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How Much Does It Cost to Make an App in 2019?

Cloud-based solutions are gaining momentum today. Needless to say, they are indeed a more cost-effective solution to present-day business needs as they help to minimize development costs and app maintenance and do not require the purchase of expensive hardware to keep in your office to run your software. With the advanced flexibility, disaster recovery, and automatic, hassle-free updates, cloud-based software wins out by having all your software linked to one workstation. Most businesses, small and large, launch apps todays to achieve strategic purposes like: 

  • Brand development; 
  • Client base optimization;
  • Customer experience improvement;
  • Business idea optimization. 

End users have also appreciated the mobility and convenience that cloud-based apps allow. Now we all can execute complex tasks, answer emails, and listen to music at the same time – that’s what the enjoyable app kit in every smartphone enables today.

Because of such convenience and universal accessibility, cloud services are in such demand today, both by consumers and by businesses wishing to win their fair share of users in the market. Thus, sooner or later, you might ask yourself the question, “How much does it cost to create an app to let my business grow and cater to clients better?” Here we’re offering a detailed breakdown of the price that you’ll probably need to pay to get a great app at your disposal. We consider all factors affecting the price tag such as outsourcing versus in-house software development, the app’s functionality, the language in which it will be written, etc. Read on to plan the cost to develop an app wisely.    


How Much Does It Cost to Develop an App

So, here we go! How much does it cost to build an app? The first thing we need to note is that such a question has no evident answer. Apps are dramatically different, and while one may cost you a couple of bucks, another one will exceed $1,000,000 in cost. But when planning the budget for app development, you need to keep in mind that in many cases, your vendor’s brand name and reputation will account for a lion's share of the price, which is not always a wise investment – you only need a great working app, after all. So, what should you do and how do you distinguish an unreasonable markup from objective rates for app development tasks? Let’s look at the app’s cost without reference to financial costs – only in terms of hours of work.

Apps are generically subdivided into those possessing simple, moderate, and complex architecture. A simple app is one that features only a basic set of functions like an email subscription, login, calendar, etc. It may contain some data in the textual or media format and elementary UI, while its back end will be primitive to non-existent. You may be surprised to know that such an app may take up to 400 working hours for a developer to create. Thus, the cost of such a basic app depends on the per-hour rate of your developers.

Next, an app of moderate complexity usually includes some UI customization and even features a standard payment functionality, multi-platform adaptivity, and even API integration. How many hours does it take to build an app like this? Typically, it takes 500-800 hours depending on these features’ complexity and sophistication, as well as your demands on the back-end server functionality.

Finally, the completion of a complex app project is a tedious task for a team of senior-level coders. Such an app may involve the development of multi-language support features, 3rd-party integrations, and sophisticated back-end architecture. Complex apps usually come with custom animation and professional, exquisite designs, sometimes even featuring advanced interactivity and real-time features. Thus, the development of such an elaborate software product may take months, if not years, of full-time coder involvement. Experts estimate the time for such an app’s creation at 800-1500 hours on average, but the upper limit may be unbounded depending on what you expect from that application and how much time and money you are ready to invest into it. But in essence, the development time also depends on the coder’s proficiency; the more experienced the programmer, the quicker he/she writes the code and completes the project.  

Types of Applications

Software offers in the modern tech market are getting ever more sophisticated and innovative, so it’s often hard to tell which app will be of the highest value for your business. Nevertheless, you need to make it clear for yourself which type you wish to develop before the actual creation process begins as its type determines the budget, the work’s complexity, and even affects the type of developer you need to employ for getting what you want in the end. Currently, coders distinguish six types of app available in the market:

  • Native (software developed for use on a specific platform or device for optimized performance and with the use of the latest technology)
  • Hybrid (apps running on devices inside a native container, written with the use of technology applicable for the website and mobile app implementation)
  • Basic (personal-use apps traditionally used for non-commercial purposes, including a minimal set of features)
  • Database-driven (apps created for data masses’ operation and storage, presupposing access to media content) 
  • Hardware-reliant (apps enhancing specific mobile features and functions, i.e., calendar or alarm clock customizers)
  • Gaming (this kind of app differs profoundly, from basic to super-advanced depending on the sophistication of gameplay and its features). 

App Startup Costs: Developing Locally vs Outsourcing

Many frown upon hearing about the outsourcing of such a valuable project as business app development, and that’s totally wrong. Though outsourcing is indeed associated with a certain degree of risk, talented outsource agencies and remote coders may build apps at least as well as specialized development companies or in-house teams do. To help you decide, here are the pros and cons of each development model.

Outsourcing

Pros 

  • By outsourcing, you may save a considerable portion of the project’s budget. Capable developers in many outsourcing locations like Eastern Europe or Asia charge much less than local coders do while delivering the same quality of software product. 
  • You get the flexibility of a worldwide talent pool. No need to select from the limited number of options available nearby; you can hire a team composed exactly of the coders with exactly the tech stack you need for the project. 

Cons 

  • The model falls short in terms of building internal expertise. Working in-house or with a local development team enables quicker and more flexible testing of the MVP, a better understanding of the target market and end user. 

Local development

Pros 

  • As soon as you hire a local development agency, you may stop worrying about the process as it offers an all-in-one solution, with the project manager assigned to your project and the procedure, being in full control of the vendor.
  • You have the benefit of direct contact and control. By attending meetings and viewing the progress milestones, you’re always in control and can streamline the process by giving timely feedback.

Cons 

  • You need to pay a pretty penny for such an all-in-one service. Here your budget will cover both the developers’ salaries and the salary of the project manager, the agency’s service fee, and much more.

Cost of Developer Team to Create an App

So, how hard is it to create an app overall? Do you need a team or will one coder cope with this task? Again, it depends. As we explained above, a basic app with a simple set of features may be a manageable task for one coder, while a moderate to complex app is a serious challenge even for a team of senior-level programmers. 

In most cases, the app development team should not exceed 5-7 people, but in super-large projects, customers sometimes prefer to create several goal-focused teams working on different app features. A team may be considered complete and cross-functional if it includes front-end developers, back-end developers, a UI/UX designer, a QA tester, and a project manager. Front-end coders take care of the user interface functionality, back-end specialists work on the core processes and app’s architecture (that is, its server side), while UI/UX designers, as the name of the role suggests, design the app’s interface. QA testers ensure that the app is bug-free and run it in different scenarios to verify its readiness for launch, and the role of the project manager is oversight and management of the project’s processes and milestones. The number of front-end and back-end specialists depends on the project size, while for the rest of the roles, one person is more than enough.  

Depending on the size of your team, its cost may vary. The most expensive specialists are back-end coders (or the full-stack coders in case you prefer to have one person cover both back-end and front-end development). QA and management professionals usually charge less, while UI/UX designers may also cost your company a pretty penny.

Building an App: The Cost of App Design

Customization of an app’s design is another huge aspect of the app development budget. Most clients are focused on making something new and unique for their users, which urges them to seek innovative UI solutions. While simple design solutions based on free or cheap templates may be implemented in no time and cost little, advanced design art with 2D and 3D elements, augmented reality, elements of animation, and sophisticated, detailed imagery may be very expensive and lengthy in terms of creation times. 

Cost by Key Mobile App Features

Most business owners start from the question about the mobile app development cost estimate. The best response would be, “it depends.” What does it depend on, you might ask? Here is the basic list of criteria affecting the quote for an app you might get from a developer or agency:

  1. The type of business for which the app is meant (e.g., whether it is a gaming app, a business app, or an app meant for education)
  2. The platform on which you wish it to operate (Android, iOS, Windows, cross-platform version)
  3. Sophistication of design (the app may be designed simply, based on some free template, or may have a premium-level, highly individualized design)
  4. Content management system 
  5. Whether the app needs to be native or hybrid
  6. Whether it will feature any databases 
  7. Whether you will need ERP and CRM integrations
  8. Whether it is meant to have mobile API
  9. Whether it will integrate ecommerce solutions
  10. Whether it will feature analytical tools.

Besides these elements of the app design task, you should also think over the user data aspects, such as the capability to create individual accounts, email and social login functions, the ways in which you will protect user privacy, whether you will integrate any communication channels (e.g., group calls, video calls, etc.). 

Additionally, you will need to think over the additional features any app may (or may not) have, which also depends on your business needs, on the app’s purpose, and on your budget. 

Here, you can opt for such extras as multilingual versions, audio and photo content, activity tracking, push notifications, data exporting opportunities, ratings, QR code scanning, and a realm of other perks a modern, sophisticated user will surely appreciate.

We won’t provide a tedious and detailed explanation of the price for each of the named features, but the overall price range is as follows:

  • In the case where you need a small business app with a basic set of features, you may count on the average cost to develop an app of this kind at $10-50k. 
  • Standard business apps with a full set of modern features are estimated roughly at $100k and up to half a million (you may count on a price somewhere between $200k and $350k for a good-quality app rich in features; a higher price tag most often comes with the development agency’s brand name).

Is there a way to manufacture an app at a lower price? Sure. 

We have already discussed these options above – they relate either to entrusting the project to your in-house team (thus saving money on the development agency’s marketing that it always includes into the client’s quote) or outsourcing of the development project to more affordable locations where the price-quality ratio allows getting a great software product significantly cheaper. 

How Much Does It Cost to Maintain an App?

The app’s deployment is not the end of your collaboration with the developer, no matter whether it is a local agency or an outsourced vendor. Typically, an app requires post-deployment administration, so make sure you include the app maintenance cost into your budget. How much does it cost to maintain an app? It depends on the app’s complexity, the server on which it runs, and many other peculiarities, so take into account the server costs for apps as well as the hourly rates for the employees who will do the administration work. In most cases, the administration part will take no more than 10-12% of the budget.  

How Much Does It Cost To Create An App Worldwide?

The answer to this question may be given only after clarifying, “how much do app developers make per hour?” App development budgets are usually estimated in numbers of hours of effort, so the final cost to you will depend on the hourly rate of the coders you hire.

Though in some countries, you may find coders ready to work for $3 per hour, that situation is an exception rather than a rule. Don’t get us wrong – there are thousands of programmers in the developing world happy to work for around $11-12 (which is a mean coder rate in Asian outsourcing locations like Indonesia), but the quality of the software you receive in the end will leave much to be desired for sure. On the other hand, US- and UK-based coders charge much higher than the average global pay – here you should be ready to pay from $70 up to $150 for one hour of their work, which is often nonsensically expensive. 

Thus, let’s be fair and objective in the price-quality estimates, which leaves us with the $50 average pay per hour across the globe. In case you are leaning towards this mean price, you may expect to get your app done for up to $25k if it’s simple enough; figure on a budget of $40k-70k in case you need an app of moderate complexity, and be ready to go over that sum in case the app has to possess advanced features.

Conclusion: 2019 Cost to Develop an App

Hopefully, we have clarified the matter here and the question, “how much does app development cost” does not perplex you that much. Overall, to sum up, you need to take into account such vital development stages as planning, design, development, testing, and deployment of an app, as well as the possibility of its ongoing maintenance by the vendor. All these stages are critical to your app’s success in the market, so it’s hard to remove any of them from the process. While planning and design of the app typically consume no more than 20% of the app’s budget, the largest portions of expenditure go to features (around 20%) and infrastructure development (roughly one-third of the average app development cost). So, while each app is priced individually and there is no one-size-fits-all formula, these estimates depend on the app’s type and functionality, as well as the type of employment you prefer, and these are the factors which will shape your final budget.

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