How to Make Apps for Clients: A Realistic Timeline

The process of creating an app for a client can seem daunting. Learn about the realistic timeline and steps involved in designing, developing, and deploying your own custom mobile apps with Thunkable's no code mobile app builder.
Written by
Ariel Gonzalez
Published on
September 28, 2022

You've probably heard mobile apps are all the rage these days, and as the CEO or manager of a digital agency, you're right to think creating an app for your client could help them boost their business. But where to even begin when it comes to app creation? How much does it cost to develop an app? How long will it take? And do you need to know how to code?

Many steps are involved, from ideation to design and development to testing and launching. It can be daunting, especially if you're trying to do it all yourself or convince the team to get on board. But don't worry, we are here to help.

For a short and sweet version of our full guide on how to develop mobile apps for clients, download our infographic. It breaks down each stage into eight easy steps.

Infographic on no code mobile app building.

In this post, we'll give you a realistic view of the app creation process, all the steps that go into it, and how Thunkable, the best no code app builder, can help your agency create amazing apps for your clients quickly, easily, and without the need for coding knowledge.

Keep reading to learn more! ➡️

The App Creation Process: A Realistic Timeline

According to SPD Load, the development of a mobile app can range anywhere from six to nine months, depending on the app's complexity. The average cost of developing an app can range from $60,000 to $150,000. This estimate, of course, can vary wildly depending on the size of the team working on the mobile app and if there is a current vision for the app, or if you have to guide your client through the conception phase.

Let's take a glance at the entire timeline for an app development project:

As you can see, developing an app either with code or no code is no small undertaking. Set realistic expectations with your client from the beginning so there are no surprises down the road.

🚀 Thunkable Tip: Harnessing the power of no code can help speed the mobile app development process! Keep reading to find out how Thunkable can speed along the timeline.

Now that we've got a handle on the timeline, let's dive into each step, so you know what to expect at each stage.

📝 Planning Stage

The planning stage can make or break the entire app development cycle. With proper preparation, in the beginning, you can set your mobile app development journey up for success. Here are three steps we recommend laying down the groundwork in the planning stage.

Client Kickoff: Understanding Your Client's Needs

The first step in creating an app for your client is to define the scope of work. In this early stage of the development journey, you will want to discuss the following questions:

  • What are your client's goals with this mobile app?
  • What is the app's purpose, and what problem is it trying to solve?
  • What features need to be included in the app?
  • Who is their target audience?
  • Does your client need custom integrations to work with their existing tech stack?
  • Where does the app need to be published? App Store, Google Play Store?
  • What are the success metrics after the app is published?

Defining the app’s purpose and target audience with your client will help to focus the design and functionality of the app and ensure it satisfies the client's end goal.

If your client has a clear vision of the app's purpose, great! However, if not, you will need to steer them on the right path. Often strategies for other channels like websites will not translate exactly to a mobile app. For instance, if your client's main source of business is through their e-commerce store and they want their app to be an extension of their store, then you will need to find a way to translate this for a mobile app.

Take IKEA, for example; the differences in functionalities and visuals between their website and mobile app are tailored to their suitable mediums:

Notice the brand consistency across each platform and how certain elements are highlighted depending on whether the user is on their desktop or mobile device.

Once you have a good understanding of what your client is looking for, you can then start diving into the research.

Research: Determining Intent and Selecting the Platform

While you may have gathered what the client's intent for the app is and who their ideal target audience is, you will still want to conduct research.

Understand the mobile app landscape so you can guide and advise your client toward a successful app. Understanding the state of mobile can help inform your design and functional build choices. If you are looking for general app trends, we suggest taking a look at's State of Mobile Report or Adjust's Mobile App Trends 2022.

Unless your client is the first in their industry to develop a mobile app for their business, you should have a long list of their competitors to review and see how they are utilizing mobile apps so you can help your client do it better.

Lastly, it is important to consider what platform you want to build the app for – iOS, Android, or both. Each platform has its own set of rules and guidelines to be followed when designing and developing an app. Decide what platform will meet your client's needs and set your team up for success.

If you are looking for a platform agencies trust and love to speed up the app development time frame and can create professional quality apps without writing any code, then Thunkable is the right tool for you. Thunkable enables creators with cross platform app development to publish to the App Store and Google Play store with just a few clicks.

After selecting your tools, you can discuss expectations for timelines and budgets.

Scoping Project Timeline: Setting Deadlines

It is important for agencies to accurately scope the project timeline for their clients to ensure they can deliver a high-quality product that meets their needs and expectations. This process should include estimating the time it will take to design, develop, and test the app. It is also crucial to factor in any potential delays which may occur during the development process. Setting a realistic timeline and sticking to it is key to a successful project.

💡Prototyping Stage:

First, let's define what a prototype is and isn't. It is not a fully functional app. Instead, a prototype is an early version of the end product used to visualize aspects of the design, functionality, and usability. Prototyping helps to streamline the development process by identifying potential issues and solving them early on. This allows for a more seamless final product.

The prototyping stage is crucial for agencies because it allows them to test different ideas and designs for the app. This helps guarantee the app is meeting the client's needs and expectations. Additionally, it also helps to speed up the development process by identifying any potential problems or issues early on.

Prototyping: Wire Framing and Design

Within the prototyping stage, you will want to sketch out what each screen will look like, map out the user journey, and select the design elements. Similar to the image below, you can create a quick visual on how to make the basis of the app. You will want to explicitly define each screen, button, and action. Additionally, you'll want to confirm the overall look of the mobile app matches your client's brand. Look to their brand guidelines to establish what colors you need to use and if your client doesn't currently have any direction on the look and feel of their mobile app, then check out our guide to the 4 Keys to Designing a Great Mobile App.

With Thunkable, we make the prototyping process fast with our drag and drop app builder so you can immediately see what works, and if you prefer building in Figma, our integration allows you to import your design work into Thunkable.

🚀 Thunkable Tip: Remember it is not all about looks. You will want to guarantee the visual and functional aspects of the mobile app are engaging to ensure the mobile app users will want to use the app. We have a few tips applicable to any industry you can pitch to your client to make you sound like an expert app developer:

  • Gamification: Game elements aren't just for apps like Candy Crush and Flappy Bird. Gamifying an app uses game design principles and mechanics in a non-game context to drive user engagement. Industries like Fintech and Education are integrating game elements into their apps to keep users engaged and returning. For more on why you should gamify your app, download our infographic here.
  • Less is More:  The goal is least clicks to get where the customer needs. Simplify, clarify, and justify every aspect of the app by asking yourself - do we need this?

Prototyping Approval: Prepping for the Next Stage

Congratulations, you now have client approval to bring the prototype to life! Once your client is satisfied with all your hard work and the direction the app will be going, it's time to dive into the development phase.

🏗️ Development Stage:

Now we get to the fun part, building! In this stage, all the design and prototyping work will come to life. During the development stage, agencies will work to build out the functionality, design, and key aspects of the app. Let's dive into the three steps of the development stage.

Design: Creating the User Interface and User Experience

The user interface (UI) is the look and feel of the app, as well as the interaction between the user and the app. It includes things like buttons, fonts, colors, and animations. The UI helps to create a smooth and intuitive experience for the user.

The user experience (UX) is how the user feels when using the app. It's necessary to make the app easy to use and navigate. The UX should be designed with the user in mind to ensure they have a positive experience when using the app.

The designing phase is crucial as you want the app to be visually appealing, provide intuitive navigation, and adhere to your client's brand. This step can take some time because it's important to get everything right—but trust us, it'll be worth it in the end.

With Thunkable's Figma integration, we provide a seamless transition of moving your Figma design into the platform so you can import your design easily.

Building the MVP: Focus on Key Elements

Notice we made the distinction to build the MVP rather than just "build the app." Often times agencies and their clients can fall into the trap of wanting to get everything done in the first version of the app; however, focusing on the critical elements will provide focus to the app creation process rather than getting lost in adding more features, screens, images, etc. MVP stands for “minimum viable product,” which is the version of a product or, in this case, an app with enough features to be offered to users, so it is fully functional but can be used to observe and collect feedback to improve the product or app.

The finish line for mobile app development is not once the app is published. Any mobile app will require updates and maintenance to bring users the best mobile experience. For this reason, we advise agencies to focus their efforts on building an MVP first and then, if the client requests, continue to work on several versions after.

Testing and Quality Assurance (QA): Prepping for Release

Once your app is built, it's time to test it! Testing is crucial to confirm no glitches or bugs that could frustrate users. In this stage, you will also want to have your client test as well as they will be the experts in anticipating what their target audience will be looking for in their mobile app.

🚀 Thunkable Tip: Designate specific team members to conduct the testing and QA process. By having dedicated testers, you can guarantee a more thorough quality assurance than if the individual building the app was also testing the app. Create a log of issues found and address them one by one.

For testing iOS apps, you can use Testflight and Google Play Console for Android for testing. Thunkable helps agencies move faster and avoid staying stuck in a development loop as clients provide several rounds of feedback because changes can be seen in real-time with our Live Test feature. Diligent testing guarantees a successful launch when the app is published.

🏃‍♀️ Final Stage:

Congratulations! All your hard work has paid off, and your client is ready to make their app public. We will walk you through the last two steps of the app development cycle.

App Publishing

Keep in mind before publishing your app, the App Store and Google Play Store have different reviewing processes. When publishing an iOS app, it must go through Apple's App Store review process before it can be made available to users. For Android apps, there is no such review process, it can be published immediately.

If your client wants to distribute and monetize their app with larger audiences, Thunkable makes it easy to publish to the App and Play Stores for iOS and Android devices. For an in-depth overview of the app publishing process, check out our help docs.

Client Off boarding

The work is not over yet. This final step will make your client elated to have worked with your agency. Nothing is worse than leaving your clients with a great product but no way to understand how to use it. Often agencies overlook this step, and it ends up diminishing all the amazing work your team did to build the app.

Make sure to provide clients with a seamless off-boarding process, and Thunkable makes the agency-to-client handoff process easy with our no code mobile app development platform.

The Wrap-Up

Now that you have a full preview of how long it will take to develop mobile apps for your client, you can provide a realistic timeline of how long your client will have to wait until they can get their app idea off the ground and into the hands of customers.

The app development process can be time-consuming and filled with potential roadblocks. Fortunately, there's a solution that can help you overcome these challenges and deliver better apps to your clients, faster. Thunkable is an all-in-one solution that enables you to rapidly prototype apps, easily hand them off to your clients, take advantage of advanced tech solutions without needing to code, and boost your profit margins.

Get started as an app creator today with Thunkable!

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Written by
Ariel Gonzalez

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