10 min read
If you need a software product but are still on the fence, trying to estimate how much it will cost to build an app, this post is for you.
Of course, no post can give you an exact quote because your project is unique and the final price will vary based on your objectives. But what we can do is guide you on how to calculate the app development cost using a few straightforward tips.
In this post, we’ll explain in detail what affects the price as well as run you through formulas and calculation examples you can use for your specific project.
So, let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
Let’s start with the most basic thing you need to know before the project kicks off. You can’t develop a high-quality software solution fast and at a cheap cost. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and if a development provider tells you the opposite, it’s a red flag.
However, you don’t need to sacrifice one of these either. Look at the triangle below. This shape represents your three main priorities during software development: cost, speed, and quality. Unlike the common belief, you don’t need to pick up only two of three attributes. Can you see the small area right in the middle? That’s your goal.
To better understand what we mean, imagine that you’re at the market and want to buy apples, pears, and apricots. You have only one basket that can hold 2 kg. You can choose only 1 kg of apples and 1 kg of pears. Or you can buy 666 g of each fruit, including apricots. The same applies to development. You can have speed, cost, and quality in balance.
Now that you know that you don’t need to give up on the quality or speed, you need to understand how they affect software development costs. It’s simple: the faster or more complex the development you choose, the more you’ll need to pay.
Note that we’ve chosen the word “complex” here for a reason. A simple app can be built by a mediocre developer (read “cheap” here). But if you need a more complex solution, an inexperienced developer and sloppy code can cost you the entire project.
The equilibrium of quality, speed, and cost suggests that your sweet spot is not the lowest possible app development price, but a perfect combination of these factors:
The combination of these factors is also the reason why different markets have different price tags.
Let’s take a quick look at the two most popular markets for outsourcing.
Developers from India and Pakistan charge comparatively low rates, meaning that a mid-level developer will cost you only $28-$35 per hour. However, you can end up with low-quality and slow development.
Indian developers have a long list of religious and state holidays that they usually follow. Besides, Asian culture differs from the Western one, and you will probably need to micromanage the team. Asian developers may lack initiative and they avoid confrontation, which can result in less honest feedback than you expect.
The average cost to develop an app in Eastern Europe, on the other hand, is only 20-30% lower than in the USA or UK. A mid-level developer will charge you around $40-$71 per hour. However, the quality and speed of development are of a Western standard.
Eastern European countries like Ukraine are flooded with experienced developers known for their responsibility and diligence. You might wonder what makes the software development price go down in this case. In short, this happens due to the following:
Learn more about IT outsourcing in Ukraine: Bring your project to Ukraine
The last two factors don’t impact the overall development speed (read cost) directly. Yet the way vendors and customers interpret information during remote meetings will depend on their cultural and regional backgrounds. As long as those differences fill the business language with nuances, it’s not uncommon for customers to face slight misunderstandings or unmatched expectations.
To avoid this, project managers on both ends have to set clearer objectives and be ready to make communication a substantial part of the development project.
Let’s look at the factors that affect the app cost.
This section will discuss how the app development cost is formed. We’ll run through the main questions you need to ask yourself. Then, we’ll explain how the app price changes depending on your answers.
Spoiler: be ready to write down formulas.
Here are the three main questions about your future application and its functionality.
If you need a mobile application, here is one more question to consider:
Now, you need to understand the team structure and the level of control you need over the development process. Here are six more questions to think of:
5. Do you need a person who will test the stability of the developed application?
6. Do you need to design how the application will look (graphic design and user interface)?
7. Do you have a strong brand identity?
8. Have you clearly outlined the main problems and the ways of solving them?
9. Do you have clear algorithms with flowcharts for problem-solving?
10. Do you need a manager who will control the development process, as well as predict, mitigate, and address issues as they arise? This includes risk assessment, setting of goals and objectives, weak point identification.
The initial development time needed for your project will increase or decrease depending on your answers. Let’s get straight into this.
Note that you need to understand the difference between platform development and design because these two processes require different amounts of time. We’ll explore this in more detail below.
If you need manual administration (deletion, editing, adding, or viewing user data), developers will build an additional portal (admin panel) with restricted access. The admin panel should be developed after the backend system is ready, allowing you to visually control it.
For a simple MVP project requiring both iOS and Android apps, you can take advantage of cross-platform development. Note that it doesn’t cut the total development time by two. Due to the differences between Android and iOS platforms, developers will still need to code some elements separately for each platform.
Developers make mistakes and don’t consider all possible user scenarios (for example, how the app should act if you receive a call while using it). Neither the client nor developers can identify all insufficiencies. For this reason, we always recommend having a person trained to spot the app’s weak points, improve the development quality, and save costs on solving issues.
Learn more about software development quality assurance here
Documentation on UX/UI design gives developers a clear understanding of the app’s interface, element placement and their interactions, colors, fonts, etc. You can’t develop an app without its UI and UX design, just like you can’t build a building without architectural planning.
The processes of a software development project are similar to those of a construction project. Just like a construction foreperson controls a construction site, you may need a specialist who will ensure that development tasks are performed correctly and on time.
If you feel a bit lost after so many formulas, don’t be. Let’s see how we calculate the app development cost in a real example.
Here, we’ll calculate the average cost to build an app for two different projects using the formulas above. The average development time is 2 months (336 hours), so we’ll use this in our calculations.
Before we start, here are a few things we need to take into account:
The total development time is 2,962 hours on a domestic market.
Note that the total time we’ve calculated is not the project timeline, and many processes will be performed in parallel, as shown in this chart.
If your domestic market is USA or UK, then here is how the speed and cost of making an app will change if you outsource development from India or Eastern Europe:
This project is much easier than the first one. Developers can build the app on one platform (for example, iOS) since the app users don’t depend on each other. You also won’t need to invest in backend and admin panel development for the same reason.
If we use the same formulas from the first example, we’ll get around 664 hours for a project. This includes the time needed for a designer, a manager, and a specialist responsible for stability testing.
Here’s how the fitness app development cost will change in different markets.
We wish we could say that you finally have the approximate project cost. But in fact, we covered only the tip of the iceberg. Depending on the project scope and team size, you may need a different software development pricing model. You can request a fixed price, pay on a time and material basis, or go for a dedicated team of developers.
Here are other factors that you need to keep in mind when planning the project budget:
App maintenance depends on your plans, and its cost can vary significantly for each app.
Fixing small issues occasionally and collecting data for the next version requires around 2 hours per week. Collecting user feedback and turning it into reality may require up to 16 hours per week, which is full-fledged development rather than maintenance.
We recommend allocating 8 hours per week for maintenance so that developers can focus on the project without being distracted by other things.
For artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies, you’ll need developers with proper specialization and experience. Usually, it’s harder to find such specialists, and their hourly rates are 20-30% higher.
Though SEO may seem irrelevant to web development services at first glance, there is a catch. For SEO tasks, you’ll need an SEO specialist who can run an audit and help you find what to improve. And the developers will need to apply SEO recommendations to the software they are working on.
A simple example: landing speed is crucial from the SEO perspective, but SEO can’t improve the landing speed. Developers will need to use special tools to maximize the performance: server-side rendering (SSR) or static site generator (SSG). The use of these and other tools can affect the web development cost.
Before publishing your app on the App Store, Google Play, or Huawei AppGallery, you’ll need to receive approval from these platforms, and this process can drive the mobile app development cost up. Though receiving the approval doesn’t take as long as development, it does take time. You need to upload the app for review and wait for the reply, which usually takes two days. Then, developers need to tweak the app according to the platform’s feedback and upload it again. This process is repeated several times until the app is finally approved.
Apps with integrated payment systems, betting or casino apps, and apps that collect user data will take longer to verify, and you will also need to provide more documentation. Also, note that both App Store and Google Play charge app developers an account fee ($100 and $20, respectively).
Estimating app development costs can be a daunting task, but it is worth the effort. Understanding your priorities and factors that affect the final cost will help you discuss the price with your development provider more effectively.
In this post, we’ve covered the basics of software development pricing, but if you want an exact quote, contact us! At NERDZ LAB, we offer full-scale development services for both established businesses and startups. Whatever your needs are, we know how to get your app running at a fair cost.