How Long Does It Take to Develop an App?

As of July 2015, there were over 1.6 million apps available for download on Android’s Google Play and 1.5 million on Apple’s App Store. This does not mean that every one of these million-plus apps took months and years to develop, though: Their level of complexity varies across the board, with some apps ready for release in a matter of minutes and others taking months.

In a recent survey of their nearly 500 customers, FileMaker, an app-making platform, found that 52% of them built a custom app in under three months. Another app-building platform, KitApps (now Attendify) allows users to create an app in approximately 30 minutes. Clearly, an app’s development cycle ranges, and the reasons for this begin from the planning stages.

The preliminary steps of creating an app include having a concrete concept or idea and setting a goal. Conducting research on competition, finding inspiration, and monetizing the concept will come next. Finally, creating a wire frame to visualize the app and begin testing.

Within each of these steps, there is room for things to get complex and therefore extend the development duration. For example, during the wire-framing stage in which designer and developer coincide to create a user-friendly experience, decisions on everything from the app’s color scheme to what actions the user takes in interacting with the app (scrolling, pressing, etc.) feed into the development cycle.

Once the preliminary steps have been accomplished and the app has gone through initial prototype testing, the development cycle is still incomplete. There’s still the necessity of building the back-end by setting up servers, APIs, enlisting on the proper app portals, etc. Additionally, final decisions on the app “skins,” or physical attributes, need to be made from the wire-frames and the app should be tested again before release.

Not all app developers follow the above steps in the development cycle. By streamlining certain parts or making fewer decisions within each category, the duration before release will be shortened. Other factors like available resources, size of the development team, and function of the app will also affect the time taken to release. In general, most apps take a matter of weeks or a couple of months to be completed, with few taking longer than three months.

If you’re interested in learning firsthand how long it can take to develop an app, both Android and Apple offer introductory how-to guides on app development on their websites. Will you be among those cranking out a basic app in 30 minutes or will you join the team tediously working on an app for months at a time?


– Rae Steinbach


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