.
Cross platform app development requires half the time and personnel required for developing native apps. This effectively reduces the time to market penetration of the app. While the native apps do provide a better user experience, the initial user adoption that developing a hybrid app offers is a huge advantage as well.
3. Hire an app development company
Hiring an in-house development team is an extremely resource intensive process. Sourcing, vetting and selecting the right talent to meet your app development needs requires a lot of time as well as money. Also hiring a full-fledged development team complete with project managers and quality assurance engineers for a one time project takes up too much of resources.
Hiring freelance developers comes with its own set of risks as well. While it is relatively cheaper to hire freelancers to develop your app, the long term costs associated with it may actually end up stacking much higher. The quality of code may turn out to be subpar which may end up affecting the overall quality of the app and end up costing you potential customers in the log run.
Hiring a mobile app development company like Arkenea is the best of both worlds. The development team comprises of pre-vetted dedicated developers who would work solely on your project.
If you hire the right development agency, it turns out to be a risk free path of app development. It results in high quality app development within the projected timeframes. Hiring a good mobile app development company is never an expenditure, it is always an investment in your business.
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4. Prototype your product
A product prototype provides the app designers as well as the developers with a preliminary template they need to follow while working on your app idea. Your app prototype can be as simple as a drawing of the app features and pages on a piece of paper. Conversely, you can also opt for a clickable prototype that gives high level design insights made using the prototyping tools.
Irrespective of the level of complexity of your prototype, it is essential that you don’t miss out on this crucial step. A prototype essentially acts like a map that the designers can follow while incorporating the features and functionality in the app’s user interface design. It also gives the app developers a baseline to code on. Since the specifications are clear, prototyping shortens the mobile app development timeline significantly.
5. Automate whatever you can
Automation is the key for removing repetitive tasks from software development and ensuring that the time to launch of the mobile app remains short. By automating the testing phase of app development, you ensure running a suite of tests in a simultaneous manner which manually would have taken up vital hours of development time.