How long does it really take to launch a theme park mobile app?

They say good things come to those who wait...but if you're impatient, we've got some tips to speed up your app launch!
Ellen Wilkinson
May 2021

You’ve heard of ‘how long is a piece of string,’ well how about ‘how long does it take to build a mobile app?’ Figuring out exactly how long it will take to see your name live on the App Store isn’t easy- but it’s often one of the first questions buyers ask when they meet with us.

Keep reading to discover how long it takes to go from scoping to live launch and how time frames differ between custom-built and ready-made SaaS solutions. 

What influences the development time of new apps?

Whether you are building or buying your mobile app, you’ll need to understand your minimum viable product or MVP before you can determine how quickly you can launch. Your MVP is an early iteration of your mobile app that contains enough features to attract ‘early adopters’ and enable you to start validating customer needs.

Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, advocates for an MVP on the basis that seeing what people do with a product is far more reliable than asking people what they would do. In other words, it’s better to give your customers a simplified version of your final product, see how they react and adapt based on their feedback than design a fully loaded app and get disappointed if customers don’t use it in the way you expect. 

Every attraction’s MVP is different, but generally speaking, the leaner your minimum viable product, the faster you’ll be able to deliver and the better your time to value. For example, launching an attraction mobile app with interactive wayfinding and adding additional functionality later is more efficient than delaying your launch to go live with mobile food ordering, ticketing integrations, and virtual queuing in one big bang launch.  

Starting from scratch? The development process explained.

Once you’ve decided on your MVP, you’re ready to bring your app to life. If you’re heading down the DIY route, building your mobile application could be as simple as opening up your development environment, setting up your basic features, doing a quick fire test and submitting it to the app store in just a few days. Well, in theory! 

The likelihood of a quick build ticking the boxes for customers and helping you achieve broader organisational objectives like increasing secondary spend is <pretty> very slim. Crafting a high quality, enterprise-grade mobile application takes time, and before you can even begin to build, you’ll need to research, scope, design and create prototypes. We asked our principal engineer James, who used to build apps on a freelance basis, what timings he works to when developing an app from scratch.

Here’s what he shared with us: 

1. Research and Analysis 

During the research phase, customer requirements are identified, the internal team structure is formed, and the pre-product road map is defined. Expect this to take around two weeks.

2. Design

Next up is design. The team creates prototypes/ wireframes to perfect user interfaces (UI) and experience (UX). Allow 2-3 weeks.

3. App Development

The team cracks on with the backend development and development of the user interfaces. This is the most time-consuming part of the process and can take up to 10 weeks for a brand new project, depending on the agreed MVP. 

4. Testing

Testing is a vital part of the development process and not an area to be skipped over in a rush to launch. Allow two to four weeks for testing and improvements. 

5. Deployment & Support 

Once the app has passed QA, a beta may be released to a select group of pre-approved users or testers ahead of the alpha release to the app stores. Bear in mind that both Google and Apple take approximately a week to review new apps, which needs to be factored into your time frames. Allow around three weeks for deployment. 

On average, it will take a minimum of 20 weeks to build a new attractions app from initial conception to live release in the app store. That’s not to say it can’t be done faster (we’ve seen it done!), but this is the minimum amount of time it takes to build something worthwhile. In reality, it’s often even longer. From conversations with our partners and prospects, James’ timeline matches most agency guidelines for custom builds. 

Want to launch faster? Here’s your alternative

If you’re itching to go to market faster, there is an alternative route that doesn’t impact the quality of your final mobile app. A ready-made attractions mobile app solution, like Attractions.io, can help you launch high-quality guest experience apps for your attraction far faster than the typical agency or DIY timeframe. After all, we’ve already done the hard work and used the above development process to build and perfect our platform. All you need to do is customise your solution with the features you require and add your branding- and voila! You’ve got a native, branded mobile app that’s ready to launch.

You’ll also need to worry less about glitches and bugs. Mobile platform developers invest millions in their solutions so that the final product is stable, glitch-free and ready for commercial use at an enterprise level. Right now, we’re reaching millions of guests and powering world-renowned attractions like LEGOLAND, San Diego Zoo and Butlin’s with our mobile technology. Without record uptime and a proven history of launching 4+ star rated apps for attractions worldwide, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

How long does it take to launch a branded guest experience app with Attractions.io?

We can help you launch a new mobile app for your theme park, resort or zoo in as little as six to eight weeks. Just like building your own app, you’ll still need to determine your MVP as we can maximise your time to value by launching a core app, followed by subsequent releases to enhance your feature set after that. The majority of our partners adopt this approach as the customer feedback secured at each stage can validate new features and functionality, keeping users front of mind. 

Here’s what the typical onboarding and launch process looks like with Attractions.io: 

Project Kick-Off (Week 1)

When a new partner comes on board, we arrange a kick-off call with your delivery specialist, who’ll manage the rollout of your new app. We make sure everyone is aligned to your goals and customer needs during the call before getting to work on your branded app.

Delivery (Week 2-4)

Our team set up your branded mobile apps with the features agreed during your kick-off, commission your illustrated maps, and give you access to our content management platform. 

Final Review (Week 5-6)

We give you a test app during the delivery phase and then share a final release candidate for you to check the content, point of interest mapping and give us any final feedback.

Go Live (Week 7-8)

Once you give us the green light, we submit applications to the app stores on your behalf. As soon as they approve your listing, your app is released into the wild for guests to enjoy!

Ongoing Support 

After your app is released, our delivery specialists will give you access to our customer portals, introduce you to your customer success manager and remain on hand to help you get the most value out of the product, maximise the campaigns you run and deploy new features

And there you have it, go from idea to live launch in just eight weeks, without having to commit in-house resources to the development process. In fact, our snazzy delivery specialists need just a day of your time to get you set for launch.

So you’re all clued up, here’s what they’ll typically need from you:

  • Attendance: At the initial kick-off meeting and final reviews
  • Content: You’ll need to upload any offers, promotions, points of interest and featured content that you want to use for your launch via our content management system. 
  • Approvals: We’ll ask you to approve map illustrations, iconography and the final app release before continuing with the launch process
  • Onboarding & Training: To help you get off to a flying start, your delivery specialist will schedule a tailored training session to introduce you to our customer platform and help you get the most out of your new app.

So, how long will your theme park mobile app really take?

OK, maybe it’s not quite a piece of string, but it’s not far off. Ultimately the time it takes to launch a new theme park mobile app depends on the complexity of your MVP and the development route you choose. 

If you can’t wait to release your new app into the wild, a ready-made app platform like Attractions.io will help you launch a high quality, enterprise-grade mobile app in under half of the time it takes to build a comparable app from scratch with an agency. 

Ready to learn more? Click here to unlock a free consultation with our business transformation specialists. 

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Ellen Wilkinson

Content specialist, zoo enthusiast and french bulldog [s]mother
May 2021

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