Putting a price on developing an application can be difficult and is a common issue in the software world. It isn't manual labor per-say, so developers base their pricing on code. But they have to add in the design and development work that can take days with each job.
On the flip side, business markets are getting oversaturated and competition is more fierce than ever. Plus, there’s pressure to modernize and digitize their offices, warehouses, and even products themselves. There’s a lot riding on application projects, but businesses still want them completed with cost efficiency.
So how much does it cost to develop an app?
Up front, expect to pay anywhere from $40k to over $100k based on the app's complexity and how many platforms you want it to work on. But that’s a broad range. If you want an estimate before reading the article, be our guest.
But if you want the full analysis of where we get this estimate, what the estimates mean, and what influences the numbers, read on! We even tack on a few ways to reduce your app development cost.
In the introduction above, you saw a broad price range of what you could expect to pay for app development.
It’s broad because there are a lot of factors that drive the cost of developing an application.
For a more precise analysis, let’s begin with a simple overview of the costs of a full application with features based on complexity.
Total cost: $40k to $70k
Basic doesn’t mean low-quality. A high-quality baseline application still has:
Applications that fall into this category are typically for start-ups testing their market.
Total cost: $70k to $100k
Medium complexity applications have:
Total cost: Over $100k
Complex apps have:
Although there is some breakdown in these three categories, they’re still a rough estimate. Remember that these estimates only account for one platform, so you could double the number for two. They also don’t account for backend development or design costs.
Within the three scenarios above, you could see some of the aspects that make up the total cost. Next, we’ll break down all the elements that make up the total app development costs, so you can have a better idea of what to expect from an estimate.
To start, let’s look at the typical structure of an application development team. The team size will vary based on the complexity of the project and the needs of the client.
A standard app development team comprises:
In the initial overview estimates, we mentioned complexity as the key factor. But there are many others that can affect the cost of developing an application. To help better understand, let’s break things down further.
Without a doubt, the biggest factor that will determine the cost of developing any app is what you want the app to do.
Before working with a client, a development team will examine the total working hours on the project based on a client’s specifications. Teams typically develop quotes based on previous projects.
But it’s all contingent on the functionality and features of the application. This is easily the biggest element that will determine your cost. Translating business logic into software is what you’re paying for in this situation, along with screens, buttons, and other features that potentially require third-party integration.
We cover more elements below that can add to the complexity of the project, but these are the key factors. It all depends on the features. For some, pre-existing code solutions exist, and for others, developers may need to write the feature’s code from scratch.
To better understand, let’s look at some common features typically included in app development cost.
Customers make purchases on their phones using standard payment systems like ApplePay, Google Wallet, PayPal, and, of course, credit cards. Each processing method takes time and increases cost.
Things like notifications, networking, and authorizations fall under this category. This includes adding features that allow users to store or recover their password, or login through social networks. Things like commenting, liking, social sharing, and push notifications are also user engagements. These features often require integration with third-party frameworks and libraries.
If you include any technology with beacons or geo-fencing, things can get expensive. It’s also important to work with a development team who has experience in this field.
It all has to do with the functionality of your app. If you want customers to use their camera from the app or dial with it, it all counts as a feature and can add to the total overall cost of development.
We stated in the overview estimate of costs that each category is based on one platform.Before proceeding with development, it’s important to account for things like market share and device fragmentation. There isn’t much of a difference in price between developing an app for iOS or Android. But if you want your application to work on multiple platforms, the time and cost will increase.
Many clients often forget that app development costs continue after the solution is ready. The actual development of the application is only the start. The market and consumer needs constantly evolve, and you’ll want your application to adapt to those changes.
Often, up to 15 to 20% of the original price can go towards maintenance costs to keep the application running and up-to-date. That doesn’t mean scaling or adding new features. Maintenance includes bug fixing, supporting new operating systems and new versions, and supporting the new versions.
Last, having an app go live is just the beginning. You’ll get solid feedback from actual users and will need to implement solutions to make the app function better and scale. This all goes under the realm of maintenance or ongoing costs.
The location of your development team will ultimately affect the cost of your app’s development. Whether you hire local or outsource anywhere in the world, costs will vary. Some companies even try to develop their application in-house over outsourcing to save money. But in most situations, outsourcing is the better option.
With a team composition and key cost factors laid out, we can now create a clearer picture of an app development cost estimate. PURPLE uses safety nets to create an estimate, and this can serve as a blueprint for your own planning and estimation.
It’s important to lay out high-level specifics first. This involves the development team investigating the project and providing a quote based on past projects. After looking at the high-level specifics, a team will send a work breakdown structure to review with a client. The breakdown will include a team member list, with their hourly rates and the number of working hours expected to complete the project.
Development teams should then review the spreadsheet with the client and remind them that the quote could eventually be larger or smaller. PURPLE offers both fixed and flex pricing for quotes, but other development teams could have different protocols.
Let’s inspect the work breakdown structure. You can also review the concepts behind high-level specifics and investigation of an app development project in our article on how to make sure you are building a product you can sell.
There are a lot of potential app owners with great ideas or positive solutions for their business. But many lack the funds to see them come to life. To help with this issue, we’ll look into a few ways you can reduce the cost of your app development by applying some standard industry practices before you
Fortunately, business owners can reduce the costs of developing mobile applications by following a few industry practices and applying some smart tricks. In this section, we take a closer look at the different methods companies use to lower the cost of developing mobile apps.
Before actually developing an application, there’s a process of prioritization. Businesses often want tons of features on their app until they realize the cost of putting all the bells and whistles into the development.
But just because you don’t have everything you want, it doesn’t mean it’s time to give up on the project.
Instead, create a hierarchy of the features you need on the application to drive business.
This is a key point in any app software cost estimate, but it’s also possible to research things before submitting them to an outsourced development team.
You can often save certain features for later on. At PURPLE, we review a project and start with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) before moving into other elements of an application. This saves the client's time and money in the long run if the product isn’t viable.
Building an application incrementally is the way to go.
Any app development team working on a project will run into errors and bugs. It’s inevitable. The key is to eliminate these issues as quickly as possible before they spread into other areas of the app development process. Involving QA professionals from the beginning helps to identify these issues and save money on potential refactoring and redesigns in the future.
Speaking of the future, remember we listed ‘maintenance costs’ as one of the key factors that affect an estimate.
Planning for those costs that go beyond the actual development and live phases is essential for any app owner.
The app could look completely different a mere six months after release. You could receive feedback that forces you to alter or add features, or the feedback could cause you to change the project altogether.
With this article, you hopefully have a better idea of the costs associated with developing an application and the elements that can affect those costs. By reviewing the sections above, you’ll be able to map out and follow cost estimates before you approach a development team. And if you’re looking to outsource to an experienced, professional app and software development team, contact us at PURPLE.
We provide high-quality solutions for our clients, and our experienced development team is here to make sure your development needs are met at the highest level and on time.