How Many People Does It Take to Create a Successful Mobile Application?

So, here’s an interesting and seemingly easy question:

How many people does it take to make an app? But not your regular average, glitchy app, but the one which won’t crash and which users will love.

Long story short:
To create a successful, scalable mobile application it takes anywhere from 4 to 10 people. Why? To find out keep reading. Just 5–8 years ago it would be enough to have just one person to handle everything. This was possible because the market wasn‘t that developed that much so end users wouldn‘t expect the highest quality at the initial stage of the product launch (MVP). Mobile platforms and frameworks weren‘t that developed either.

These days, everything is different:

The mobile consumer market is saturated and users‘ expectations are extremely high. The mobile dev platforms and frameworks are now extremely well developed. As a result, one person simply can‘t hold all the necessary knowledge and experience to build and support a complete product. Sure, you can find a few that claim they can, but even then they would tell you that they have someone else helping them somewhere along the development process (contract designers, dev ops specialists, etc.).

Bearing in mind all this, it’s pretty easy to understand why the answer to the question “how many programmers does it take to make an app” is so complex.

But that’s not all there is.

If you plan to invest over $30K and several months of your time in developing a project – you better do it right and get a professional team. Even if you choose to build a product internally, you will still need to build an internal team (which is harder than hiring an existing team).

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So, who do you need to build an app?

Here is the list of people who would be involved:

Mobile developer (full time)
Backend developer (full time)
Dev ops specialist (part-time)
Designer (part-time)
QA Specialist (part-time)

Total: five people!
Oh, and don’t forget about the tech project manager who can manage all these people.

And that‘s a bare minimum. If you want to move fast and build for both Android and iOS, you would need to add at least one more person. If you want to move even faster again then you should add two more people (plus one for each mobile platform), which means a total of 9 people.
Sure, you can try to go lean and survive with only three people (mobile developer, backend developer, designer). However, this would be enough only to start, but it still begs the question: how many hours should developers take to build an app?

Some stats say that on average, it takes approximately 18 weeks to build a native app. However, it all depends on the scope of your project, the complexity of the app itself, as well as the expertise of your developers.

And that brings us to yet another challenging task – how to hire mobile developers who are experts in their field, reliable, and ready to invest their energy and experience into building an outstanding mobile app?

But, there’s one more factor which plays an important role in determining how long will it take to complete your app – team management.


Team Management
Great developers account for only 20% of your mobile app success. 80% is down to good product management. And if you never managed mobile development process yourself before, you will need to hire a product manager to avoid making a fatal error that will result in total project failure. So at a minimum, any project really needs from 4 to 10 people in the team. For example, we had to allocate 6 developers, one Project Manager, and one Account Manager to help Adventure Aide with their product launch and growth. This helped turn their project into a success story. Here is what they had to say about our help:

Read How We Helped a Marketing Company to Build a Back-Office Custom Ads Dashboard

To summarize: You should prepare extensively before you decide to invest a penny and your time. You want to make sure your product development is split into phases so you have time to validate the market and core features before you invest more into growth.

I would recommend you to start with only one platform, not a hybrid, but a native one, preferably iOS (though it depends on your target audience). Once you have a successful launch, you can validate the market and then start working on the Android app.

Keep in mind one more thing – marketing. For that, you will need to have a website too. Even if it is only a simple one, what‘s important is you have your own corner of the internet to showcase your products and start building your brand. So add one frontend developer on your team to handle that.

Hiring Process
After evaluating how many people you will need, you then need to decide where to get them. You have 3 options:

  1. Hire in-house
  2. Hire individual contractors
  3. Hire a dev team

Hiring in-house is brutally hard and risky. Imagine you find out that you need to pivot or to close your company after your MVP isn’t accepted by the market. Also, hiring 5–10 really good people would take you several months. Refining the processes so they will actually work well as a team would take you several months more. And dealing with the employment and other paperwork – you know what a pain that is. However, if you have $2M+ in your bank account, experience in building and running teams, and project development then it might be an acceptable way to go.

Individual Contractors
Hiring individual contractors is super-risky, and also means your project won‘t be scalable. After all, for each of the individual freelancers you hire, you are yet another “project”, nothing more. In a scrape, they can easily leave you. IP ownership, teamwork, and many other important aspects – forget about trying to get it all together with a bunch of freelancers.

Professional Dev Team
Hiring a professional dev team is a blast. It‘s not just a bunch of people, it‘s a team that comes with already refined and set in stone processes and standards. Obviously, you need to make sure to evaluate different teams and to pick the best one.

I actually go through this process regularly at DevTeam.Space. I personally interview different dev teams together with my colleagues. We regularly interview new dev teams and accept only the best of the best in our exclusive community. The software development market is so big that the number of teams in enormous. That‘s why we pick less than 1% of the teams who apply to work with us or whom we find ourselves. This allows us to have a super-tight community of the best dev teams where each team is a field-expert in a particular market or a technology stack. We then keep track of their performance by rating each dev team from project to project. This way, we can guarantee that our clients only end-up working with top-rated dev teams.

As you can imagine, the hardest part is to find the best dev team to fit your needs. I just described how we do that. So from now on, you should do that too.

Another crucial point is the actual process teams follow. For example, at DevTeamSpace, we have created our own unique process and trained all of our dev teams to follow it. So, we can effectively manage 100‘s of projects. You should have your processes in place too, or you should learn the processes of the dev team you hire.

Now, where is the best place to hire the dev team? Abroad – legal risk and IP ownership risk. If you know how to handle that then go with that option. If you don‘t know then you are much better off to hire a local dev team, or a dev team that has a legal entity in your country and a physical office with employees. That way you are fully protected.

If this information is helpful to you then share it with your colleagues and friends – don‘t let them find out the hard way about this important topic!

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Alexey Semeney

Founder at DevTeamSpace
Tech entrepreneur and avid product developer
Alexey Semeney