According to Statista, the current number of smartphone users in the world today is 6.648 billion, and this means 83.72% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. This figure is up considerably from 2016 when there were only 3.668 billion users, 49.40% of that year’s global population. And what comes together with smartphones? Mobile apps. And with mobile apps, comes mobile app design cost as, after all, such apps need to be somehow developed.
Today, there are mobile apps for almost anything you can imagine – scheduling appointments, ordering food or taxis, shopping for groceries, learning languages, exercising, and so on. And looking at how lucrative the industry is, it’s no wonder that almost every brand wants to have their smartphone app. However, before they can begin designing an app (or outsource it to a software development agency), they probably need to ask themselves a fundamental question: so how much does it cost to design an app?
As tricky as the question might be, we’ll try to answer it in this article – so if you are thinking about getting your own new mobile app soon, keep reading.
Why is it so hard to estimate the cost to make an app?
It would definitely be far more convenient for everyone if you could just mail an app development company, ask for the cost of your new app and get a fixed price in response, right. Sadly, designing an app is far more complicated than that. The cost of making your new app can vary wildly, depending on those factors:
- The number of features inside the app.
- Design requirements.
- How many integrations do you want to add?
- The type of the app (native or cross-platform).
Basically, the more complex your future app should be, the more developers you will need in your team – and the more time they will need to make everything work smoothly. Add to it the cost of testing, bug fixing, maintenance, and hosting that can be different depending on a company, and you can see why it is so difficult to even estimate how much you will need in your budget for the app.
Another matter is picking the right team for the task. It might be a tempting option to simply choose the cheapest mobile app development in hopes of saving a portion of your budget, but it might happen that you will actually spend twice as much. If you hire people who don’t have the skills you need or don’t have much experience with mobile app projects, then besides losing far too much time, you might need to pay extra later to rewrite or fix a non-functional app. Experienced app development teams meanwhile are costly, but for the price, you also get their help with research, planning, design, and later updates.
What is the difference between building an app and redesigning it?
One of the main things that plays a large role in how much your app will cost is how much you need to be done. If you need an app built from scratch, that will naturally cost more than if you ask a development team just for a redesign of an existing up. What exactly do the developers need to do before your app is ready to launch, and how does it change the costs? Let’s take a look at what is included in the price of your new app.
A custom (or bespoke) app is made from scratch to fit your business needs or requirements. Obviously, this is the option that takes the most time and costs the most – because the app developers need time to design the UI and UX of the app, implement the necessary features, and then test the app to make sure it works as it should.
But before they get to the actual development stage, they have first to do plenty of research – gather your requirements, validate your idea for the app, analyze which specialists and tools would be best for the project, and then plan the entire app. Typically, you’ll also get a look at the app’s initial layout and interface before the development begins. After the app is ready, developers will also have to spend time testing the app and fixing any eventual bugs they find.
The amount of work involved here is the main reason why it’s so hard to estimate how much a custom app might cost – the final price might be anywhere between $20,000 and $500,000. But the more complex your app is supposed to be, the more time developers will have to spend in the research phase, and that will obviously increase the costs.
What if you already have a mobile app but want to refresh it? Then going for a redesign might be a better option. Here again, the end cost will depend on how much you want to change and how many screens the developers will need to work on.
If your app simply needs a new skin (for example, when your brand changed the logo colors) and a few changes to the interface, then you should get your new app pretty quickly and without a strain on your budget. If your app feels outdated though, and you need a complete redesign or entirely new functionality, here’s where things get a bit tricky – and costly.
Changing the app drastically could cause performance problems or cause conflict between old and new parts, which means a lot more work for the developers. If you want to make significant changes to how your old app looks and functions, you may be better off making an entirely new app – especially since the costs of a new app might be similar to redesigning the entire app.
Two types of apps: Desktop + mobile app or two apps for different platforms
Another thing that can rack up the cost of your new app is when you need to create two or more different types of an app – for example, one for an iOS app and one for an Android app. In the past, the only way to ensure that an app would work on a given device was to create a native app designed to work on a selected platform. Now though, you can also make a cross-platform app that can run on many platforms at once.
How are those two types different?
Native applications: Desktop, iOS, and Android app design cost
Native applications are designed for a specific platform (Desktop, iOS, or Android) using software development tools and languages native to that platform. Since those apps are optimized for working on a particular platform, they are generally more secure, faster, and perform better. Additionally, native development gives developers full access to the given device’s features – from the camera and microphone to the various types of sensors. On the other hand, cross-platform technologies such as Flutter also give access to the device’s features, but to a limited extent, which means that developers have to create native code anyway.
But that sadly also means they are pretty expensive as one app can be used only on a specified platform. So, for example, if you wanted a native Android, iOS, and desktop app, you would have to ask the developer to create 3 separate apps.
Cross-platform app – lower app design cost, BUT
The second option you have is creating a cross-platform app. A cross-platform app is a single app that can work on any system. Here, you wouldn’t need to create three separate apps for desktop and both mobile platforms but only one that could work on all three platforms. If you want to release your mobile app across multiple platforms but have a limited budget, cross-platform apps might be just what you need for lowering app costs.
A cross-platform app is a bit more challenging to create than a native app though, and it might not be a good choice for some app ideas. Such apps cannot access some of the device’s internal features, have fewer features, and may work slower than native apps. What’s more, you need to make sure you are hiring developers who are experienced in creating cross-platform apps since there are some small but significant differences between operating systems that might make implementing complex interfaces and features a problem for less experienced developers.
What goes into app design costs?
Once you have an idea of whether you need an entirely new app or just a few changes to the existing one, it’s time to map out your requirements for the app. This stage is crucial as the more details you can give to the app development company, the easier it will be for them to estimate the costs of your new app.
Here’s what you should include:
- How complex your new app is expected to be
- On what platforms do you want the app to work, and whether it’s going to be native or cross platforms
- What features and integrations do you need in the app
- What is your targeted audience
- Did you already do market research, or do you need the development company to help you with it?
- Do you need someone to create the entire design for you, or do you have a ready design and just need help with implementing it?
After seeing your requirements, a Mobile Application Development Company will then give you an approximate cost and time needed to complete your app. However, once you receive the estimate, you may be shocked at just how much your new app will cost – and how much it will take to build it.
What you are paying for isn’t just the developers’ work – there are a lot of other factors that go into making a working and flourishing app:
- Research and planning,
- Market research (is there a need for such an app),
- UX, UI, and layout designing (this one can be omitted if you come with a ready design and just need to implement those into the app),
- Picking suitable tools, technologies, and languages,
- Building a prototype or MVP version,
- Extensive app testing (including user testing),
- Deployment and maintenance costs.
In our other article, we broke down the costs of an example of a full-featured enterprise app with the end cost of approximately around $500,000 – you can check it to see more detail on how the app pricing works.
Can you lower the app design cost?
If you’re on a budget, it’s likely that you’ll feel dejected when you see how much it costs to create an app. Maybe you just received a project cost estimation from a development company, and now you wonder whether that investment is worth it. Can you somehow lower the final price but without cutting corners?
The good news is that there are a few ways in which you can make the app project more budget-friendly – let’s look at some.
- Do your research – Doing thorough research on what exactly you need your app to do is the biggest time (and cost) saver here. Besides helping you focus on the main points of your apps, you can also learn quite a lot from researching your competitors’ apps: for example, what issues their apps have. Additionally, if you provide the developer with a well-crafted plan, including all the sketches, goals, and requirements, it will be easier for them to suggest how the project can be finished faster or cheaper.
- Start with an MVP version of the app – The MVP refers to Minimum Viable Product, meaning a fully functional app but with only essential features. As it doesn’t yet have all the bells and whistles you might want your app to have, it can be built and tested much faster and cheaper. But that’s not the biggest benefit – launching an MVP app first will help you find out how well your app does in the market, what your users think about it, and what other features they might want to be included.
- Don’t try to customize everything – If you are building an app from scratch, then you might be tempted to customize every single part of the app, even the buttons. Custom elements can significantly inflate the price of your app, though. In this case, using pre-made buttons and similar elements could speed up the developers’ work and save you time and money.
- Start with one platform – Yes, it would be nice to launch your new app both as a web app and native mobile apps for both Android and iOS. Unfortunately, this usually means that your project would cost far more than you could afford. If you want to create an app that works on more platforms and a cross-platform app won’t suffice, it would be best to make one for one platform and add another later.
- Book a Product Design Workshop meeting – A Product Design workshop is most likely the fastest and most efficient way to share your app vision with the developers and get their opinion. Together, you can determine the best technology to use, how big a team you will need, and how long and how much money it will take to deliver the first version to the end-user. That way, you can, in just a few hours, you can learn whether the idea for your product has a chance of succeeding and what would be the most efficient way of developing it. Having development experts on your side can also help you predict potential problems in advance – potentially saving you money, time, and nerves as well.
Where is it not worth saving money on mobile app development costs?
You should also be aware that some parts of your project are not worth cutting corners, no matter how tempting it might be. For example, picking developers solely based on their (low) price might look like a good way to save a part of your budget, but a low hourly price might mean low skills – and double expense for you later.
Market research, building an MVP, and testing (including user experience testing) might also seem like an added expense, but it’s not worth it to skimp on it either. Market research can help you determine whether your app will be useful to your target audience and whether you should even spend money on it. A thorough testing process will ensure your app works smoothly on multiple devices and is free of bugs and glitches. In addition, it will ensure that the UX is the best it can be – poor user experience is regularly cited as one of the primary reasons why people abandon apps shortly after downloading them, so you should prioritize it.
Who should you hire for the app development process?
The last but possibly the most difficult decision to make will be choosing who will develop the app for you – will you build an in-house team, hire a software development company or just recruit a freelancer. To make the decision a bit easier, let’s look at the pros and cons of each option.
App design delivered by an in-house team:
- A direct employee is more familiar with your goals and objectives, so you don’t have to explain your vision in detail.
- You know how much work each of your employees has, so you can divide work between them.
- You can easily monitor and control the developers’ daily work and quickly intervene if a conflict or issue arises.
- You will have full control over the project and its progress.
- In-house hiring is the most expensive option.
- Recruitment can be time-consuming, costly, and complicated, especially if you’re searching for a niche specialist.
App design delivered by a software development agency
- Great option when you’re pressed for time because software houses can start working on your project once you’ve discussed the requirements and signed a contract.
- It’s easy to change the team members working on your project – you can add, remove, or swap as needed.
- Agency employees work together every day, so they understand each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and work habits and know exactly who should take care of which task (or solve an unexpected issue).
- The agency has employees who specialize in different phases of development, so you don’t need to hire additional individuals. In addition to creating your product from start to finish, agencies can also assist with maintenance, marketing, business analyses, updates, and so on.
- They usually have a project estimation process in place and know how much time is needed to develop a particular feature and how much it will cost.
- Developers only charge you for time spent on your project, according to an earlier accepted project plan. In addition, you’ll receive a full report of the resources the team used and the project’s current status so you can keep track of your budget.
- Even though hiring an agency is not as expensive as hiring someone in-house, you will still need to set aside a significant budget.
- You have to explain your goals and expectation in detail to the development team, to avoid misunderstanding.
- You should thoroughly research the companies with whom you will be collaborating to ensure they have the skills you need and that all information passed between you and your partner will be secure.
App design delivered by freelancers
- Easy to find and hire
- Their rates are often much lower than agencies
- The quality of their work might be questionable, especially if their hourly rate is low
- Experienced developers freelancers often juggle several clients, which can lead to mistakes and delays in your product
- You will need to keep an eye on their work and the project progress the whole time
How do you decide which team to pick? Having an in-house team working on your project is fantastic, but unless you know you will need them on other projects, it might not be worthwhile to go through the recruitment process. In-house teams are also clearly the most expensive option.
Freelancers, on the other hand, can be useful if you want to test your app idea or do a simple project. But even then, you’ll have to spend a lot of time communicating with them and managing the project. For more complex projects or when you need an app to be designed from top to bottom, it’s a better idea to hire a software development team as they have enough developers with different skills to work on all parts of your new app. While the cost of hiring a professional agency will be obviously higher than making the team out of freelancers, you can be sure that your app will be done exactly as you want it and free of any bugs.
Time for your app design and development!
So as you can see, the cost of an app can vary greatly, and it’s nearly impossible to find out just how much you should have in your budget without asking for a quote. The app development cost calculators you can find online might be helpful in finding a cost range, but still, they might not paint an accurate picture of the actual cost of getting an app developed.
What we can say for sure is that the two things that can have the biggest impact on your app budget are your requirements and the partner you will pick. By focusing on the most essential features and choosing the right partner, you can be sure your new app will function exactly as you have imagined. To know a bit more, you can send a quote to us, and we’ll give an accurate estimate of your project cost. That should definitely answer your question, “how much does it cost to develop an app for my business?”