How to Estimate Cost of App Development?

Nov 27, 2017 4:47:00 PM


Mobile apps continue to be the elementary drivers of businesses today. From startups to Fortune 500, from consumer-facing (B2C) to business-facing (B2B), almost every business model is involving mobile app into their technology roadmap.

Certainly, high engagement of users with smartphones today makes mobile apps a salient part of the businesses strategies today. Surveys and studies that happen to occur from time-to-time reveals that:

“69% of digital media time is spent on mobile, wherein time with the apps takes up around 60% of the total time. This estimates that 7 in 10 digital media minutes are is spent on mobile.”  (Click to Tweet) | Source: ComScore

An average time spent online by mobile users worldwide is 185 minutes by Generation Y, 110 minutes by Generation X and 43 minutes by Boomers.” (Click to Tweet) | Source: Statista

Meanwhile, the confidence of businesses in mobile apps can be justified from the fact that Google Play Store and Apple Store collaboratively hosts over 5 million apps. Moreover, mobile apps are turning out to be a great revenue model as well.

At an inceptive stage, when you have an idea, motive to execute it; you might want to estimate the app development cost. Cost estimation for app development counts up on  a variety of factors. In this segment, we will let you have an informed guess about an app development cost through following aspects .

Challenges in Evaluating cost of app development

Mobile app development is often envisaged as a process of putting-in logics together, doing a quick bit of testing, and finally deploying to the app store. However, the app development cycle is a little complex and requires a lot of thought work to turn an idea into successful reality.

When it comes to estimating cost of app development, people confront a number of challenges that includes:

  • Differentiating between the development of desktop applications and mobile apps. User experience, continuous improvement, analytics and testing complexities in both the platforms are different.
  • Underestimate or misconstrue the complex and volatile mobile app development ecosystem. For example: Less understanding of available technologies, processes, development platforms etc.
  • At every stage of mobile app development, there are continuous improvements. And thus app development cost is not transparent at the time of development commencement.

Considering the challenges involved in estimating cost of product ownership, we share a list of elements that help to build an economical and successful mobile app development for both Android and iOS platforms.  

How to Estimate Cost of App Development

1. Start with Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

Imagine you planned a reunion at your place, invited all your mains, made arrangements for their engagement, but unfortunately, only a few showed up. The much awaited get-together plans that you thought would be great fun turns out to be a damp squib. Harrowing, isn’t?

While such failures at personal levels cause less damage, ensure, this does not happen with your mobile app idea. Before you get started with your app development project, with an in-house team or an outsourcing partner, make it a point that you start with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

READ MORE: How Minimum Viable Product (MVP) can Benefit Mobile App Development

MVP not only helps you to deal with the uncertainty of an app idea but also informs about the features and functionalities to be added at next stage of development. Because it's not possible to have a complete picture of what will work out and how, starting with a Minimum Viable Product is definitely a wise decision.

To start estimating the total cost of ownership, business stakeholders and application developers must plan a meeting that discusses the core components of a MVP. While designing the features for a Minimum Viable Product, ensure that it includes functionalities that customers will find useful. Once this is done, MVP can be developed and launched, which then enables the app reach the targeted audience, enhance user base, and receive feedback, which will help to drive successful iterations.

When you develop a clearer picture of MVP and get to know the improvement suggestions in real-time (from the users), it can help to predict the future enhancement costs of the mobile app. In short, you will be able to make informed guesses about the cost for additional phases of development.

2. Consider Ongoing Cost and Continuous Delivery

At every stage of mobile app development (conceive, construct, continue), there are elements that exert influence on the overall cost. Here are a few of them.

Unfolding the elements affecting the cost of app development

a. Type of App:

  • Native Apps: These apps are coded in a specific language (for every platforms), are faster and more reliable as compared to other app development options available. For Android app, the language is Java (and Kotlin as supported language) while for iOS devices it's Swift and Objective C. For an app on different platforms, a different set of code, logic, testing devices, and developers are required and therefore, native app development is a pricey affair.
  • Hybrid Apps: These apps are small websites that are running under a native app shell. That is why, for hybrid apps can be developed with know-how in web development. While this makes the app development cost low (as compared to other models), they are a great option for apps that have less functionality and requires a subtle interface.
  • Cross Platform Apps: In many of the scenarios when it is difficult to choose between Android or iOS app development, cross platform app development is the solution. These apps render UI/UX as that of native apps and are rich in features as well. When mobile apps for both Android and iOS are to be launched simultaneously, cross platform native development is what you should opt for. And the reason why you can opt for cross platform apps over the native apps is code reusability on different OS.
  • Progressive/Instant Apps: These apps are the recent introduction to market, that offers app like experience on mobile web. These websites, although have restricted functionality, but they do offer interface, usability, and performance of that of an app. As compared to the above models of development, PWAs and Instant apps cost less due to less complex development ecosystem and functionality limitations.

READ MORE: What are Progressive Web Apps and How they Work

b. Out-of-the-box UX: User Experience (UX) is the watchword in the app industry. While simplicity is the key to a great UX, giving an unusual experience to the user can make your app stand out. For example: If a hybrid UI/UX design is required to be built or one that takes support of animations, Augmented Reality, scanning etc.

c. Location Based Apps: For apps in the categories like social networking, entertainment and security, location based services are turning out to be the basic requisite. Development of mobile apps that work with the location (for tracking a person or object) is a bit complex and thus may affect the cost.

d. Backend Development: If you are developing a portal where data is fetched from different sources and rendered, then, an extensive backend is required for sure. Take example of apps that help you to compare, book, and track flights. Another example of this is streaming apps that brings you the best of videos online from N number of sources. If you are getting a backend developed with mobile app, and that too an extensive one, an added cost of what you should be ready for.

e. Sensor Data: If your app collect sensor data through smartphone, then such kind of developments may take your app charges, a little higher. Such a functionality is often seen in cases of healthcare application development.

f. MVP Development: We discussed the benefits of Minimum Viable Product is estimating cost of an app in the aforementioned segment. While MVP can help to estimate cost, understand features and functionality requisites in the iterative stage of development etc., it will also add up to your development cost. Because an MVP is a functional model of your app, with least functionalities, it takes equal time and effort to build a MVP.

g. Technology in Trend: IoT, Machine Learning, virtual assistants, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Blockchain, are some of the technologies, creating buzz in the tech-ecosystem. If your apps are enabled with these tech-trends, then you can certainly expect an extra cost.

h. Miscellaneous:

mobile-app-cost-driving-activities.jpgSource: Gartner

Mobile App Development Cost: Things that Matter

1. Choose the Right Technology Partner

As much as your app idea, design, and development matters, a right technology partner interpret it matters too. You can either set up your in-house team or outsource it to freelancers, offshore teams, or a full-fledged app development shop.

If you have a technical co-founder (or a CTO), who can look around the team and development process, you can have an in-house team. This may be a pricey affair as you will have to hire an expert for almost every phase and activity involved in development.

You can outsource offshore teams if you want help only for certain development phase. For example, you have UI/UX designers, research team, and testers available but you don’t have a mobile app development team.

Else, you have the option to outsource it to freelancers or a full-fledged app development shop. However, between the two available options, it is always a good move to entrust a professional company over freelancers.

All of the options have their cons and pros. But, while choosing your app development partner, you have to understand that cheaper is never better. Always be calculative for the features, functionalities, and do a comparison. And remember that a smart decision at the start leads to a successful end.

ALSO READ: 12 Things to look for in your Mobile App Development Partner

2. At any Cost, Product should Come First

Pricing certainly is the most important factor but it should always be secondary. It should be the product that takes the front-seat, always. Spending for a successful product is anytime a great idea than building an inferior product that will only make you bear losses. Therefore, never compromise at any stage of development, be it spending extra dollars for prototyping, for technology that augments app’s performance or usability, for regulations and compliances etc.

3. Do not Underestimate Designing Cost

According to a study by Localytics, 23% of the users abandon an app after first use. And one of the major reasons for such low app retention is either the poor performance of the app or bad UI/UX.

In majority of cases, stakeholders and application leaders prioritize app performance so much that usability takes the backseat. That is why, it is recommended not to underestimate the power of mobile app prototyping, user onboarding, UI/UX with human psychology, and other UX elements.  

How much Does an App Development Cost: Key Takeaways

  • To estimate total cost of ownership, it is certainly a viable move to start with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
  • During the development process, identify the ongoing costs of app development (like continuous delivery)
  • It is always a good practice to discuss about the unexpected costs that comes from the application development partners.
Archna Oberoi

Written by Archna Oberoi

Content strategist by profession and blogger by passion, Archna is avid about updating herself with the freshest dose of technology and sharing them with the readers. Stay tuned here as she brings some trending stories from the tech-territory of mobile and web.