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How to Estimate What an App Costs to Build in 2019

Whether you’re an established company or a startup trying to figure out how much it costs to build and deploy an app, you have probably noticed it’s tough to nail down an answer.

The short answer is that it depends on the features and functionality you want in an and the timeline you need it completed it. Before allocating budget to building any new technology you will want to scope it out in detail.

Project Complexity

Like most things in life, the more complex something is and the longer it takes to do, the more it’s going to cost. No matter if an app uses augmented reality/virtual reality, is mobile native or it lives on multiple platforms the cost will be dependent on the complexity.

Project Scope Cost Factors:

  1. Features
  2. Form, Functionality, And Design
  3. Customization
  4. Platforms
  5. Infrastructure
  6. Administration
  7. Prototyping & Testing
  8. Deployment

Features

A lot of the costs will depend on whether developers have to build the features you want from scratch or whether there is an existing code base or third-party API that can be used.

For example, while in-app purchases might seem straightforward, the amount of time and effort to build will depending on what integrations you require including the use of credit cards or other payment systems such as PayPal, Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, or Google Wallet.

Additionally, you will need to decide if you are using location-based services or geo-fencing and if you can leverage existing code or need something custom.

Finally, adding push notifications, password and identity management and even social media integrations may increase costs. Finally, one area that you don’t want to skimp on is security and encryption which can be very large or low depending on your app.

These are just a few of the features you may want to consider. It’s impossible to accurately estimate your costs until you define the feature set you need.

Design & User Interface

Another part of the app that can vary widely depending on the scope is the design and user interface. The overall look and feel of your design can be intricate and the user interface is a very important part of delivering a great app. From the way the app looks on the screen, to the way it feels when you open it up, to the way users will interact. UI (User Interface) and UX (User Experience) play critical roles in app success.

Again, you have several options when defining the design and user interface. Going completely custom will increase the time and budget but may create a one-of-a-kind user experience. Alternatively, you may be able to leverage open source items and standard elements to reduce costs.

Customization

Not everything has to be invented from scratch. Many apps have common elements that can be used in multiple settings. While you do not want your app to look like every other app available. Putting a new skin on an existing design can cut down expenses while still creating a unique, branded look.

Also, really think though what you want to be custom and understand that different customization take different amounts of time. A custom animation or flow is more costly, than a custom button size or illustration. The more complex customization you do, the more hours it will take to develop.

Platforms

While you likely want your apps to work on both iOS and Android, sometimes it is better to build on a single app first. Each platform requires a separate build which requires different program languages for the code, development tools, and SDKs. While working in collaboration, it may take different development teams the be very expensive. Often building for one platform first, will allow you to build and learn from errors, helping reduce the cost of the second build.

Alternatively, Cross-platform or hybrid app development can help manage costs using one development team. Cross-platform development allows you to build for both iOS and Android with the same tools but may limit some native functionality of individual platforms.

Infrastructure

Back-end infrastructures can vary depending on what you want to see. Traditionally, the backend provides developers with APIs that connect with other data sources. These data sources can provide valuable insights on customer behaviors like time in the app, or purchase behavior. If you want to track usage, performance, and other variables, it can impact the cost. This information, however, can be extremely valuable in order to add new features to your app or respond to customer needs.

Administration

In mobile development, the administration panel can manage app content, provide a user lists and gather additional user stats. It holds very valuable information for the app and business owners. Fortunately, you don’t have to build this entire piece from scratch. There are several options to adopt existing admin panel templates for your specific business needs.

Prototyping & Testing

Many people that turn to outside teams to develop their apps significantly underestimate this stage of app development. Do you expect the very first iteration to go directly to market? Each change, addition, or subtraction from the prototype delays the launch and adds to the bottom line.

There’s also a significant amount of testing that has to be done so that the app works properly when it’s on the market. Things can work fine in the lab, but not so well when hundreds – or thousands – of people are using it at the same time. Testing takes time.

It also makes a big difference in whether you want to launch with a fully polished version or an MVP (Minimally Viable Product).

Deployment

Launching a completed app is a whole separate part of the project. Deploying to the various app stores require additional fees and time. You will need an expert, or an organization who can walk you through the proper steps.

Additionally, in order to have a successful app, you may want to pair with a marketing campaign. Purchasing ads or PR is an entirely different budget that is often associated with deployment. You need a robust app launch strategy to be successful.

Maintenance

Do you expect to maintain and update the app over time? What happens if there’s a bug or something you want to change? Maintenance costs can easily become 20% of your total budget or more. You will need regular monitoring of serves, data storage, CDN and images to ensure your app is always working and up-to-date with the latest platform enhancements. Make sure to put aside budget for this critical, but often overlooked costs.

How To Estimate What an App Costs to Build in 2019

We’ve just scratched the surface of what impacts costs but haven’t answered your question directly. There’s no way to know until you start to define the parameters. As a rule of thumb, you might want to project $50-$100 an hour for development for a traditional app team of two developers, a designer, and a project manager. Until you know how many hours it will take to build your app, it’s tough to estimate.

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