How much does an app costs?

This is the new question of the century, this is a probably a question that most people have asked themselves and that you are asking yourself now.

“I have an idea for an app that I would like to make, but I don’t know how to build it on my own, how much can I expect to pay, if someone else will build it for me?”

probably you right now

Unfortunately I have to give you the “stupid” and annoying, but unfortunately right answer, it depends.
BUT, since we’ve built quite a number of applications I think that I can give you a better understanding of what it takes to build an actual app and hopefully we can come to a almost exact estimate of your project.

What goes into an app

So an app is a piece of software that runs on a user device, usually a mobile phone and can mainly be separated into:

  • User Interface (UI): everything that the user sees, the fonts, the colors, the pretty images and all of that (if you think about the two apps that you use the most, you will realize that their style, their look, is quite different).
  • Business logic: everything that the apps needs to know to operate, every activity that the user can perform and the way in which he can interact with the app (think about creating a story in Instagram or booking a ride in Uber)
  • User Experience (UX): how the user interacts with the app in a direct way, where the buttons are located, how the screens transition from one to another, animations, etc. (this can be confused with UI, but they are not the same)
  • Integrations with other services: would like your users to be able to login with Google? or login with Facebook? would you like to display ads? all of these are integrations that need to be done with services external to the app.

Depending on the type of app that you are building every point could be more or less important: while UI is always important, maybe your app is more geared towards a set of business or highly skilled users, that really want your functionality (business logic) and don’t care as much for the UI. On the other hand, your app needs to attract a lot of users and beat the competition, so it needs an outstanding UI and UX.

User Interface and User Experience

I usually talk about these two together because they are strictly related, decisions that you make on one directly influence the other. We cannot overstate how important the look and feel of your app is. It is probably how you will succeed or fail (if your app is not one of a special category that doesn’t need to look good), a beautiful UI and a easy to use app will go a long way in helping you make a great app.
Having said that, this is probably the area where you can save the most: if you already have a designer, are a designer yourself or have good tastes, you can probably do this on your one if you are starting small (I can feel the hate of all the UI and UX designers). This is because a functional app, that really solves a problem, that is ugly, is still a functional app that someone will use.
But please remember that looks are very important and you can’t afford to completely ignore them.

Estimated cost (based on skill level): 50$ – 2.000$

Business logic

This really depends on how complicated your app is, you can try to determine this with a couple of different approaches:

  • How many different screens or pages does your app have?
    You need to be very precise when thinking about this number, for example: welcome, login, signup, restore password, home page, product page, cart, confirm order, checkout, … are all different pages
  • Does your app have a core functionality and everything else is accessory?
    Maybe you are creating an Instagram-Pro-Story-Maker and you need a very good image editor with a lot of cool effects.
  • What app category does your idea fall into?
    Is it an e-commerce, is it a social media, maybe it is a game or it is completely offline, this can help you and whoever will build your app get a general sense of what will be needed.
  • How many different external services does it need to connect to?
    As a rule of thumb, the more the services, the more the pain, the more the cost. Connecting external services is not the easiest of things, most of the time, and not fun at all other times, so think carefully if your really need all those services.
  • Does your app manage some kind of special content?
    Think about very big images or files (more than 1 GB) or big videos. This could be harder to develop due to performance limitations.
  • Does everything that your app needs to work exist in the client device or do you need external tools, like a backend or database? (we will expand on this later)

I haven’t talked about if you need to develop the app only for Android or iOS, you just need to make it for both of them, you can’t leave one out.
The estimate here vary the most, for a simple offline app you could get away with a hundred dollars, while for a social media, it could cost up half a million. To get the best estimate possible you need to understand your idea in it’s entirety, have it very clear and you need to be able to articulate it exceptionally well, otherwise you could get a inferior product or a big bill.

Estimated cost (based on complexity, exceptions may arise): 400$ – 250.000$

Integration with other services

The integrations cost should be pretty clear: every external service that your app needs (advertisement, payment processing, getting information from the internet, …) adds to the total complexity and to the total cost of the app.
Adding an external service should be pretty straight forward, but depending on the technologies used to develop the app, to the tech used by the service, to the clearness and completeness of the information provided by the service, the integration could become very complex and require a lot of time. This is probably the area where having experience with the services has the biggest benefit.

You may not know which or if any services need to be integrated, so try to explain the app at your best to the person who is building it for you, he should be able to guide you and tell you if other services are needed.

Estimated cost (based on difficulty of integrating the service, per service): 20$ – 10.000$

Conclusion?

If we do a simple sum we get: 470$ for the very minimum and 262.000$ for the very maximum. The very minimum is supposed to be work made all from different freelancers found on Fiverr searching for the very best price, while the very maximum is supposed to be from a professional and big agency that handles all the work (maybe with collaborators).

From my experience anything below 1.000$ is basically worthless. It may work on the surface and get the job done, but will break from the smallest breeze, will be built on sand so it will definitely not scale and won’t ever be profitable.

Since the range is so huge, is basically useless, so I will try to give you some price points that you can use to give yourself an idea:

  • 1.000$ – 5.000$: an app which doesn’t require user authentication and works completely offline.
  • 5.000$ – 10.000$: an app with users authentication and that stores data about a single user. Can also have one or two integrations. This app can work online, but the content is static, this means that the users can’t generate new content in the app (like commenting); this is nowhere near something like a social or an e-commerce.
  • 10.000$ – 25.000$: an app which manages the data of the users and has dynamic content: you can add content to the app without needing to update it and/or the users can generate content. You probably have two or more external services integrated or a payment method.
  • 25.000$ and more: an app that handles user content, has dynamic updates, has multiple external services and has payment integrated. As you can see this is the biggest range because it really depends on what your app needs.

If you get someone giving you an estimate that is outside this ranges, don’t freak out, it may be normal and it may be right, it doesn’t mean that he is trying to scam you or that I’m trying to scam you, but you have to freak out when he gives you the estimate without asking you a LOT of questions and very specific ones. In that case it’s better that you walk out, you will either receive something that is not working as you intend or something less that you expected.

One last thing…

Having said all that, is your problem really just building a mobile app? Or are you trying to start a business? Launching a startup? Or just want to test an idea? You probably don’t just need an app, you need a complete system which integrates frontend, backend and a database.
As we have anticipated an app is not only the thing that you install in you device, but it is much more, take Amazon as an example: you have the app, but then you need somewhere to store all the products and their informations, that’s the database. But then you need a way to get recommendations for every customer, that’s the business logic, but then you need a way to collect payments, that’s an external service integration.
As you can see it is very likely that you don’t just need an app, but you need a complete product, which usually consists of frontend (app), backend (business logic) and database (data).

Things are not as easy as you thought, but luckily there are a lot of great resources that will help you and a lot of company that will take care of all of the above for you, like ours!
If you are interested in getting an estimate, finding a co-founder or getting a technical advice, please contact us at: qubitart.info@gmail.com

We hope that this helped you, if you have questions drop us an email.

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