How Long Does It Take To Make An App? – Episode 6

Aman Birdi on 12th March 2018

Introduction

How long does it take to make an app? Does it take a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years? I get asked this question a lot because chances are if you’re launching an app for the first time, then it’s likely this is your first time building software and also working with a development team too, meaning you may be unfamiliar with the processes involved and the average time software takes to develop in general.

Also there’s a massive amount of conflicting information out there, from a simple google search and talking to different developers on how long apps take to build. So let’s clear up all of the noise and give you the answer right here.

So how long does it take to make an app? To help answer this question, we have to first look at a number of factors. Why? Because these factors carry a massive influence over the time needed to develop an app. I mean just look at what I call, the two birds; Angry Birds and Flappy Bird.

Angry Birds has an incredible design mixed with some pretty accurate physics. It has some great sound effects and animations that really make it sing. Then you have Flappy Bird, which doesn’t have the greatest design in the world, nor does it have ground-breaking physics. It’s two dimensional design isn’t close to the graphics in Angry Birds.

As a result, the first version of Angry Birds took 8-9 months to develop, whereas Flappy Bird took 2 days. That’s a pretty big difference right?! And it’s all due to the factors that I’m about to introduce you too. Once these are understood, you’ll be able to understand how long your app could potentially take to develop.

Factor Number 1: Features.

Apps can have a number of features within them.  Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you’re making an app for your business that sells clothes. You can have the basic functionality of allowing users looking at t-shirts, and buying them within the app. But then users need to choose their size right? So we can expand the features of the app to allow users to look at tshirt, choose their size, and buy them within the app.

BUT then, what if the t-shirts are available in different colours? Again, we can expand the feature list to users looking at tshirts, choosing their size, picking their colour and buying them within the app. What if the user loves the tshirt and wants to tell the world about it, but has no way of doing so in the app? LET’S EXPAND the feature list again. Users can now look at tshirt, choose their size, pick a colour, buy them within the app and leave a review at the end. The feature list can go on and on.

As a general rule of thumb, the more features your app has the longer it takes to develop. An app allowing users to browse t-shirts and purchase will take a lot quicker than one that allows them to do all of what we mentioned before.

This is probably the most significant factor when it comes to determining the time taken to produce an app. A long list of features will also increase the timeline dramatically and in turn, subsequently increase the costs.

Factor Number 2: Platforms

Are you wanting to build your app for iPhone only, Android only, or both? As expected, developing your app for multiple platforms will increase the overall time needed to produce your app than one platform. Why?

Because the time taken to produce the exact same app for each platform, such as iOS and Android, is not equivalent. For now, as they are the two biggest platforms in the game, we’ll just look at Android and iPhone.

One of the reasons for this is because all Android phones you see tend to have different looks and characteristics such as screen sizes, resolutions and processor speeds. In contrast Apple have considerably smaller variety of devices running iOS than Android. As a result, it can be more complex to develop an app for the Android operating system over Apple’s.

Therefore, if you’re producing an app for Android and Apple at the same time, it’s likely the Android version will take longer which of course, increases the overall time for an app to be produced when producing for both.

Another reason for this is testing. If you’ve built your app for iPhone only, you know you just have to test it on Apple’s devices only which as mentioned before has a low variety range compared with Android. But if you’ve built your app for Android also, you’ll have to test it on Android devices also of varying brands, screen sizes and processor speeds etc.

This time on testing should not be underestimated at all. Because testing for one platform can be time-consuming task. Testing for both platforms, as you can imagine, can make it an even bigger task, particularly if you don’t have a large team behind you for your app.

This testing phase is part of the development cycle. And testing, fixing issues, reiterating, re-testing for both platforms will take a significantly longer time than for one platform.

Factor Number 3: Awareness of Minimum-Viable Product

Leading on from point number one on the features and point number two on platforms, awareness of the MVP is a huge factor when it comes to the timelines for app development. Just for a bit of a background, a minimum viable product (MVP) is a the version of your app that is developed with a sufficient number of features to satisfy early adopters.

It’s the version of your app with just the features that are absolutely necessary for your app to carry out its purpose and satisfy your first set of users. Why is this important? Well, by committing to produce the MVP of your product allows you to release it and then learn about your users in the most efficient way possible, saving an abundance of time and resources.

It also allows you to form a timeline for your app’s lifecycle from MVP launch to your dream final product with a complete set of features after considering feedback from the product’s initial users.

This overall prevents you from suffering with one of the biggest mistakes people make in app development: spending time building features for an app that you think your users need, when in fact, the only features they want are the ones that fulfill the app’s main purpose, and the extras they want are completely different from the features you created.

The only way you can know what your customers want aside from the main features necessary for your to fulfil its purpose is by testing it in the market with those only.

To do that, you need to build the MVP. So don’t be distracted by new ideas, going off course from the main MVP model. Because this will take up unnecessary time and increase the timeline for your app to be made.

The longer an app is worked on, the less likely it’s being vetted and validated in the market. You could therefore miss a key marketing window, a similar app gaining significant momentum, or losing touch with customer needs.

There’s nothing worse than spending time and money on an app that the marketplace does not want. The MVP model will force you to get the app out into the hands of more users and begin getting feedback on it. Plus never forget: apps that are more focused do better.

Factor Number 4: Quality

Quality pays a huge factor in app development. As you would expect, similarly to the previous factors mentioned, a high quality app takes longer to produce than one of low quality. Clean code, beautiful aesthetics, smooth animations, take time to create and perfect. These are all qualities of a great app, and makes the difference between being a featured app and one that is just one of many in the app store that no one takes any notice of or positively reviews.

I saw a great video of someone demonstrating the link between quality and time. I encourage you to follow this exercise. Grab a pen and an A4 sheet, lay it out horizontally, and draw three equally spaced columns. In each column, draw Spiderman.

There’s only one rule. In the first column, you have 10 minutes to draw Spiderman. In the second, you have one minute. And in the final column you have 10 seconds. When you’re done, look at all three Spidermans you’ve drawn.

Which one is of the highest quality? Which one would people get the most value out of? Which one would people be willing to pay for? Okay, i get it, that we’re not all the greatest artists in the world, but i can almost 100% guarantee the version in which you took 10 minutes to draw spiderman is miles better than the one you took 1 minute and the one you took 10 seconds to draw.

The same applies to app development. Quality takes time. Your app that you’ve spent so much effort and resources into refining deserves that time. And it’s this quality that an influence the timeline for app production.

Summary

So with all of that in mind, how long does it take to make an app? In light of all of the factors, and while it does vary, the answer we generally give is 4-6 months. This doesn’t mean your app can’t be produced in less than that time, nor does it mean it won’t take longer than 6 months – as you know with the factors above, but in general, the apps we produce at Digiruu take 4-6 months to make.

And this 4-6 months worth of time is used as efficiently as possible, due to our process. Development of any project at Digiruu starts with a Kick-Off workshop, followed by a Design workshop.

This really clears up all of the unknowns and sets a clear plan for development going forward to make the process as streamlined and easy as possible for all parties, keeping your schedule for app development as accurate as possible and smooth process of having no product to having your MVP ready to go into the app store.

So there we have it! How long does it take to make an app? 4-6 months but it can vary depending on your the features, the platforms needed, your awareness of the MVP model, and quality. I hope this helped, and if you have any questions, drop me an email on aman@digiruu.com. Speak soon!