How Much Does it Cost to Make an App? Plus Ways to Optimize Your Budget

MARYNA DEMCHENKO

Published: 18 May 2020

Software Development

In this day and age, the app market is booming, showing an increased demand among users in various business domains. If you have an idea for an app and wonder how much it would cost to bring it to life, hopefully, this article can help. We will also shed some light on ways to optimize your app development budget.

So, what is the cost to create an app?

Several factors are at play that affect the price tag of app development, such as complexity of architecture, platform, and team structure. 

With this in mind, we can't paint each app development project with the same brush. Let's say you want to buy a car. What would it be? A high-end sports car with lots of special features?  Or a minimalist, back-to-basics option? The same holds for an app which can be divided into categories – simple, complex, and high-end. 

A simple app has no backend or API, and only includes UI and a set of baseline features (register/log in, subscribe, and the like). A complex app has API integrations, a slew of custom features, backend, and in-app payment. High-end apps, in turn, have third-party integrations, complex backend, multi-language support, and numerous custom-made features. The latter ones are not cheap and take longer to be developed. Here is an overview of an approximate app cost based on research from GoodFirms: 

  • A simple app or an MVP costs about $25K to $60K
  • A complex app costs from $36K to $86K with complex business logic
  • A high-end app costs about $60K to $138K, including a slew of innovative features.

According to another estimation that comes from the Clutch survey, the average price of app development among agencies is $170K and higher. The more features it has, the higher the price will be. On the other hand, a simple app you can use to gauge a market fit will cost a minimum of $10K. 

Basing on these quotes, we can assume that a standard app costs between $40K and $90K. However, there is a factor of an agency. Lots of app development companies claim to be the best, and the choice is so wide that it confuses fledgling startups and established companies alike. To top it off, there is also an option to engage a freelance workforce, an agency, or a consulting firm.

Read Also: Consulting Fees and Rates: How Much Does IT Consultant Charge

Before going to the agency, answer the following questions:

  • Do you build for Android, iOS, or hybrid?
  • Do you plan to develop in-house or outsource? 
  • What are the must-have features and what is their priority?  

These are the main factors that influence the cost of developing an app. Instead of relying on online app development cost calculators, the best way is to ask a seasoned development team to estimate and prioritize your app's core features. This way you will get the most precise app development cost.  

How to save on app development?

Let’s walk through the app development stages to find possible ways of saving costs. 

  • Concept and design

At the planning, conception, and design stages, you have ample opportunities to save costs. First of all, it’s best to focus on the core elements of an app. As much as it's easy to spend a lot of money on secondary features, it’s important to make sure every feature displays value to your users. When budgeting, try to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Take a hard look at the list of features and define the value of each. Leave out everything your users can do without. 

  • Defining your app requirements

Now that you have defined the value behind the features, it’s time to strategize. Start with answering these questions:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What types of devices does it use?
  • What functions does the app need to offer to meet its needs?
  • Which languages should be included?
  • What emotions should your app evoke? Does it have to be animated or simply functional?
  • In what way are you going to monetize your app? 

Well-crafted app requirements is your best ally in saving on app development. More on this in the next section. 

  • Wireframes

At this stage, you can engage a UI designer who will develop a wireframe version of your app, which includes UI and design. A designer will work on the layout of your app and its UI elements as well as be responsible for an app’s optimization. According to PayScale, a designer based in the USA charges an average of $30 per hour, whilst around the world the rates can be $15-20. 

With screen designs or video prototypes on hand, everyone involved in the process will be on the same page as to how the app should feel and behave. 

So, how do the wireframes and requirements help in saving costs? It’s all about planning. Clear requirements and fine-tuning during the first go lets your team avoid misunderstandings so you don’t have to go back to square one if anything goes wrong. 

  • Platform and technologies

Chances are high, you want your app to work on all devices. But that’s not the most cost-effective path to choose since development for each platform requires a separate team. Clearly, it’s best to choose the platform that your target customers use. 

Apps can be developed in a native or cross-platform way. Native apps involve more developers, so the cost of development is higher than the cost of cross-platform apps, where a single code works on all platforms. At the same time, cross-platform apps can’t beat usability and performance of native apps. Still, they are a good way to bring your product to the market on a shoestring budget. At this point, we recommend engaging professionals who will advise on the technology stack. 

  • Complexity

The more features your app needs to live up to its purpose, the more effort will go into their development, which means the cost will go up. Will your app connected to third-party systems? Does it need multi-language support? Will it work both online and offline? Does it require a WiFi connection at all times? In addition to these questions, there are a few more extras that expand the features of your app, adding to its complexity. In general, the basic features of an app are:

  • User register/login
  • Push messages
  • Social media 
  • Geo tracking
  • Video player
  • Email option
  • Backend

The number of features has the biggest impact on the price of an app. So, before adding any feature, it’s best to evaluate what value it brings. For example, is location tracking vital for your users? Definitely so for an Uber-like app, but more of a nice-to-have for a restaurant app. 

  • Backend

Backend is the foundation of your app where all the data will be stored. In some cases, it’s a big chunk of work that can be a larger project than the actual app. In others, backend can be a simple data center. To develop backend, you will need to hire several senior developers or a whole team. A backend depends on your app's complexity. The more complex it is, the more time will be invested. Consider also the added costs of backend maintenance. Globally, backend developer hourly rates range from $61-80, according to Codementor.

  • Quality Assurance

You certainly want your app to work properly. To do this, it must be put through a series of tests on all relevant target platforms and devices. This is when a team of QA testers steps in. QA engineers take your app for a spin so that no bug goes unnoticed. This way, you can deliver an error-free app to your users. 

Basically, testing can be divided into manual and automated testing. A tester carries out the manual testing manually on the mobile device according to a well-defined plan. In automated testing, the tester writes a program that tests the app.

How thorough your quality assurance needs to be? Not only it depends on the complexity of the application but also on the user group. While quality assurance is vital for the medical field, a regular business app for 10+ employees can be relatively superficial.

  • Marketing

Imagine a scenario. Your app project has ended successfully and you have uploaded the app to the store – and nothing happens. Sadly, publishing in the store is not enough. The good news is – when developing an app strategy, you have learned who your target users are. 

The goal of a marketing strategy is to make sure that your app stands out to the users in the saturated app market. App store optimization can be one solution, another is paid advertising in socials and Google search. 

Crafting your app strategy, think about how you want to market your app. The effort and costs you invest in the app store optimization and targeted app ads will pay off in the long run. 

  • Post-launch support

The mobile app market is ever-evolving. To stay up to date on for a long haul, your app has to be continually adapted. After launch support involves maintaining an app based on error messages, user feedback, and infrastructure optimization needs.  There are plenty of options to go with here, such as an agency, local developers, or freelancers. 

Afterword: How much does it cost to develop an app?

There is no universal answer to this question. The cost depends heavily on developers’ rates, the complexity of an app, and a marketing strategy.

How we at NCube can help you develop an app? There is no doubt that engaging a team of skilled engineers is the best way to develop software. But skillful software engineers are not always located in your vicinity. Also, the cost of an in-house team might be exorbitant. NCube can set up your development team in a less expensive location. Ukraine is known as a powerhouse of skilled technology minds with good English proficiency and vast experience working within global operations. Find out more from our team augmentation cases. Let’s connect? 

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