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App Design Time: How Long Does it Take To Design An App?


They say UX and UI design can make or break your product. Partially because, in tech, founders put a lot of emphasis on the development phase – i.e. the coding – and often neglect or rush through the app design phase.

This is despite proof that user experience (UX) is more important than products or price (see the WalkerInfo study), 95% of users say UX is key (see the SalesForce study) and companies who refocus on UX design and UI design significantly increase their revenue (see the Forrester study).

So, when it comes to app design time, how long does it actually take to complete the UX design and UI design for a new product?

Note: About These App Design Time Estimates

When considering the full scope of app development, the entire process may consist of 5 Phases:

  1. Idea validation
  2. App Design
  3. App Development
  4. Roll-Out
  5. Optimisation

So when we say App Design, we are referring to Phase 2 in isolation – the UI/UX design phase that ideally follows concept validation and precedes app development. Naturally, the full scope takes a bit longer, and this post is to help you get an accurate picture of just how long to plan for the app design phase alone.

If you want to know how the coding and deployment of your final product with take, see our guide to app development time, and what a week for an agile development team looks like. And to get the full picture of timelines and options for launching a new product, see our guide to how long it takes to create a new app.

Also see the steps to validate your mobile app idea and exactly why you need to test your app idea.

How Long Does it Take to Design an App Prototype (MVP)?

The short answer is that it takes about 1–3 months to complete the app design phase for an MVP of a new app. The scoping and requirements of the product as well as its complexity can impact app design time. One could perhaps almost break it down as: the design on a Simple app takes circa 1 month, a Mid-Level app around 2 months, and a more Complex app circa 3 months.

Also see the benefits of cross-platform vs native app development.

Another way to look at it is to consider the design times plotted on an app design timeline, and then take in all the variables that may impact design time.

App Design Timeline

We recently identified 6 distinct Steps in the app design process – see our blog post on: How to design an app. Using those as a guideline, we create a simplified 4-Sprint timeline to plot out design times against. In the interest of a simplified view, all apps require:

Sprint 1: Strategy & Planning
circa 1–3 Weeks
Identifying and defining the app’s purpose and functions, commercial objectives, user personas and user journeys, as well as designing the system architecture and mapping out the flows.

Sprint 2: Low-fidelity design
circa 1–3 Weeks

Rapidly testing ideas by mapping out the system flow and creating low-fidelity/flat UX wireframes for testing and feedback.

Sprint 3: Final UI Design
circa 1–3 Weeks
Collating feedback into full UX wireframes, performing style tests and finally creating the UI design of all content, navigation, layout and design on every screen, including states and enhancements.

Sprint 4: Prepping Assets for Development
circa 1–3 Weeks
Creating and exporting all the UI assets – icons, buttons, imagery, as well as the code needed to generate those – style guides and documentation to hand over to the development team for roll-out.

Total design time = 4–12 weeks (1–3 months).

App Design Time Variables

Every product is unique, and therefore comes with its own requirements and challenges. This is why app developers (ourselves included!) are wary of making too many promises around app delivery timelines and costs.

Some variables that will impact the time it takes to design an app are:

Scoping and requirements

It’s much easier and faster to start design on a tested, proven and validated app concept. As you may know, we at Specno offer a Concept Validation service, where we help you thoroughly research and test any new product concepts before investment. In short, we’ve found we can start designing faster on a concept that we’ve already validated.

Discover why it’s a good idea to validate your app idea first.

The complexity of the app

Complexity is hard to define, but a simple way to categorise apps is to look at the type and amount of features it will require. The below comparison table showcases potential features and relevant app complexity.

Simple Apps

Mid-Level Apps

Complex Apps

  • A single, straightforward function or purpose

  • A limited number of screens or pages

  • Basic navigation

  • Limited user input

  • Basic data storage

  • Limited integration with external systems or services

  • Basic security features, such as login or authentication.

  • Multiple functions or purposes

  • More advanced navigation, such as nested menus or dynamic navigation

  • More advanced user input

  • More complex data storage

  • More extensive connectivity, such as integration with external APIs or services

  • Advanced error handling and user feedback

  • More complex security features, such as encryption or multi-factor authentication
  • Many functions and navigation

  • Advanced user input, voice and facial recognition

  • Advanced connectivity and real-time data exchange

  • Advanced error handling and user feedback

  • Advanced security features, such as biometric authentication

  • Support for multiple languages and localization

  • Support for various device types and platforms, including wearables and IoT.

The resources needed

Apps with a large number of screens, complex navigation and inter-relatedness might require a bigger team or more time to complete.

Testing and optimisation

The quality. clarity and brevity of feedback and sign-off from stakeholders will impact turnaround times. If a key stakeholder is unavailable to sign off on designs, for example, that delays the process.

Whom you choose to work with

It should go without saying that working with an agency VS a freelance designer is in most cases faster and more preferable. At Specno, for example, we’ve built entire, dedicated design and development teams, to allow us to test ideas more rapidly and deliver work faster. See what you need to build an app development team. Also see just what skills you need in the ideal startup team

Note: Timelines Based on Specno App Design Times

It’s important to note that the guide times shown here are based on the internal Specno turnaround and delivery timelines. We’ve created an entire team of dedicated and driven designers and developers, and are therefore able to turn around designs and finished products at a level that’s ideal for funded startups and corporates.

Naturally, we can’t vouch for anyone else in the industry but ourselves.

Get Us to Design Your App For You

There’s a lot that goes into designing an app that actually works the first time, and that’s why we at Specno spent years developing the best app design team for usability and user experience – proven to give you better user engagement and retention.

To get your app designed beautifully with an immersive user experience, contact Specno now.
(You’ll get a response immediately.)

You might also be interested in…

See the right way to plan and design your app architecture in our post: how to design app, see how much it will cost with our feature on app design cost, and get the complete picture with our overview of app design. And what about the coding, staging, testing and roll it out? For an idea of how much to budget for that, see our guide to  app development cost. And then see exactly how long it takes to validate an idea, how to check if an app idea already exists and how to run some key validation experiments. Also see how to increase app engagement.

Plus: Learn to troubleshoot your product with these 9 critical causes of low app engagement, get better user insights by learning to calculate your app engagement rate. and discover how to build user trust through UX design. Also see these signs you need a UX audit, what goes into a full-scope UX audit and redesign and discover how long UX audit should take.

And get the full picture of what's required for best-practice app development with our guide to the optimal app development process, 9 vital things you need to know even before you start developing an app, and see how long your product will actually take to build in our guide to app development time. To build 3 times faster, see how long it takes to build a low-code app and get the right price with beneficial low code development cost.

And see what we're doing to develop SA's tech ecosystem with the exclusive Founders Den.

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