The development of mobile apps is through the roof and is only expected to grow. It is estimated that by 2021 350 billion mobile apps will have been downloaded, generating around $200 billion in revenues. Today, you will find 2.8 million apps ready to be downloaded through the Google Play Store and an additional 2.2 million on Apple’s App Store.

The use of mobiles is becoming more and more preferred over a desktop so apps are not about to disappear from our lives, particularly in business and technology industries.

Those who are keen on start-ups will have one burning questions, how long will it take to create an app and how much work will I need to put in?

Existing Data: App Development Takes 3-5 Months

There isn’t actually a lot of proven information to back the websites that claim it only takes around 3-4 months. There are two studies that we found to be reliable.

In 2013, Kinvey performed a survey on 100 mobile app designers to find out the time they thought it would take to build an Android or iOS app. The average response from the 100 designers was 4.5 months, broken down into approximately 10 weeks for backend and 8 weeks for frontend.

The second study was published by GoodFirms in 2017.  GoodFirms not only asked about the time it would take but also the potential costs to create an app like Instagram or Tinder. They split their findings into the following:

  • Instagram is a ‘feature-rich highly complex app’ and would take between 4.5 and 5.5 months to develop.
  • WhatsApp is a ‘medium complexity-compelling app’ and would take approximately 4.6 months to create.
  • Tinder is a ‘user-friendly app with lesser functionality’ and would take between 3.8 to 4.1 months.

The cost of developing these apps varies from $44,830.20 for an app like Tinder to $64,333.30 for an app like WhatsApp.

We will continue by looking at the principal stages of developing an app. While it might seem like a repetitious process, there are actually distinct stages involved and none of the stages are unconnected.

Stage 1: Research and Planning

As with any type of market research, you will need to focus on two main areas. First, why should this app exist? Do you think it will be useful to people and how? What types of people are going to choose to download the app? Second, is your idea already on the market? If so, how is your app going to be better and more successful than the existing one?

Research must be thorough in order for your app to be successful. You need to think about how your app is going to help or solve a problem that people have, are you going to be able to save people money. Your research must also include the market size and extensive investigations of apps that are considered your competition.

Stage 2: Functions and Features

So, you have completed your research and collected your data into meaningful information. Now it is time to determine the precise functions and features. Here are some questions you might want to be able to answer.

  • What should your app be able to do?
  • What operations or tasks will it be able to perform? Are you hoping to integrate it with other apps or use peer-to-peer chat?
  • How is it going to manage data? Is it going to join existing data frameworks or collect new data?

Once you have this information you get to create your storyboard. A storyboard is a visual portrayal of your app, showing individual screens and how they are going to connect. A storyboard should reveal and issues the user might face and improve their experience.

At this stage, you will also want to create ‘use cases’, which will operate as a template for user interaction. It is a logical assumption that the more features your app has, the longer it will take to develop.

It is also the time to decide on the operating system. Basically, you will have to decide whether your app will run on iOS, Android, Windows or a combination, supporting multiple operating systems. Your choice will have an effect on your timeline. Multiple operating systems will almost always take longer to develop and might also double your budget. Although this is not as significant now, developing an Android app normally takes 20-30% longer due to the fact that there are over 12,000 devices and it is almost impossible to develop an app perfect for each model.

There are two common platforms to develop your app. If you are working on an Android app it is normally done through Java and iOS written in Swift or Objective-C. If you are looking at an app for multiple systems you can either develop two separate programming languages or use a cross-platform development tool such as React Native or Ionic.

Expect to take approximately 3 to 5 weeks on this stage.

Stage 3: Technical Feasibility, Design and Development

It is now time to start working with your technical team to determine what you want your users to see while they interact with your app and what goes on behind the scenes. This means that the frontend and backend have to be compatible.

Frontend systems are the visual aspect of the app, it is what can be seen by the user and it is related to the design. The backend is the technical, software aspect. The central focus it how the site works, it is about the server, application, and database.

Another decision you will need to make is whether you will use a public Application Programming Interface (API) or if you prefer a personal abstraction layer. APIs are what is needed in order for apps to communicate with each other or with other developers. The major global apps like Facebook and Skype use APIs that are publicly available. An example of this is when Tinder uses Facebook profiles to allow users to log in.

Part of the technical stage is to design a wireframe. A wireframe is a 2D image of the app’s interface and its main task is to allow you to see the space allocated to the contents. They are normally black and white and assist in linking the information to the actual design. A wireframe can also shed light on the consistency of how the information is shown, confirm the intentional functions and decide which content can take up the most space and where it should go.

When you choose to create your wireframe is up to you, some developers will create them along with the storyboard as they will help with the visualization of the app while other developers like to complete wireframes in the design stage.

After finishing the wireframe you can begin to work on the GUI (Graphical User Interface) where you choose the theme of your app, colors, fonts, and icons, etc. And now you should have the final look of your app.

We are not going to discuss the technical information related to developing an app. If you are somewhat familiar with coding you might be able to use software programs or you may want to use a professional service. Keep in mind it will be the most complex part of developing your app.

Stage 4: Testing and Refinement

In reality, your testing will be a continuous process, as programmers will be fixing errors along the way. This is known as internal testing or alpha testing because it is your own team who is doing it. Once the team has completed the internal testing, your app is ready to be tested by a limited public, known as beta testing.

You know your app inside out, you know how it should be used, but beta testing gives everyday users the chance to use it as they see fit. You should only begin with beta testing once alpha testing is 100% complete.

To beta test your app, you can use any number of websites that have been specifically designed for this purpose. Here are a few suggestions:

  • BetaFamily
  • NetaList
  • ErliBird
  • PreApps
  • TestElf

Websites such as Reddit and UserTesting are sites that will beta test and provide feedback through options like screenshots and recordings of interactions with the apps.

Assuming your alpha testing was completed to the highest levels, the beta testing stage should last just 3 to 4 weeks.

In Conclusion

By looking at our breakdown and the two studies, we can conclude that you will be looking at a couple of months to complete all of the four stages involved in app development. It is not something that can be thought up and created over a weekend and it is going to take a lot of dedication.

Using a staffing agency can be greatly advantageous. Staffing agencies are specialized in the industries they serve. That means they can find suitable candidates quickly, and they know exactly what to look for according to the position you need to fill.

Because staffing agency recruiters keep a pool of readily available talent for a variety of jobs, a job opening can easily be filled within a matter of days.