How Much Does It Cost To Develop An App

It’s no secret that web and mobile apps today are the latest hype! And maybe you’ve found yourself in a position where you’ve identified a problem, issue or need which could easily be addressed through an app making it an easy hit. But before you hit the ground running, you ask the big question, can I afford it?

As we tackle this issue, it’s important to keep one thing in mind, while software development is a technical or maybe even scientific in nature, at the end of the day it’s still a creative endeavor.

Asking how much an application will cost, is like asking an artist how many hours it’ll take them to paint a copy of the Mona Lisa. Sure they’ll give you a range from X amount of hours to Y amount of hours, but it’ll never be a fixed figure; estimating creativity is not realistic.

In essence, estimating an application’s costs comes down to these factors: geography, team composition, extent of the estimated scope of work and how pragmatic you’re willing to be.

Software development exists in the digital realm, meaning that building software doesn’t require an office building, factory, downtown brick & mortar shop or any specific physical location.

Due to this nuance, app development studios are located all around the world, serving clients from all around the world, and whether you’re in one location on the planet and your development studio partner is on the other side of the world, the distance between you two is irrelevant.

In light of this location insignificance, specific regions around the world have become software development pioneers, specifically:

North America (USA, Canada)

South America (Brazil, Argentina, Chile)

Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia)

South Asia (Pakistan, India, Vietnam)

Why the US and Canada are on the list is not a secret as they were the original founders and pioneers of the information technology space and sector.

The other regions/countries which joined the club wasn’t by accident but through a lucky combination of having the right skills at the right time.

The European countries mentioned have a very numerous and strongly focused engineering institutions; a legacy which they acquired from the Soviet Union. While India and Pakistan were also always very technically focused.

However due to their weaker economies and cheaper standard of living, this meant they could offer software development at a much more cost efficient rate than having it done in the US or Canada.

The table below displays the difference in pricing based on region.

When it comes to the team composition, each development shop has their own secret sauce to what type of team they need to put together to realize a product.

Theoretically speaking, the smallest possible team to develop a product is a five person team.

You need a designer to design all the screens of a mobile app or pages of a web app. Once all the screens or pages have been designed, they are passed off to the development team to be programmed or developed.

The development team consists of a Project Manager, Front-end Developer, Back-end Developer and a Quality Assurance Engineer.

The front-end developer develops the interface which your users will see and interact with. The back-end developer develops your back-end infrastructure, server, data-base and the interface which you as the app owner will interact with to see all of your users, purchases, data, analytics etc…

The quality assurance engineer in parallel would be testing the quality of code which the two developers are writing to make sure it’s bug-free or pass the code back to them for bug-fixing.

And finally the project manager to give everyone direction, keep the team accountable, prioritize their work for them, and keep the client updated on the project’s progress.

Large corporate software development firms on the other hand have a tendency to enlarge the development team as a way of adding value to their client and explaining that it will ensure a higher product success rate if more input is put into it.

And therefore they start adding roles onto the project that aren’t really needed such as a Product Manager, Business Analyst, Technical Architect, Technical Writer or extra developers to speed up production.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the bigger the team, the more expensive the project is going to be.

The third factor which affects software development costs is what was estimated in the estimation provided to the client and what was not estimated.

Some firms provide estimates that only include the time/cost to purely develop the product (this means writing code only). However the efforts for testing, bug-fixing and project management are excluded and usually only disclosed after the project has begun.

There are several reasons for why some firms do this. One could be is that the firm truly only has developers and doesn’t have any testers/quality assurance engineers and project managers or perhaps they make their estimates be artificially low on purpose, just to win the bid.

Other hidden costs which aren’t usually presented are the use of 3rd party services which are essential and the app just wouldn’t be able to work without them. For example: hosting, push notifications service, analytics and application statistics service, maps service, domain name purchase, Apple or Android developer account purchases, etc…

The final and most important factor which plays a role in an application’s cost is, YOU !

Too many times have I heard from clients, “I want Facebook but for a specific topic because on Facebook you can talk about anything,” or, “I want Instagram but to only target a specific audience because on Instagram anyone can post about anything,” or, “I want Youtube but for XYZ,” you get the point.

What they don’t understand is that these companies are multibillion dollar enterprises which have been evolving their platform’s look, features and functionality for over a decade. And it isn’t possible to recreate that with a couple thousand bucks.

Each one of these companies started with an MVP (Most Viable Product). An MVP is one core feature that will attract users to use it.

For Facebook it was that it was accessible only to Harvard students with a email address to be able to register, so it positioned itself as an elite internet social club. And for instagram it was their photo filters.

So when your development partner tells you to go with an MVP and trim all the bells and whistles features for later, listen to them. Otherwise you’ll end up spending a fortune on features and functionalities only to realize that your users not only aren’t using them, but also don’t really need them.

Now I know what you’re thinking, you’ve read this whole article and made it all the way to the bottom, and you still don’t have a figure on how much does it cost to develop a mobile app?!?!

No worries; we got you !

Now these are just ball-park figures, however to design and develop an app on just one platform i.e. iPhone app or Android app or a Web app, you can expect the following price ranges in the following regions:

USA or Canada anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000.

South America anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000.

Europe anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000.

South Asia anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000.