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Let’s talk timelines –– here’s how long it takes to build an app

We can talk all day about custom software development and mobile apps. We can talk about artificial intelligence unlocking business value. Or automation and structured data. 

But in most cases clients want to know two things: What does it cost to create an app and how long will it take?

They’re the key questions we get, every time.

How much does it cost to build an app? There are general ranges, but the short answer is that it depends on the number of features you need and the complexity of the app. 

As for the time required to build an app, that’s what we’re going to unpack in this article.

On average, most of the applications designed by our team — which tend to range from medium- to larger-sized projects — take anywhere from five to 10 months to complete. Business needs are driving app development, and in many cases timelines are driven by our clients.

Invest the time to get it right

Discussing timelines is a critical part of every project. Without disciplined project management and transparent, continuous conversation between a developer and an organization on progress, hurdles, and objectives, there is little to no chance for success.

Well-scoped timelines come from a thoughtful and strategic conversation about your business needs, and what success looks like. 

In the development of an application and/or custom software, we set milestones for development and our customer experience teams will keep you informed about what we’re working on, what we need from you, and any schedule changes.

We are capable of sprints to deliver on short timelines, but often there are factors within our client’s world that slow that process down. Maybe you need multiple stakeholders to provide input. Or your data isn’t yet organized or accessible for an app. Sometimes you just don’t know what you don’t know until we talk it out and provide strategic counsel on the benefits and risks of certain decisions.

A delay in making a decision by a week can have a domino effect, so we spend the upfront time to understand your business goals and come up with realistic timelines.

If another app developer is telling you they can have your app ready in a few weeks or months and they haven’t done a thorough review of your business, goals and potential challenges then you may end up paying for it in the long-run.

Onboarding and project kick-off is where our process begins. At Vog App Developers, we start with a high-level discussion to understand the problem or opportunity your application will address, as well as the specific audiences or user groups it will serve. Armed with this insight, we can then move on to development, testing and deployment –– altogether, there’s a lot to get done. 

If you seek a faster than average timeline for the development of your app, there are options that can speed things up, but they come at a cost.

Ask about the team who will work on your app

App development is a black box to many. Some companies promise a small army will work on an app, and in some cases extra bodies can help. But in almost every case, a strategic build with the right kind of developers will yield better returns.

If you are shortlisting a developer to build your custom software and mobile apps, there are three questions you should ask:

  • How many resources are dedicated to your project? 
  • How many senior developers are taking part in the project? 
  • Will any of the work be outsourced?

Outsourcing is increasingly common in the development industry, to offset cost, flexibility and speed to market. In 2020, nearly 14 percent of IT budgets were allocated to outsourced labour, according to a study by Computer Economics

At Vog App Developers, however, we keep 100 percent of our work in-house to ensure quality control and limit the degrees of separation between our clients and the people actually working on their app. 

Develop a Minimum Viable Product

The concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) has been around for more than a decade in tech, but for many of the companies we work with it’s still a new idea.

An MVP is intended to create and launch a technology product (in this case, your app) that integrates only the most required features. No bells and whistles, which means less complexity and thus a shorter development time frame — in theory.  

An app focused on a MVP would still solve the core problem that was outlined during your business planning process, but will likely not offer any extra features. Some glitches may even occur, which hopefully early adopters/users of the app will understand and forgive because they know an enhanced version of the application is set to come in future. Your fully functioning app still needs to be built out, of course. 

As well as potentially bringing your app to market faster, MVPs can also provide an opportunity to “run mini-experiments” that test your target audience’s initial response to the key components of the platform.

While not the right fit for every business, MVPs are one way we can get to market faster with an app as its purpose is to test or collect feedback and data on usage before making assumptions on how people will actually use the product.

Ask if your developer will use third-party code

Some software development firms regularly purchase or even copy code or scripts that have been developed by an external source –– then modify them for the project they are working on, to cut back on labour and time. In doing so they can save two or three months of development work. 

You should ask your developer what is being written from scratch, and what is being repurposed from existing code.

Though we build almost all products from the ground up, on occasion we will purchase and use third-party templates or plugins. We do it only when we know it’s the best option for our clients’ needs and timeline, and only when the code fits the client’s needs. We disclose when we do this transparently with our clients.

What matters most as you evaluate your application’s development timeline, is that you are experiencing open communication with your developer. Ask yourself if they seem to be honestly explaining the strategic reasons for resource allocation, product options and outsourced labour or coding decisions. 

If you want an app but don’t know what to ask, here’s everything you need to do to plan for success. Want to talk about timelines? Contact us and we can provide a quote and timeline specific to your business.

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