Nov 10, 2020 Written by David Barlev

How Long Does it Take to Build a Custom Small Business App?

A group of women looking at a computer screen

Once you’re ready to take your company to the next digital level, you may be wondering how long it takes to build a custom small business app. The good news is that apps can follow just about any timeline, depending on how complex you want yours to be.

Small apps can sometimes be completed in under three months, while larger apps that require more development can stretch into almost a year.

Every project is different, so you’ll need to ask what kinds of features you want to include and whether or not they’ll be built from scratch. Some app development programs have out-of-the-box features that take very little time to implement while more customized features can take weeks or months to build.

In this blog, we’ll talk about different timelines to expect when building your custom small business app.

How Long Until You Need It?

A keyboard and mouseBefore you speak with any web developer about your project, you’ll need to know your expected launch date. Why? Because if your app needs customization beyond the usual styling and functionality, you may have to cut time off elsewhere if you are to meet a specific deadline.

Every app has to access and process columns of data. In the simplest apps, there are only a few of these columns, but apps that rely on user accounts and storage will have extremely complex data columns.

Knowing your project timeline will help you and your developer plot out a successful roadmap and meet your goals.

Planning Takes Time

Just because you have an idea for an app doesn’t mean you’re ready to build it. One common mistake eager entrepreneurs make is diving headfirst into a web development project without enough preparation. This leads to big structural changes down the road that cost far more than expected, sometimes even bankrupting the project.

Take time to plot out the basic functions your app will perform. Consider drafting out use case diagrams to generate ideas about how your app will work with its users. You may even want to consider working with a freelance UX/UI designer who can give you pointers about design best practices.

While you don’t want to prolong the planning phase to the point that you lose motivation, you should take advantage of this stage of your app. It costs nothing to detail what you want your developer to do once you get started.

Plan to spend a solid two weeks drafting and revising your plan so you can iron out all the wrinkles.

First Drafts Usually Take Weeks

Two people looking at something on a computerNow that you have your roadmap for your app, the next thing to do is find a developer who can get the ball rolling. If you want to speed through development, look for a reputable design studio with a work history that includes projects similar to yours. A design studio will work with you as much or as little as you need, helping you to build the perfect app just the way you envisioned it.

If you’re not in a rush, you can work with a freelance developer or another contractor for a smaller fee, though at the expense of some of the luxuries you might get with a studio. A freelancer will have a limited range of ideas, giving you more creative control (not always a good thing unless you know what you’re doing).

With use cases and a design roadmap, you can plan out features with your developer so that they know what you want and how to get started. This initial planning process with a developer takes between two and six weeks.

Custom Small Business App Development Is an Endurance Race

Now that you have a good plan sorted out for your app, your developer can get started. This is when they’ll be chugging energy drinks and eating fast food since it takes many uninterrupted hours to set your app up.

In the best cases, your developer won’t have many questions and will help you cruise on through. Sometimes though, apps need completely new programs and features that add weeks to your project.

For example, if your app allows people to pay for services, it will need to either build a payment system from scratch (super expensive) or use a merchant API that already works. Either one of these solutions takes extra time during development and will require more time for testing later on.

Give your developer the time they need. They have to build architecture, code for users, set up the backend, and test the app in a variety of ways before your users even have a chance to look at it.

The development will take the most time, usually between six and 18 weeks.

A good developer gives you updates and keeps you informed about where the project is at. There will most certainly be challenges along the way. Don’t worry—it’s part of the process. Make sure to bring your developer treats and keep them happy.

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

A group of tech codersYour app shouldn’t have bugs. If users are willing to download and install your app, they shouldn’t have to encounter glitches. A few may give it a second chance, but most will uninstall it right away, and there go your hopes with those customers.

Testing is a crucial part of your app development process, and doing it doesn’t just mean playing around with it on your phone to see how you like it. Instead, you should work with skilled QA architects who can build automated tests to check your software quickly and consistently.

Yes, it’s frustrating to keep testing software, especially when you don’t see any bugs. However, false positives like these are precisely why you have to do it.

Sometimes, an app will show no errors because it isn’t actually performing the right function. Overeager companies mistake passing tests for bug-free design and deploy it to users. Within hours, they have to recall it or send out emergency patches for issues that could’ve been solved during development.

Once QA is complete, the next thing to do is to run through beta tests with users. See how people like it, and make as much use of your feedback as possible. This is your chance to make your app part of peoples’ lives.

So, How Long Does a Custom Small Business App Take?

App development doesn’t happen overnight, but once the basic framework is there, you’ll be excited to see how quickly things start to take shape. Regular updates from your developer will show you which features work and how they will look once everything is complete.

Remember to keep a close eye on your project roadmap. The months you spend in development should occupy most of your attention. Should you make major changes once the project is underway, it could add weeks or even months to your expected launch date.

Keep communicating with your developer throughout the project. Most important of all, have a good time. This is an exciting time for your business. Mistakes can be fixed, so don’t stress too much about small details that can be dealt with at any time. Give your app all the passion you have so it turns out just the way you want.

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