How long does it take to build custom software?

Generally, it takes 3-9 months to build a software application using traditional methods. This includes all tasks from start to finish, including design, programming, and testing. The exact time frame depends on the project complexity.

However, that estimate is only true for traditional methods.

At Devize, we leverage advanced platforms and modern automations, which helps our team build those same kinds of projects in just 4-6 weeks.

We’ll break down the innovations behind the Devize shortened timeline, walk through the typical development process most firms use, and wrap up with how to estimate how long your project will take.

How Devize can develop software at 10x speed

Here at Devize, we often claim we can develop the same software in a fraction of the time it would take another dev agency.

But how is that possible?

There are a few reasons, but the main one is automation.

You see, most web applications have a lot of similar features. Basic functionality like user profiles, app settings, login and authentication, displaying lists of data, and so forth are essential, but are almost identical across apps.

A typical dev agency will build each of these from scratch for every application, and that adds up.

Around 60-80% of the development time for a typical application might be spent reinventing the same set of features that every application needs.

At Devize, we build out these universal features fast using automations. That lets us focus most of our time on the custom logic that makes your software unique.

In addition to using automations, we develop on an advanced no-code platform, which lets us build everything faster. And we let you work directly with our developers, instead of creating delays and overhead with administrative go-betweens.

All of it adds up to a process that lets us build fast, intuitive, custom software at a fraction of the time it takes our competitors.

The 3 stages in the development process

Nearly all development projects, including those at Devize, usually go through three development stages.

Understanding each stage can help you better estimate how long it will take to develop your software.

1. Design stage

  • Devize: 1 week or less

  • Typical developers: 2-4 weeks

  • Other names: Discovery, architecture, planning stage

This first stage is where the development team will spend time understanding what you’re looking for and how you want the final product to look and perform.

They’ll also prepare the front-end designs, like wireframes and screenshots, and the back-end structure, like architecture and data models.

Getting the design stage right can save tons of time and headache down the road, because there’s a clear map of what needs to be built. An unclear plan or a poorly designed system can result in duplicated work, because features need to be planned as they’re built, or even rebuilt from scratch because the old system wouldn’t support them.

By the end of the design stage, you should have a clear idea of what the final product will look like and what it will do. And the development team should understand how all the parts will fit together on the backend.

2. Development stage

  • Devize: 2-4 weeks

  • Typical developers: 3-6 months

  • Other names: Build, production, implementation stage

This is where the magic happens—the development team brings the project to life.

Because this is where the bulk of the work happens, it’s also the stage that’s the least predictable. We often hear from clients who are working with agencies that seem to have stalled, and it’s always at this stage.

Perhaps the biggest downside to the development stage for most clients is that it can be hard to see what’s going on.

Code that’s 80% finished might not look like the end product at all. And oftentimes the heavy lifting is done in backend logic and databases which can be hard to understand unless you’re a programmer.

At Devize, we use a no-code builder that lets you see progress in real-time as we work. You’ll see new features and displays as we update them and watch your app get built from the ground up.

3. Testing stage

  • Devize: 1-2 weeks

  • Typical developers: 3-6 weeks

  • Other names: Quality assurance (QA), debugging, review stage

Once the product is built, it’s time to test.

Chances are, the biggest bugs have been fixed during the development stage. But reviewing the app for errors, fixes, and minor adjustments is important before launch.

Typically, this stage will be a collaboration between the development team and the client. The development team will run their own internal testing processes, and the client will do trial runs of the software to make sure everything works well.

Then the development team will fix any bugs or correct any issues until the product works as it should.

Once the testing stage is complete and the client has signed off on the project, it’s ready to be deployed and used in the real world.

What determines how long a project will take?

Unless you get a quote, estimating a project is a guessing game.

But there are a few factors that can help you get a general idea of the timeframe.

Number of features

The more features your software has, the longer it will take to develop.

If you’re in the early stages of planning a new software project, it can be helpful to decide if you want a minimum viable product (MVP) or full-fledged application.

An MVP will have the core features you need to start using the application, but not much else. It’s the fastest option to develop.

A full-fledged application may take much longer than an MVP—up to several times as long—but will include all the additional features you’d like to add.

Complexity of features

Not all features are created equal.

For example, adding a view that sorts tasks by their assigned project would be relatively straightforward.

But letting users add new tasks through a personalized email address that imports into their account adds lots of complexity (and thus development hours).

A general guideline is that common features you see everywhere can be developed fairly quickly, while unique features you don’t see often will take longer.

Total number of screens

Designers and developers will often think of an app’s complexity in terms of the number of screens required.

A “screen” is a single layout of the app. For example, you might have a screen for displaying all contacts, another for viewing a single contact, another for editing a single contact, and so on.

Each screen must be designed and developed individually, so more screens means a longer timeline.

Here’s a good estimate:

  • Simple apps: 10-25 screens

  • Moderately complex apps: 25-40 screens

  • Very complex apps: 40+ screens

Data sources

Where is your data coming from?

Most businesses already have existing data in some form or another. Getting that data into the application could be fast and painless, or it could take months.

Generally, the fastest options include data that’s stored in a well-known cloud application, like Salesforce or Shopify, or a large cloud provider, like AWS or Microsoft Azure.

Data will generally take longer to import if it’s in a smaller application, because their built-in integrations can be difficult to use—if they exist at all.

And data will take the longest to import if it’s in a custom application or on-premises data store. This usually will require writing code just to convert, import, or sync the data, which can add weeks or even months to a development project.

Data quality

In addition to where your data is stored, you’ll also want to consider if the data is ready to use.

Many companies realize their data isn’t production-ready halfway through the software development process. That requires lots of last-minute changes and leads to inevitable delays.

If you know your data is incomplete or has issues, this will have to be fixed before the custom software project can move forward.

Also keep in mind that your software development team may not specialize in cleaning data. You may need to bring on a third party, which adds extra complexity (and time) to the project.

UI/UX complexity

How do you envision the user experience (UX), and what are your expectations for the user interface (UI)?

For many custom apps, standard UI layouts are just fine. The data is similar to how it’s laid out in other apps, using a basic design template works well, and there aren’t unique interactions to include. These can usually be developed relatively quickly.

But for other types of software, the layout needs to be one-of-a-kind and completely unique, with a revolutionary layout and new interactivity few existing apps have. These can take extensive design work, plus additional time in development and testing to ensure they work as expected.

Technology stack

If you have specific requirements for your tech, it can take longer to build your project.

For example, frameworks like React or Ruby on Rails provide a lot of functionality out-of-the-box, letting developers move more quickly.

But outdated languages or antiquated software can have the opposite effect, introducing more complexity and forcing developers to reinvent basic features for every project.

And some tools, like the no-code software we use at Devize, can automate larger pieces of the development process, which speeds things up even more.

Unless you have a strong technical background or specific requirements, it’s best to let the development team decide the technology that will work best for your project.

How long will it take to maintain your app?

Remember, the initial time to develop your app isn’t all that matters.

You’ll probably want to make changes or perform basic maintenance down the line. How long this takes largely depends on how you set up the project in the first place.

For example, if you choose an agency that uses an uncommon technology stack, you may  struggle later when you need to hire someone else to make changes.

At Devize, we’ve taken a unique approach to this problem.

We use a cutting-edge, no-code platform to build your custom software. This helps us build your app faster than ever, but also gives non-technical people the ability to make changes later.

As a result, not only will your app be developed at 10x the speed of traditional agencies, you can also make changes yourself as your needs shift.

How to build custom software on your timeline

Most dev shops will take several months or even a year to develop your custom software.

But not every business has that kind of time.

You probably need software to boost efficiency as soon as possible, not in six months. You want to have a competitive advantage this quarter, not a year from now.

If you want to develop your software 10x as fast as the rest, get in touch.