Many companies are often somewhat surprised at how long it takes to develop an app from start to finish. While apps are run on mobile phones and don’t typically take up much memory, they still take a good deal of time to plan out, design, develop and launch. While they rarely take as long to develop as a full software application or website, most apps typically take at least two to three months to develop from start to finish.
Typical iPhone App Development Timeline
Architecture & Planning – 2.5-3 Weeks: During this phase of the project all facets of the app are thought out. Beyond a simple idea of what the app needs to do and how it needs to look, what other resources are needed? Does the App need to connect to an outside database? Push or Pull content? The entire app is mapped out from start to finish. The more that can be done in the planning phase in terms of mapping out content and functionality will make the rest of the development process go much smoother. We estimate that it should take 2.5 to 3 weeks for this phase, though the larger, more complicated the app, the more time it will take obviously.
At the end of this phase, you should have a mapped out architecture of the app, an app map if you will, as well as wire frames for the app.
Design Phase – 3 Weeks: The design phase is where Comps are created to show how the app will look. Color schemes are implemented, comp images are inserted and place holder text is generally used at the start of this phase with it being replaced by the actual content either at the end of this phase or during development. We work with our clients to understand their branding message and carry that through the app. During the design phase you need to be careful as having too many people involved in the design process can slow down the app’s production, especially when you begin Design by Committee. This phase should take roughly three weeks, but like I said, can be slowed down if timely feedback is not received by the client.
At the end of the Design Phase you should have full design Comps which will be developed during the next phase.
Development Phase – 4-8 Weeks:
This part of the project has your designs being turned over to the developers so that they can properly code the application. The various pieces are hooked together including navigation, user interaction, database integration, web services and eCommerce platforms. Any and all functionality is built in to the app, all coding is performed and pages are properly linked. Development time can vary significantly based upon the complexity of the app.
At the end of the development phase you should have the first version of your fully working app.
Testing Phase – 1-1.5 Weeks:
The testing phase is one of the most important parts of the projects. Some clients want to cut down on the testing phase or eliminate it altogether to save time, we HIGHLY discourage doing that. The testing phase ensures that the app works properly, all databases are connected, there are no broken links in the app, and everything works as was designed. If an app is pushed through to deployment and does not work it will be caught by Apple and rejected. Even worse, if the app does sneak through Apple’s approval process and does not work, a few poor reviews can really hurt an apps chance of success in the App Store. During testing, we test on any and all devices that the App will run through simulators and live devices, including the iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone 3Gs, and iPhone 4.
At the end of the testing phase, everyone should be confident that the app works as expected and has the highest chance of success in passing through Apple’s approval process.
Deployment Phase – 6-14 Days:
This is the point where the app is submitted to Apple and awaits approval. While approval times have greatly improved since the App Store was first launched, we generally tell our customers to expect anywhere from 6 to 14 days to have their app approved. It is possible to try to expedite your approval, but with roughly 500 apps being submitted on a daily basis, we see this rarely happen.
At the end of this phase you should have a fully functioning app ready to be downloaded from iTunes.
Planning is the Key to Success
This outline is what we see for the typical app development. One should expect roughly 2.5 to 3 months from start to finish to develop an iPhone application. Some apps may require more time, while others may be able to be pushed through the process a little faster. We were recently able to complete an app in under a month, however a lot of the design was completed and there was excellent communication between us and the client.
Keeping open communication between project managers and the client has allowed us to keep on track with development time lines and deliver apps on time or early in most cases.