How Much Does it Cost to Develop a Mobile App?
Asking how much a mobile app costs is like asking a home builder how much it costs to have a home built.
It depends on A LOT of things. Mostly – complexity.
Naturally, it will cost less to build a modest 1000 square foot ranch, than a 2-story, 3000 square foot home with turret, covered verandas and top of the line finishings.
Until the home builder (or app developer) knows your requirements and budget, asking for a price is like asking him or her to pin the tail on a donkey…while blindfolded, after spinning around 10 times and hiding the donkey at your sister’s house.
Example Cost Estimates
So let’s say your company has the list of requirements for your app and you want to know how much it costs. Your investment for a basic app with limited features, for one platform (ex. iOS, Android) will typically fall in the range of $15,000 – $30,000.
The complexity (and therefore price) goes up as we add features like user registration and login, interfaces for different users (ex. client, staff, administrator), commerce (shopping), and integration to external applications (ex. CRM, email). Expect to invest in the range of $30,000 – $100,000 or more for a moderately complex app.
If that seems like a lot, consider what goes into developing a mobile app. It takes more than just an app developer.
Breaking Down the Cost of an App
Ask any coder and most will tell you…they write code, they don’t design beautiful, user-friendly interfaces. Cranking code is an entirely different skill than creating the user interface for your app. Would you expect the carpenter who installed your kitchen cabinets to decorate your living room? Doubtful.
So, you need a developer. Budget at least $80,000 per year, depending on years of experience.
You need a user-experience designer and a user interface (visual) designer. You may find both skills in one person, $100,000.
You certainly can’t release an app that is full of bugs, so you’ll need someone to run your app through every imaginable use case to find bugs and ensure they get fixed. Your app depends on this, budget $80,000 or more a year for good QA (Quality Assurance).
You will definitely need a project manager who can manage the people and the project and interface between your company, the designers and coders so everything stays on track. Add $120,000 per year.
OK, so now you have an app – but someone has to create all the screen shots and write all the marketing material you’ll need in order to submit it to the app stores. Someone also needs to submit your app to the app stores. Add $60,000 per year.
All that and the team I’ve just described isn’t even as complex as they sometimes need to be. At a minimum you’ll need four to five people, $440,000 per year. Considering that a basic app could take 8 weeks to plan, design and develop, if you were to hire this team in house you’d have costs of labor in the vicinity of $68,000 for a fairly basic app.
Keep in mind that your app will also need future updates to ensure it is compatible with the latest operating system version as well as the latest smartphone and tablet design standards.
An article by Business News Daily, “How Much Does it Cost to Build a Mobile App“, cited a study that found 54% of companies they surveyed invest $25,000 to $100,000 on each mobile app they have developed. A further 25% spend more than $100,000 to have a mobile app developed.
Why Such a Wide Variance in the Quotes We’ve Received?
So you’ve asked around and get quotes on your project that range between $10,000 and $100,000. Something doesn’t seem right, and you’re correct.
There are a few causes for this:
1. Know EXACTLY what you’re getting. If one company quoted $10,000 and another quoted $100,000 then they are certainly not quoting on the same project. Talk to both vendors so you understand exactly what is included. Find out how they are staffing the project, understand exactly what is included. Will there be a custom user interface designed that matches your brand? What type of testing will be involved?. Avoid surprises, have a conversation.
2. Who are you asking? There will be little comparison between the quotes you’ll receive if you approach a freelancer who develops apps in his spare time (or full-time), contact an off-shore developer in India, or request a proposal from a North American agency.
3. How are you asking? As the owner of an agency I’ve witnessed the tendency for companies to just send out an RFP, ask for a quote but want zero dialogue with the team putting together that quote for you. If you have a serious project it’s better to have real conversations so both parties can understand the scope. You’ll receive more accurate quotes and have a better understanding of exactly what you’re getting.
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