cost to build an app

How Much Does It Cost to Build an App?

Laura MacPherson
Laura MacPherson May 28, 2020

If you’re just starting to explore the idea of building an app, cost is probably one of the top items on your “to-research list.” Finding out the answer to the question of the cost to build an app isn’t easy, however since no standard pricing exists. You’ll see wide swings in pricing between companies and between apps built by the same company due to the functionality and APIs involved. Does a higher cost mean better quality? Not necessarily! Here’s what you need to know about the cost of developing an app and how to make sure your app development company will meet your needs.

Factors Impacting Development Cost

There are a number of factors that go into the cost of developing an app including design, architecture, security, front and back-end development, and testing. The expertise, time, and cost for each of these may vary depending on the type of app you are building.

Type of App

The complexity of the app you want to build will impact the cost significantly. Using the analogy of a house, building a simple 1,500 square foot house will cost less than building a 5,000 square foot house. Now, what if you set up automated systems in the house for the electric, cooling, and heating and add things like heated floors and a water softener? You’d expect the house to cost more, right? 

The same concept applies to an app. If the app is simple with limited features, it won’t cost as much as an app with many features and APIs built in. The more complexity you add, the more expertise and time it takes to build, and therefore, the more it will cost.

Native vs. Hybrid

Another aspect of development that will impact the cost is if you choose to build a native or a hybrid app. Native apps are built for a specific device. They take advantage of the device hardware and software and offer more functionality. They can also offer a better user experience in many cases because they’re made specifically for that device and operating system. These benefits come at a cost, however — if you want an app for both iPhone and Android, you’ll need to fund two distinct builds.

Hybrid apps are portable since you’re using one set of code on multiple devices. However, hybrid apps lack the ability to leverage all device functionality seamlessly. For apps that involve the device’s native hardware and software, cross-platform builds can’t deliver the best user experience. Cross-platform hybrid apps are cheaper to build since you only have one set of code and they’re faster to market, but you need to carefully weigh what you are giving up for these benefits.

Who is Doing the Development

Costs will also range based on both the size of the development company and their expertise. You want to look for a developer with a proven track record who has demonstrated experience. Check out their portfolio and ask questions about their involvement with the work. Your developer should partner with you and make recommendations based on their past experience. A good developer will also understand business and be able to make recommendations that make good business sense.

How to Make Sure an App Will Meet Your Expectations

At the start of the project, you’ll share your vision of the app with the developer and talk about specific features that you want to prioritize. You’ll share some background information about your company, your goals, what you know about your target customer, required app functionality, and other important information to ensure the developer truly understands the project and your needs. 

This meeting should be a two-way conversation, as you want your developer to share recommendations that will impact your app’s success based on their expertise. At Designli, we do this as part of our SolutionLab workshop, where we contribute a strong understanding of the target market combined with past experience building successful apps with sustainable business models poised for growth.

Scope Should Align with Defined Needs

The developer should include a scope of work with your estimate, which includes all features and functionality for your app. Review this with a fine-toothed comb to make sure it includes everything you expect and all that you need. In addition to the design and development work, this scope of work should include any research that will be done, testing efforts, and third-party integration, if applicable. Also, take a look to see what is covered for post-launch maintenance and support as this can be a significant effort if you are expected to do it.

Review Cost Estimate

The estimate shared with you should include all of the costs associated with the scope of work. Ideally, the estimate should break out the work by feature so you can evaluate for prioritization should you need to make adjustments. If the developer will use a third-party product or service, they should detail as well.

How much does it cost to build an app? The unfortunate answer is: it depends. But arming yourself with the knowledge of what can cause the largest variances in cost will serve you well. And when you know what to expect in an estimate and what to look out for, you can make a better decision about who you want to partner with to build it.

Want to learn more about our SolutionLab workshop, where we help you plan your app and identify the exact cost of getting it built? Get in touch.

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