How Much Does it Cost to Develop an App?

The multi-billion dollar arena that is the mobile app industry is here to stay, but, before you even begin thinking of the costs necessary to bring your idea to life, you must first ensure that there is not an app identical to the one that you want to make on the market already.

Remember that to capture the attention and wallets of customers, your mobile app must be better and more engaging than that offered by your competitors. In order to do this, make sure your mobile app has a strong conceptual foundation, is well planned, and that you recruit the best talent at your disposal for its design and development.  

It helps to develop a few core use cases and to take into account the app’s intended market, as well as to consider how it will play out in the short and long-term.

Don’t forget that iOS, Windows, and Android devices all have their own operating systems and are usually written in different programming languages. By defining your target market, you will be able to more easily determine which platform to launch on, and you can always decide to do a cross-platform development, read more on this here. The following provides  some insight into the entire process of app development, so you can understand what you pay for.

Different Types of Apps

The scope of the app itself is the main determinant of its price. You must first lay down the exact features you want the app to have. Listed below are the they type of apps you might want to develop:

Gaming

Even simple games cost a lot of money in this category. Because of their dynamic nature, graphical requirements and engagement factor, games require investment from idea to launch. Approximately $200,000-500,000.

Interactive

The main reason these apps can go up in cost  is because their main function is to allow you to see and interact with data. They are dynamic. The app itself may seem simple but a great amount of brainpower and work is put into the server-side and into the database management. Facebook, Twitter and the Weather Channel are examples. Around $250,000-1,000,000.

Database-Driven

These are applications that connect to an online database. Examples include recipe and dictionary apps. $150,000-250,000.  

Utility

Utility apps are not always internal and, as their name suggests, are designed to help a user perform certain tasks. Scanning (documents) and coupon apps  are good examples in this category. $75,000-250,000.

Phone-Enhancement

Phone enhancement apps take functions of the smartphone and enhance the standard feature. Camera apps and “flashlight” apps that turn on your flash are examples. $50,000.

Design and Development:

The bottom line is that any respectable agency will have a few designers among them, as no app can be developed without a design in mind. The following are critical and usually unknown and hidden costs.

Prototyping

Unfortunately, this essential and creative part of the app design costs money. Remember that features can be developed in many, many ways, and that just telling a development team what you need in words isn’t enough detail for a fully formed minimal viable product. Investing in concept design upfront will prevent the developers from straying from your vision and you’ll end up saving money on re-doing work. $15,000-50,000.

In this part, additional testing of your Prototype can be done through focus groups, crowdsourcing, and even friends and family that fit your targeted demographic. You want to make sure the prototype exceeds your expectations before you get to coding and investing more funds.  

Icon Design

Every app has an icon and it is the first impression upon the customer. Icons are critical, for when your app is listed in the store’s grid, it is its design what will spike customer interest or make them remember you. It can take a handful of iterations to get the icon just right, so expect  $5,000 at least for icons.

Interface Design

This is what your clients see when they interact with your app. Parts ranging from the home screen to the menu require design. Some applications have less than 20 screens, but there are complicated applications with over 200 as well. $15,000-60,000.

User Experience Design

Perhaps the only design you thought you needed to budget for right? UX Design is the most important because it is the overarching theme of your design that is in charge of figuring out the steps, features and elements relevant to your target market and type of app. This process involves theme and mood boards, wire framing, and essentially coming up with the entire blueprint for the application.  $15,000-250,000.

Costs of Development

Server-side Cost

Server-side costs are important because the app itself is not usually the main computer behind its functioning. The app in your hands is just an extension that allows you to access more complex functions processed on physical servers located elsewhere. If server-side components are needed, you will need to budget $40,000-250,000 for this. 

Project Management

Upon hiring a quality agency, there may be one or more teams of people working on your app at any given point. All of the work must be coordinated and reports have to be written at every stage to keep developers, designers and yourself in a fluent and uninterrupted loop of communication. Project Management is typically $15,000 for any medium-to-large project, and most firms embed this cost in the development cost.

Database Management

The more dynamic your app, the more database management it will require to store database entries. Depending on popularity of use, entry numbers can add up to trillions and this will require someone to create and manage your app’s databases and the data that needs to be processed. Expect $25,000 at least.

Quality Assurance

In the event that an error passes testing unnoticed, good agencies will offer support a few weeks after the launch of your app to the store. There are some applications that require independent and dedicated QA testing for compliance and safety reasons. We recommend a budget of at least $15,000 for this process .

The Launch

When the time comes to finally release your app, you will need a cloud services provider who will host, power and maintain the backend systems your app requires. Popular and trustworthy providers are Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Google. Our company personally prefers Google’s Cloud.

As you can see, building and maintaining an app is not an insignificant task. Mobile applications are not just nice to have or toys, they are serious products that facilitate business transactions and everyday life functions.

The prices above are standard for established agencies within the US. We have developed mobile apps for many large companies including Alibaba, eHarmony, Citrix, OpenTable, and The Climate Corporation. We would gladly consult with you and answer any specific questions that you may have about the mobile development process, contact us anytime today.