We hear about nifty app developments all the time. That US teenager who built an app to track Elon Musk's plane, for example. Or the 10-year-old in Vellore, India who, just a few months ago, built the E-Attorney app to help his lawyer father better manage his clients' paperwork. It's an impressively sophisticated design that even lets his dad's clients look over their legal documents.
Those kids make it seem like it's cheap and easy to build a fully functional application, don't they?
Whatever the secret of their success might be - they may be programming prodigies, they've proven that anyone is capable of designing and creating mobile or computer applications. But that's not the question at hand. We're wondering how much it costs to design, build and launch an app.
That depends on several factors.
|Factors that determine the cost of app development:|
|- Platform: iOS, Android, cross-platform, hybrid, native, web.|
|- The type of app: game, social media, personal finance and others|
|- Integrations: third-party, remote server|
|- Features: multi-lingual support, real-time updates and other custom features.|
|- Functionality: chat capability, geolocation, search functions and more.|
|- Operational costs: paying your app development team and the agency|
Development costs also depend on the complexity 0f your proposed app. Everything will impact your costs, from its user interface - simple and straightforward or animated with custom graphics, to the search functions you build into it.
So how much will it cost, in the end? That's the Superprof topic of the day.
Features, Functionality and Scope
There's generally never any chicken-and-egg dithering when it comes to app creation; programmers know exactly what comes first when it comes to app development.
They don't say "We have this much money; how much of an app can we build with it?". Instead, casting all common wisdom of staying within a budget to the winds, their premise is "This is the app I want to build. We'll find funding somewhere."
In the case of those two young programmers mentioned above, their families might have bankrolled their efforts. For those aspiring developers with no handy piles of money nearby, crowdsourcing their funding is a way to go. Others appeal to tech firms and/or investors, offering them a share of the profits after the app starts making money, in return for their early support.
The long and the short of it is: app development doesn't start with an eye to the budget. It's all about what you want your app to do.
Defining your reasons for building an app may involve researching the market. Where is there a need that your app would satisfy? Or maybe you're enraptured with a particular app category - time management or personal finance, and you want to design one of your own.
One that has a distinct functionality and appearance, so that users will prefer your app over all the other ones available for download. That's your second major consideration.
Depending on the complexity you want your proposed app to have, you may need to pay a few people to research the market so you can better determine the features you'll incorporate that, so far, no other app offers. Also, if your app aims for high-level sophistication, you'll want a core team to brainstorm the various possibilities. This team will add to the cost of developing your app.
Even if you want to build a simple app, it's never a bad idea to get input from others, if only through casual (unpaid) bull sessions between programming friends.
Devices and Platforms
The third major factor in pricing your app development project is the type - not category of app you want to create.
- Web apps are websites rendered in mobile format. They're generally on the low-performance side and limited in features.
- Hybrid apps offer a combination of web and native app features and technologies.
- Cross-platform apps: expand your target audience by making your app accessible across all operating systems: iOS, Android and Windows.
- Beware that you must also factor in each OS's version number as well as the devices' hardware you want your apps to run on.
- Native apps deliver high performance and optimal user experience on a specific platform. Thus, they are built in the operating system's native language - hence, their name.
- Of these four types of apps, native ones tend to run on the more expensive side.
From this breakdown, you can see how important it is to do all of the preliminary work detailed in the previous segment.
If you're starting out as an app developer, you might consider first building a website, and then creating a web app to go with it. Such a basic app, with a standard user interface and simple search features, won't eat up too much of your money.
Conversely, if you've secured a fair funding cushion, you might experiment first with cross-platform apps to gain a large following and then, venture into either hybrid or native app development.
Naturally, there are more factors to consider, such as wire-framing and setting your app's backend structure, but you can only do that once you've settled on the type of app you will produce. Beware that these, too, add to your costs.
The Three Ds
Once all of the above has been sorted, you get to start with the fun stuff: designing, developing, deploying your app.
For a relatively simple app, you may happily take on those tasks yourself. However, if your app will have bells and whistles - anything beyond a basic application, you should consider working with a team of freelancers whose very mission is to help developers like you get their projects off the ground.
A freelance team will likely cost you less than partnering with a mobile app development company. On the other hand, freelancers may not be fully versed in the legal obligations surrounding app creation: licensing, copyrights, patents and trademarks. If you're fully in the know on these topics, you needn't worry that your freelance team will accidentally cause legal trouble.
Paying legal fines is, in fact, one of the costs incurred by novice developers unaware of all the legalese. That's why, if this is your first time developing an app, it might be best to engage a mobile app development firm. They will be able to lay out all of the legal requirements you have to meet.
On the other hand, you could take a course for app development and learn all about those obligations, along with more things you never knew about app development.
The complexity of your app's design, the degree to which you develop it and any fees you have to pay to launch it all contribute to the overall cost of producing an app.
Let's Talk About Money
Earlier, we might have created the impression that app developers are flippant in their approach to funding. In fact, most developers formulate a cost estimate based on their experiences of paying for app development. Even if you have little to no experience, you too should follow this practice.
Contracting with an app design agency is one way to make things easy. You would meet with them to outline your ideas, which they would counter by proposing a variety of features and functions. Once you've agreed to all of the particulars, they will quote an estimated price. You may then be able to barter the terms or choose from a list of payment plans.
Keep in mind that an agency's price will exceed your estimates for in-house app production; likely by a substantial amount. This might tempt you to take the path of least up-front money, but you should consider the time and expense of reworking your app every time a bug manifests.
If you have the funds to go the agency route, it will likely cost you less in the long run. And if you contract with a medium-sized agency rather than one of the big names - The Distance or Science Soft, you could lower your costs, as well.
Generally speaking, in the UK, developing an app end-to-end costs about half what it does in the US but about seven times more than in Indonesia. Going further, your costs depend on the operating system you designed your app to run on. For instance, iOS and Android apps cost $20,000 more than a cross-platform app, as counter-intuitive as that sounds.
For the average app development; one without too many bells and whistles and medium-level functionality, you should estimate a cost of between $70,000 and $90,000 for iOS/Android; slightly less for a Windows-compatible app.
Once you've calculated your app's development costs, it's time to consider post-launch costs.
Like practically everything else, your app will require maintenance. Where app development is concerned, maintenance entails hosting, monitoring, engaging and marketing. Also, you'll need to budget for updates as needed, and licensing.
Maintenance costs are generally projected at 10- to 15% of the app's development costs.
Unfortunately, we can't provide you with a set price list or menu from which you could select options you want your app to have but, at least, we can give you average figures and some tips on how app development and maintenance costs are formulated.
You may search online for an app development cost calculator to help you estimate your project's costs.
App development is one of the hottest fields in programming right now; it would be such a shame if the wheels came off your project because of poor financial planning, wouldn't it?
The platform that connects tutors and students