You’ve got a great idea for an app. Now you want to get it built. But how much will it cost, and can you afford it? The answer to this question is important because it determines what steps you need to take next.
For example, are you able to self-finance the development of your app? Or should you look for alternative sources of money to pay for its development such as an angel investor, finding a business partner with deeper pockets, joining an accelerator program, or starting a friends and family funding round?
This blog post will help you find out how much it will cost you to develop your app while staying true to your vision. If you want to make progress on your app development project, read on.
How much does it cost to develop an app? The simple answer.
There’s truth to the notion that a simple answer to a complex problem is necessarily an oversimplification. But sometimes a simplification is close enough to the truth to be useful.
With that in mind, here’s our simple answer to a difficult question; how much does it cost to make an app?
This is painting with a very braod brush. Don't stop here - read on to find out how to understand the factors behind your own app's development cost.
Keep in mind, this is highly approximate and the precise cost will differ depending on many factors.
One of the most significant is the particular market you’re operating in. An app with a medium-level of complexity may cost far less to develop in a developing country than one where labour costs for software engineers are considerable.
How much does it cost to build an app? A breakdown.
According to a survey by Clutch, an industry-leading directory that helps entrepreneurs find the right digital product development agency for their needs, the median cost of developing an app is between $37,913 and $171,450. That’s quite a range.
The cost of developing an app will vary depending on what kind of app you want to build. Some early questions you can ask to help gauge the potential cost of your project include:
- How complex will the application be?
- Are you building a hybrid or native app?
- Web app or mobile app?
- Who will develop the application?
For the more complex projects, development expenses could rise above $500,000.
But if you’re on a smaller budget, there’s no need to panic. By breaking down the overall cost into a series of discreet spending areas, it’s possible to identify:
a) Why a project costs as much as it does, and b) Where savings can be made.
This data is based upon interviews conducted by Clutch with representatives from 15+ mobile application development companies. These companies may not be reflective of the industry internationally as a whole.
It should be noted that these figures tend to represent the condition of the market in North America and Western Europe. It is increasingly possible to secure high-quality developers located elsewhere.
These may charge rates lower than is typical for a classic Silicon Valley development project - potentially meaningfully less than $150 per hour, or even $100. Does lower cost mean lower quality? It can, but this isn’t always the case. Look at a development agency’s previous work to gauge the quality of their output, not their price tag.
For Develocraft’s most up-to-date estimates, it’s best to contact us directly so we can discuss your specific needs and provide you with more accurate cost projections.
One way to use this information is to consider where your own application would sit in relation to each of these categories:
- App Administration
For example, consider ‘features’. You may be able to distinguish between core features that are essential for your digital product to provide value to users and those that are nice-to-have extras.
Does your marketplace app really need augmented reality features? Probably not. Does it even need push notifications at launch? Not necessarily, although it might increase user engagement and be useful to have them.
Get estimates from different developers based upon not only your vision for your full-feature, blockbuster application and the MVP (minimal viable product) versions, but a range of options between the two.
Likewise, fully-custom, high-end design work is liable to be more expensive than a simpler solution based upon minor changes to existing templates.
Digital product agencies will be happy to hear from you and most will engage in discussions about the cost of development based on your various features without obligation. If you’re not a great fit for the particular agency, they’re likely to offer you advice about your next steps.
How complex is the app?
A more complex app will be more expensive, as we’ve seen. But what’s the difference between a complex and a simple digital product?
To determine how complex your app is, consider the following points:
- What type of application is it? Potential categories might include games, utility, lifestyle, social, entertainment, marketplace, and more.
- Which platforms do you want the app to run on? Android or iPhone? Or both? Will there be a mobile app and a browser version?
- How customized will the design be? WIll it be based on a template, an altered one, or a fully custom solution?
- Will the app feature gamification?
- How many different views, screens, or ‘pages’ will the product have?
- Is this application going to be native or hybrid (more on that below)?
- Will there be just one version of the app, or multiple versions (such as a basic vs. advanced version, or different versions based on the type of user)?
- What will your backend, database solution look like?
- How many integrations/APIs will you need? And of what type?
- Will you use an off-the-shelf monolithic CMS (content management system), a headless CMS, or something else entirely?
- How will you measure/track user behavior?
- Will you need a payment solution? If so, what kind? Do you have a preferred provider, such as Stripe or Paypal?
- Do you require ecommerce integrations?
- How about coupons or loyalty points of some kind? In which case, how will you keep track of user accounts and ensure privacy/data security?
- How will users login?
- How many languages will you support? Which ones?
- What extra features that could be considered atypical or innovative might you require? For example, augmented reality. Or the ability to scan QR codes.
This list may seem a little intimidating, but remember you don’t need to know all the answers right now. If you don’t, think of this as an opportunity.
The above questions are useful prompts you can use to start thinking about your app in more detail, discuss requirements with your team, and move the project forward by achieving greater clarity about what you need to build and, in turn, what it’s likely to cost.
Again, feel free to contact us to discuss your specific questions. Reading a blog post is a good step, to get an overview of this subject matter.
However, talking to experts who’ve worked on multiple types of development projects can really help you understand the specifics of your own project.
The difference between native and hybrid apps: more than cost
It’s generally agreed that, all else being equal, hybrid applications are cheaper tha. But does that mean that those trying to keep their costs down should always opt for hybrid?
Not so fast.
What should really be driving this decision is what you want to achieve with your app.
Let’s take a look at the definitions of hybrid and native applications before diving deeper into the differences between them you need to know.
What is a native application?
Building a mobile app? A native application may be the choice for you. Native applications are built with specific mobile operating systems in mind, which means the code won’t necessarily carry over to another type of mobile device.
But what does this look like in the real world?
You might build a native app by Objective-C or Swift for iOS. If you’re going after users who lean heavily towards iPhones or the various iPads over Android devices, this could be a winning choice.
On the other hand, if you know from user research - not guesswork or hope - that your target demographic are much more likely to be carrying around an Android device in their pockets, Java could form the bedrock for your app.
But why go native at all?
Why build a native app?
The advantages you get with a native application include:
- An intuitive user interface (UI) that users familiar with your chosen operating system (OS) will be quick to grasp.
- It’ll be easy to find your app in the associated store for the OS in question (the Apple App Store for iOS or the Play Store in Android).
- Working with the native device hardware and software is much more straightforward - you’re literally talking their language (useful for functions like GPS or calendar integration).
- A strong user experience.
But perhaps you’re not one to go all-in on a single OS/device type. If you’ve got a broader target market in mind, perhaps it’s time to consider building a hybrid app. After all, it can be cheaper.
And aren’t questions about cost what brought you here?
What is a hybrid application?
A hybrid application is the established choice of those startups and tech entrepreneurs who shrink from the idea of putting all their eggs in one digital basket.
Or, arguably, the more budgetarily restricted.
But don’t think for one moment that hybrid applications are the cheap and cheerful option compared to the ‘premium’ native choice.
Far from it. Many very successful, high quality applications have been built as hybrid apps. Want some examples?
How about a plucky little startup called Twitter. Oh yeah, and Instagram. Even the Apple Store and iBooks are hybrid. Pretty crazy, right?
Now we’ve dealt with the potential stigma, let’s move onto the definition before hitting the strengths hybrid apps bring to the table.
Hybrid application definition
A hybrid application is the trojan horse of the app world. Why? Because it’s a website packaged as an application.
The navigational elements are comparable to those you’d find in a native application, but that’s where the resemblance ends. Hybrid apps are effectively powered the same way as a website.
Why build a hybrid application?
Advantages of hybrid applications include:
- Generally faster to build
- Supports multiple platforms (portability)
- A good option for plug-ins
- Overall cost of development usually cheaper with a similar process to web development
You now have the tools to start working out how much your app will cost to build. Remember that this can be a difficult process with unforeseen challenges and costs, so finding the right digital product agency to work with on your app development journey is important.
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Hello! I'm the head of content at Develocraft. I'm also a startup guy (no joke)! I've worked with a lot of them and learned so much. I'm here to help you by sharing that knowledge. I'm always open to collaborations. Find me on LinkedIn.