Understanding product launch timelines & how long it takes to develop an app

Understanding product launch timelines & how long it takes to develop an app

If you’re planning to build an app – whether through traditional development or no-code, one of the first questions you’ll have is how long it will take to develop. After all, you need to align your marketing campaigns, launch parties, team hiring, and a hundred other things around the timing of your build. And the faster you can get your product out, the more options you’ll have.  

No-code has made it possible to build in weeks what would take conventional methods months or years to do. 

However, rapid development doesn’t necessarily translate into a fast launch. For example, an app that may take 2 weeks to build may take 3 months to launch. Additionally, without proper planning, you could end up just building quickly in the wrong direction or accumulating technical debt that stalls your progress. 

So how should you realistically think about setting your launch date so you get the no-code product you want in the timeframe (and budget) you need? 

Below is a quick guide to thinking about the software launch process so you can better understand your development timeline and how to set up a plan for your product launch. 

Key concepts: understanding efficiency vs. speed when determining how long it takes to develop an app

When figuring out how long it will take to develop an app, the key decision for you as a product owner is determining whether you want to optimize your app for efficiency or speed – as this will affect your timeline and budget in different ways.

Optimizing for efficiency means spending the least total effort in development (which also translates to lower cost). This approach involves you taking the extra time before and after the build to scope and confirm exactly what you want included in your app and how. It takes a little longer, but minimizes wasted effort (i.e. rapidly building in the wrong direction). 

On the other hand, optimizing for speed means spending the fewest days necessary to launch your product. Here, you’ll forego extensive scoping and instead jump right into the development process using a flexible approach to define what you need as you go. This can save time overall, but requires more building time and is therefore more costly.

Depending on your situation and objectives, either of these approaches can be the right approach for you. It really just depends on your needs.

When to optimize your app launch for efficiency 

Below are a few cases where we’ve seen it can make the most sense to spend the extra effort before/after the build to minimize development time (i.e. optimize for efficiency):

  • If you’re a team on a fixed budget (e.g. many startups with finite funding, or enterprises with a set budget for a project)
  • If you’re a team that can have a clear idea of what they want in an initial build (note: you can always evolve it after the initial launch)

When to optimize your app launch for speed

On the other hand, it may make the most sense to just jump straight into development (i.e. optimize for speed) if you’re:

  • A team with fixed timelines (e.g., startups building for investor 'demo days', teams with customer deadlines, teams with seasonal deadlines such as start of school or holiday season, or internal operational tools with fixed deadlines
  • A team looking for more scoping flexibility as they build (e.g. venture studios)

At Airdev, we’ve worked with many clients that fit into both categories and have developed processes for handling each approach. 

Airdev’s approach to product timelines

When we optimize a client’s app for efficiency (i.e. taking the least amount of effort to build), we use our fixed-price model (read more about this and our approach to software pricing in this article). Here, we’ll tell you a total price for the output, and then incur the cost (and risk) of getting it done right. This translates to minimizing actual build time (and therefore, cost) for our clients. But in order to do that, it takes more time up front to scope everything out exactly so that the build can be smooth. The result is a process where a 3-week build might take 3 months to launch.

When we optimize for speed (i.e. clients on a strict deadline), we instead cut down the upfront effort and get to building sooner. This may shorten the timeline from 3 months to 1-2, but it may also increase the total cost of the build substantially (sometimes by 50-100%). The reason for this is that if we're figuring things out as we go, meaning we're likely to take a less linear path as we course-correct along the way.

Let's consider two example clients and how our process works:

1. Optimizing for efficiency:

Scenario 1: A new startup is looking to build their MVP app to validate their concept.

  • What they care about: limiting the budget, starting with the minimum viable feature set, and getting to launch within the next couple months
  • Our process/timeline: here, we typically opt for a fixed-scope approach. We take the time up front to align on exact specifications for the build, which allows us to lock in the cost and timeline to give the client peace of mind.
           - Step 1: Discovery (1 week) - we align on high-level requirements to confirm budget/timeline expectations.
          - Step 2: Scoping (2 weeks) - the client works with our product manager (PM) to write/confirm exact specifications.
           - Step 3: Design (2 weeks) - a UX designer creates exact Figma mockups, and the client/PM lock-in a fixed scope.
           - Step 4: Build (3 weeks) - Airdev developers build the UI and functionality of the app in weekly milestones.
            - Step 5: Review & launch (1 month) - the client and team test and adjust the app to get to launch.
           - TOTAL TIME: 3 months to launch

2. Optimizing for speed:

Scenario 2: A venture studio is launching an MVP application for their corporate client to unlock further investment.

  • What they care about: meeting a strict milestone deadline, and having more flexibility to evolve the concept during the build (since the team is doing market research concurrently)
  • Our process: here, we typically opt for a fixed-capacity approach. Airdev will do light scoping before heading into the build and use an iterative build process to define as we go, which allows the client to be fastest to market.
           - Step 1: Scoping & design (1 week) - the client works with our PM/UX designer to define the overall scope at a high level, as well as the first bit of work at a detailed level.
           - Step 2: Build & iterate (5 weeks) - Airdev developers build the UI and functionality while a PM/UX designer scopes out the next bit of work. Each week we adjust priorities based on feedback. The first few weeks focus on getting to a full initial product, then subsequent weeks are more focused on iterations and extra features.
           - TOTAL TIME: 1.5 months to launch (note: total cost may be double          the first scenario)

Want to explore your app development options with Airdev?

If you’re interested in working with a no-code agency like Airdev to launch a custom app fast, contact us to see how long your app may take to build and if we’re a good fit for your project today!