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How to estimate the development time for your MVP

Table of content:

Okay, this is a trick question. Normally, when people ask how to estimate the development time of an MVP, what they are really trying to ask is "how long will it take the developer to write down all these fancy multi-coloured words into his glorified notepad before I can start selling my app". In that case, the answer is pretty simple and straightforward: 1,35 months.

Let's see how I've got this number.

An average app is comprised of around 50 000 lines of code. Usually, it takes around 30 minutes for a developer to write 100 lines of code, which equals to (30*60) = 1800 seconds per 100 lines, or 18 seconds per line.

50 000 lines of code multiplied by 18 seconds gives us 900 000 seconds for the whole app.

900 000 seconds divided by 60 gives us 15 000 minutes or 250 hours.

Now, there are 31 days in a month, 23 of which are working days. Say your developer works from 9 am to 6 pm with 1 hour pause. So, 8 hours per day, or 184 hours per month.

Divide 250 hours necessary to write 50 000 lines of code by 184 hours and we get 1,35 months of work to build your dream app. Is this the answer you were looking for? I highly doubt it.

In fact, these numbers are very far from reality.

Now that you have a pretty solid number to start from, let's break down the reality of MVP development.

There's always the usual way and the right way to do things. At Match.dev we do things the right way. So, the right way to develop an MVP is the following:

Stage 1: Ideation / Brainstorm

That's the fun part. Typically, involves you and your business partner. This is when you generate ideas, invent stuff, have incredible epiphanies and write stuff down on a chalkboard late at night in your office. Can be done in 2-3 days.

Stage 2: Recruitment

Now that you have your idea, you need to find the right people to make it reality. Normally, a project manager, UI designer, developer and a marketing specialist will suffice. You'll need to write and post job listings, sort candidates, conduct tests and interviews, make offers, prepare all the necessary documents and onboard new members. So, 3 weeks, no less.

Stage 3: Market research

Before investing time and money into the development of a hypothesis, you need to know if this hypothesis is worth investing into at all. That's where your marketing specialist comes into play. A good market research, firing on all cylinders, might take around 2 weeks.

Stage 4: Target audience research

Next, when you know that there really is your-product-shaped niche in the market, you'll need to thoroughly investigate the needs of your target audience. Apart from passive investigation, it might include more active measures, as surveys and interviews. Add 10 days.

Stage 5: Conceptualisation

Now you have all the necessary info to 'lock' down the feature list. As in, prepare a full list of features to be present in your MVP, cut it down in half and cut it down in half again. Simple as it sounds, this process can take around 4-5 days.

Stage 6: Wireframe development

With all the features in place, the UI designer can start developing the skeleton of your product – the wireframe. it's an important step, as it's a time-effective method of visualising the final UI design of the product to define its structure and reveal all the possible imperfections early on. 3 weeks minimum.

Stage 7: UI/UX design development

When you and your team approve the wireframe, the designer can finally start with the development of the final UI design. Don't forget that the design must be prepared for all the platforms you're launching on. Also, the designer must design all the 'invisible' stuff, such as error messages, status messages, button states etc. Around 45 days.

Stage 8: Working environment preparation

On this stage, the designer prepares all the design files for the developers (cleans everything up, sets up the components) and the developers prepare their working environment (set up the project files). Normally, this doesn't take long – add 2 days.

Stage 9: Development

Well, we've already covered this part :) 1,35 months equals to around 40 days. Still, that's the time it takes the developer to write 50 000 lines of code knowing exactly what to do. What if the app is more than 50 000 lines of code? What if there are unforeseen circumstances with a certain library/framework? If I were you, I'd multiply this number by 2, just to be sure. So, 80 days.

Stage 10: Debugging

Bold of you to assume there won't be any bugs. Developing without debugging is the same as eating fries without ketchup – it just doesn't make any sense. Debugging can take months in extreme cases, but let's say it takes two weeks in your case.

Stage 11: Analytical tools setup

How are going to measure user feedback? You're going to need analytical tools for that. That a process that can take around 1 week of work by your marketing specialist and developer together.

Stage 12: Deployment

Congratulations! You're ready to deploy your app now. Typically, moderation takes around 2-4 days.

Stage 13: Feedback monitoring

Take some time to monitor user feedback to establish the next steps in refining your product. You'll get some initial info upon the 3-4 week mark of app usage.

Stage 14: Iteration

The information you've gathered while monitoring user feedback will help you better understand what's wrong with your product and take the right decisions when iterating your product. It's an MVP's goal after all – to test a hypothesis, draw conclusions and making the necessary changes. You can expect product iteration to take around 3 weeks after each feedback monitoring session.

So, what the real number here? Let's do a quick calculation: 3 + 21 + 14 + 10 + 5 + 21 + 45 + 2 + 80 + 14 + 7 + 4 + 28 + 21 = 275 days or 9 months. In the words of Thanos – "A small price to pay for Salvation".

P.S.

If you happen to be of the stage 2 of the MVP development process – at Match.dev we connect you with top talent, quickly and affordably. And keep in mind, you're not outsourcing a dev – you're getting a full-fledged team member who seamlessly integrates into your project management ecosystem and works in line with your product strategy. Drop us a line and let us help you find the right developers! team@match.dev

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