The most important part of the decision-making process is estimating how much time the development of your mobile application will take. Usually, it passes through several stages until the final budget is determined and that alone depends on a number of factors, including:
- The time frames defining when the application should be ready for use.
- The size of the development team.
- The team members who will be involved.
- The complexity of your application.
- The technology stack that will be used during development.
There are several calculators available that will give you a rough estimation of how much it would cost to develop an app. F.e. you can use howmuchtomakeanapp.com website that will ask you several questions to help determine an estimated cost. However, each calculator usually shows too huge of a budget amount since it utilizes a worst-case scenario, instead of analyzing each of your individual features.
First of all, you need to discover what type of quote you need in order to:
- Make a decision if you should develop your app at all.
- Begin the development process.
So let’s proceed with defining how much money you need to create your app.
The Rough Budget
We often receive emails from our clients asking the following questions:
- “How much does the social media/location-based/whatever app cost?”
- “I want an app like Facebook/Instagram/etc. How much would it cost?”
This information is usually not enough for us to give you a rough budget because a location-based application might simply be a checking-in app or something more advanced like a high-level tracking application that includes real-time chatting, file sharing, and a photo recognition tool.
A Facebook-like application might result in being a simple newsfeed and the following app, verses a complex application with satellite mobile applications like the FB Messenger app.
So in determining a budget we usually provide our clients with some examples of the location-based /social media/whatever apps that we have previously developed, along with the time it took to develop them so that clients can get a better idea as to how much their specific app will cost.
Usually, the rough budget is enough to make a decision if you want to proceed with the development of your application. However, if you have a basic list of features, specifications, or even wireframes, you should definitely request a detailed estimation instead of a rough one.
The Detailed Estimation Stage
For any business owner or startuper facing a mobile development for the first time, it can be hard to create the desired specifications and to make them easily understandable for the team of tech takes. Clients usually concentrate on a description of business goals rather than specific features.
To simplify the process for you, we usually ask a set of questions on particular features that you’d like to see in your mobile application. This is a +/- set questionnaire that allows us to better understand the scope of the project.
Apart from the questions that define your business goals, we pay special attention to functionality options that your application should have, such as a signup form, a sign-in process, how they will work, what information needs to be displayed in the user profile, etc. Our team also focuses on how each of those features will meet the established business goal.
All this functionality is turned into user stories that are passed to the development team for estimating costs. The development team breaks down that functionality into logical modules with a description of what is included in each module. You can check the time that will be spent on each module and also you can see the individually estimated hours of each task separately. This gives you the freedom to scratch out any items that you do not need or do not want to be present in the current release.
Strong Individually Estimation
This kind of cost estimation allows you to understand what number of team members should be involved and what technology will be perfect for the development of your app. The development is usually divided into milestones and each milestone has a duration of no more than 2 weeks. This allows you to review the scope that was completed against the control points and make sure that the development process is going as planned.
You will be able to check which team members and at what stages are involved in the development process. All development hours will be divided between all members. In such a way you can see which tasks are assigned to one person and which ones are done by all team members. When testers start doing their job, you will be aware of it. You will also know how much involvement is required from the project manager to complete each task.
The overall app-development strategy for cost estimating is usually sufficient to close the deal, but this estimation process is not something that the development team can commit to. Most clients, especially new ones, are not ready to work under “Time and Material” pricing, but would rather request a budget that the development team can commit to.
Pre-development is a mandatory stage that always goes before building any app. This stage includes the following:
- Writing of technical documentation,
- Creation and alignment of wireframes and designs,
- Writing of use cases (not user stories),
- Defining of technology risks,
- Building of Infrastructure for development.
Upon completion of this stage, we will provide you with the final estimation that we can commit to.
Usually, it differs from the detailed estimation by 20%. It can either decrease or grow. We would not want to lie to you, so we’d like to mention that the estimation usually grows. But at least you will know about this at the very beginning of the project and will not be unpleasantly surprised somewhere in the middle of development.
The Bucket Approach
When the quote is ready for review and is sent to the client, one of the biggest concerns that they face is when the estimation exceeds the budget that they had in mind. Sometimes it’s handled the wrong way, including:
- Putting the idea of the mobile application aside.
- Searching for investors, which are difficult to obtain and get involved in projects.
- Turning to junior freelance developers that soon disappear and never complete the app.
If the app is put aside, you lose money and your great idea is dead. The death of your app should never happen. There’s the so-called “bucket” approach, which consists of taking the budget that you have and using it for as much functionality as you can. Preference should be given to the most important features first, especially ones that separate you from your competition.
The biggest benefit of the “bucket” approach is that you can release MVP (Minimal Viable Product) and keep adding other, more expensive features later on. Sometimes, results may show that your target users don’t even need features that you initially wanted to incorporate into your app. Based on their feedback, they would like to see other useful things in the app instead. Taking their preferences into account you will get more power to grow.
What Can Influence App Development Cost?
There are many cost-defining factors (the main ones were mentioned by me in the beginning of this article), however some of those factors influence the price more than the others. So if you made a decision to transform your idea into an app and want to calculate the budget, you need to answer the following questions:
- What vendors are you going to hire?
- What features should your app include?
- For what platform are you going to develop?
- What design would you like to create?
Now let’s proceed with explanations and discover how to build a great app without spending a huge amount of money. After all, each dollar you spare can be invested in advertising and making your brand recognized and your app widely used.
When you decide whom to entrust the development of your application, you probably consider two of the most common variants – you either think about hiring a freelancer or searching for a software development company. To help you make the right decision we’d like to mention the pros and cons of each option.
If you choose to work with freelancers you will definitely save a certain amount of money, because their services cost cheaper ($18-20 per hour of work). While freelancers can offer you a high level of communication (you will speak directly to a person who develops your app and is responsible for the result) and less time-consuming paperwork, you should remember that they have no strict working schedule and can violate set deadlines.
Moreover, to ensure the best quality of your application you may need to hire several freelancers instead of one, pay for their services, and at the same time experience difficulties with managing their work, which makes the development stressful.
When you decide to work with the software development company, you can be sure that a team of qualified specialists will offer you fast and high-quality development services, convenient schedule of work, and guarantees that the information about your project will not be disclosed or shared with third-parties.
The development company will charge for specialists’ work more than a freelancer ($25-30 per hour of work), but in exchange, you’ll get a contemporary app built using the latest technologies.
All apps can be conditionally divided into basic, medium and big ones depending on a feature set they incorporate and the complexity of all those features. When we speak about basic apps, it may take 3 to 5 months to build and release them. If you release an MVP the period will be even smaller.
Medium apps are developed within 9 months, while big complex projects may require almost a year of development before they are ready to be delivered. The longer the development term, the bigger would be the development cost. You will need to pay for the services of all kinds of professionals starting with developers and ending with designers and testers.
iOS and Android are well-known and popular operating systems that many devices run on. If you decide to build your app and make it available for both platforms, it will require more money than you might have expected. Your app is going to be built by different specialists who will be using absolutely different technology stack.
If you consider building a solution for one platform only, then note that it is more complicated to develop for Android than for iOS because there are way more different devices running the fist. So your Android app will have to be adapted and optimized to look perfectly on numerous devices with different resolution and aspect ratio.
The design is what makes your app recognized and associated with your brand. The style of your application, all icons, layouts, and controls can influence the total development cost. An hourly rate of a qualified designer is usually around $40.
The more complicated and custom you want your app to be, the more money you will have to invest in it. All custom designs, specific animations, and elements require more time and therefore financial resources. If you want to make your app look great and at the same time reduce the development cost, then consider refusing from adding a ton of pretentious elements. Make it simple and intuitive, just like users like it.
Is It Expensive to Release an App?
Once your app is ready you’d want to make it publicly available. So what you’ll have to do is to submit it either to Google Play Market or AppStore. The submission itself is free in both stores, however, it requires the presence of a developer’s account. Its cost is not high at all compared to the development expenses, but nevertheless you should know about it.
While in Google Play Market you need to make one payment only – $25 for an account, AppStore requires $99 yearly. As to the additional expenses, in case you want to make a proprietary app for internal use by your employees only, you will have to pay $299 yearly for Apple Developer Enterprise Program.
Submitting an app may not be as easy as it seems, because you’ll need to insert a lot of information and make no mistakes, especially if it comes to copyright and privacy. So it is always better to delegate this task to a team of developers who made your app. They will submit it faster and without a fuss.
Do I Need App Maintenance?
When your app is developed and already being used, you may come up with a question of whether you need to maintain it, especially if you do not plan to add any new features in the near future. Based on our experience, we can say that app maintenance is necessary because your app requires:
- Timely upgrades using the latest technologies;
- Monitoring of all policy and tech changes for third-party integrations (if they are used);
- Testing and controlling stability and performance;
- Bugs fixing and code improvements;
- Adding some new functionality (if required).
Many software development companies offer maintenance services at an additional cost so that their team members can keep making your app better and taking care of it further.
Usually, app maintenance requires up to 20% of the total development cost. However, other expenses are not included. F.e. if some services of your app are located on a server, you may need to pay for the hosting ($20-40 per month). If you register and get a domain name, you’ll need to pay $10-15 per year for its usage.
Is It Possible to Develop an App by Yourself?
It is not a secret that there are many cloud-based app builders (like Good Barber, TheAppBuilder, Mobile Roadie, etc.) and other simple tools that give an opportunity to create your project without a team of professional developers.
Such tools do not require some special coding skills and let you do all the work by yourself. But is building an app with a tool really so easy as it sounds? The answer is – no.
Just imagine how many processes you will have to keep under control if you start creating your app by yourself. You will have to handle planning, development, testing, and designing. One more con of all app builders is that they allow you to use their templates and add a limited number of features. Therefore your app will not be unique and it will be harder to surpass your competitors. If your app is not a high-quality solution, the mobile stores may not even submit it.
As to the financial side, I’d like to mention that all app builders require monthly payments. The price depends on the quality of a tool. So while simple ones will ask you to pay $10+ the best solutions will require $100+ per month of usage.
If your goal is to create a custom app that will be widely used, then you’d better cooperate with the developers who can meet all your expectations and create a business defining solution.
To Wrap It Up
Every successful app starts with an idea and seed capital, and your main goal is to invest your money wisely and develop a competitive solution able to attract many users and boost your business opportunities. Now that you know what influences the development cost you can make the right decision and get started with transforming your concept into a real solution.