Understanding How Long It Takes To Develop A Successful Mobile App


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Over the last decade, I have led the develop of over 100 mobile and web apps. My dedicated team and their work has impacted the growth of companies across many industries. During project consultations, our clients always ask, “how long does it take to make an app?”. It’s a great question. The time it takes to develop an app will influence business strategy. It is important for business leaders who want to provide value to their customer base to understand how app development works. Depending who you ask you may get a variety of opinions. So let’s first take a closer look at the app development timeline.

The app development timeline

A successful app needs strategy, execution, and promotion. You can’t just build an app. First, your mobile strategy must establish your goals. The strategy guides the app development process. Let’s briefly talk about it within the context of an app development timeline.


Before you create an app, you need a plan. During this stage, you solidify the scope of your app’s functionality. You need to document how your app will solve a particular problem. You will need to conduct competitor research to understand the market. Expect to spend between 2 – 4 weeks creating your app development strategy.

App Development

You will need to design the app user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).. Most apps begin as simple wireframes and expand into prototypes. Once you approve the prototype, the development team will build the app. App development can take between 16 – 20 weeks to complete.

App Marketing

It is pointless to build an app if you have no plan to share it with everyone. Without a plan, your app will not be found by customers and you won’t get downloads. Invest in marketing channels where your audience congregates. Developing a marketing strategy takes 1 – 4 weeks. The execution of that strategy will be an ongoing process.

App Support

Just because you rolled out the first version of your app doesn’t mean the work is complete. You will receive tons of user feedback about your mobile app. These updates can include bug fixes, new features, security patches, and more. Immediately after launch, expect to spend at least 2 – 4 weeks on updates.

Understanding Project Scope

Project scope outlines the app’s purpose, user stories, technical requirements, project timeline, and business goals. Understanding the scope can help understand the complexity of the app. This can reveal time and cost estimates for your app.

Low Complexity Mobile Apps

Low complexity mobile apps have a few screens with a simplistic UI. These simple apps do not require a back-end or API integration. Low complexity apps include calculators, clock, or to-do lists. They have limited functionality, usually serving one purpose. A strong development team can complete this within 8 – 10 weeks.

Moderate Complexity Mobile Apps

Data-driven mobile applications are moderately complex. These apps require a back-end, database, and API integration. These apps will have a user login and require methods of authentication. They may utilize custom UI design. Moderate complexity mobile apps include mobile banking apps, project management apps, product catalog apps, field service apps, and logistics apps. These apps take 4 – 6 months to complete.

High Complexity Mobile Apps

Most successful applications fit in this category. They include custom UI design, a back-end, API integration, and payment processing. These apps may require multi-language support, third-party integration, custom animations, and real-time features. Social networking, games, and e-commerce apps fit in this category. High complexity mobile apps include Netflix, Facebook, Uber, TikTok, Instagram, Amazon, eBay, TripAdvisor, and Duolingo. To deliver these apps, you must plan for more than 12 months of development time.

How can you speed up the app development process?

Delays are inevitable. However, you can take steps to be proactive and speed up the process. Follow these tips to deliver your app on schedule and on budget.

Developing a Product Roadmap

A product roadmap states the vision and direction of your application. It documents the why, what, and how of your mobile application. A product roadmap will help your development team stay on track.

Building Your MVP

The first version of your app should be distilled to its essential components. Remove the “bells and whistles” and focus on core functions. This reduces how long it takes to create an app, and reduces the cost. Build an MVP first and test it with your market. User feedback will help you determine future direction. If feedback is negative, you need to take a step back and reevaluate.

Hiring Experienced App Developers

Choosing the right talent is crucial for the success of your project. Select an agency with a portfolio of strong app development case studies. These case studies should illustrate their process and the results of their work. The app development company should be adhering to current design trends. If that company is only showing work from ten years ago, that’s a huge red flag.

When you choose app developers, think long-term. Remember that development doesn’t end when your product launches on the App Store. Choose app developers who can handle updates and provide support. You should be able to rely on your app development team to extinguish any fires.


Some apps are overnight success stories. Most require months, even years to find that same success. App development requires skills and a methodical approach. The team you hire and the complexity of your app impact costs and timeline. Ultimately, you should focus on building a web or mobile app that offers intrinsic value to your customer. The more time you devote to that idea, the more likely you are to be successful.

Maulik Shah
Maulik Shah is CEO of technology consulting company Invonto. He is a business-savvy technologist with over 20 years of industry experience. He advises his enterprise clients on digital strategy and has led several digital initiatives. He is often featured in digital and print publications for his views on technology trends, entrepreneurship, American workforce, and digital transformation. Maulik recently published his first book, The Digital Transformation Cookbook: How To Transform Your People, Process, and Data.


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