[Infographic] How Much Does it Cost to Make an App?
By Sara Angeles on February 22, 2020 / 53 Comments
Asking someone how much it costs to build an app is like asking them how much it costs to build a house. Before they can give you a good answer, they’ll have to know what kind of house you want to build and who you want to build it. Who is your architect and how will he or she design it? Will it be a typical home or will it have solar panels, talking refrigerators, and other super cool state-of-the-art features of a smart home? All of these questions are going to factor into how much it will cost to build that house. The same is true when you decide to build an app.
A bare-bones app costs $1,500 to $5,000. A decent app costs $10,000 – you can just throw in a few graphics and tables here in there and voilà – you’re ready for the App Store. Not too bad, right?
But do you really want to make just a “decent” app?
If you’re serious about developing an app that actually gives value to its users, expect to spend anywhere from $30,000 to $150,000 for a high-quality product. You will need to invest in hiring a programmer, testing, and additional costs.
App Design and Development
Unless you’re an experienced programmer with mad skillz, app creation is not a do-it-yourself project. You should always hire a programmer to design and code your app. If you’re wondering “How much does it cost to build an app?”, keep in mind that trying to build it yourself when you lack relevant experience will almost always be more costly than hiring an expert. The amount of time and money you would waste trying to develop your own app greatly exceeds what you would invest when hiring a programmer. Additionally, if you don’t have experience developing apps, odds are good any product you do create will be much weaker than something a professional developer could build for you. That means it would almost certainly yield a lower return-on-investment.
Expectations for Outsourcing App Development
US-based programmers charge somewhere between $50-$150 an hour, or up to $12,000 for a couple weeks’ work. Depending on the infrastructure of an app, it may take several weeks to design the app, and several more to code it. (To offset the costs, you can outsource this to freelance programmers in Europe and Asia, but be sure to do your due diligence to save yourself some nasty headaches!)
That said, it is important to understand what hiring a freelancer often involves. You need to thoroughly research and interview a candidate to make sure they are right for the job, you need to draft a thorough contract, and you might need to monitor your freelancer’s progress throughout the development phase if you’re not sure you can trust them to develop your app according to the established schedule. All of those tasks require time and effort.
Luckily, you can also consider hiring a mobile development lab or tech firm to design, develop, and deploy your app instead. Because development agencies specifically serve clients like yourself, they strive to provide their clients with convenience. That involves making sure clients don’t need to do any more work than necessary to get the app built. Additionally, a mobile development lap or tech firm is also likely to have a relatively extensive portfolio compared to that of a freelancer. That means you can more easily evaluate their past work to determine if they are the right choice for your project.
Selecting the Right Development Lab
Note that not all labs are created equal. Once again, determining “How much is it to make an app?” requires accounting for various factors. For example, some development agencies may charge you more for overhead costs and some may charge you less if you provide certain components (e.g., graphics), but smaller, boutique labs probably have the middle ground you’re looking for. For example, Bahndr, is a $30,000 social game built from scratch right here at Blue Label Labs with completely custom graphics – it could have cost double that had the project been given to a larger shop!
If you’re wondering how to find an app developer, you should essentially start by performing a basic Google search and reviewing potential candidates. You can also use platforms such as Upwork to find freelancers and agencies. Once you have a list of candidates, review their portfolios to narrow down your options before getting in contact with them for further discussions.
Testing an App
Buggy apps are crappy apps. And users won’t be afraid to tell you so. They will leave negative reviews in the App Store, or even go as far as app-bashing on blogs or via social media. To avoid this path of self-destruction (and to spare yourself from watching your app dreams come to a screeching halt before it even begins to come true), you must test and mockup your app. Then test it again. And again.
You can do this manually by using multiple devices yourself or by hiring a test team. Here at Blue Label Labs, we use design sprints throughout the development process as a means of testing and quality assurance even before the final product is released. This ends up saving time and money in the long run. Alternatively, you can also cast a wide net and release a free beta version (check out testflightapp.com) for feedback from users who know what to look out for. Expect to spend $8,000-$30,000 on testing your app, depending on the app. The more changes you need to make, the more you will need to spend for your programmers to get rid of any bugs and improve usability.
Launching the app:
$99 on the App Store, $25 to register on Google Play
Infrastructure, servers, and other back-end support:
Social media integrations:
Everything is installed in the device
Takes 2-4 weeks to develop
Expected cost: $1,500-$4,000
Example: C-Life (helps you track and manage prescriptions)
Data is stored on a server/database
Takes 4-8 weeks to develop
Expected cost: $8,000-$50,000
Example: Mime-Me (a fun, social app based on the game of charades)
Business integration; data is stored in device + on a server
Takes 3-6 months to develop
Expected cost: at least $50,000, or $150,000 and up for more complex apps
Examples: Oracle Business Indicators (mobile access to business intelligence and performance), Cisco WebEx Meetings (mobile web conferencing), TripIt (travel organizer)
Development time depends on type of game
Expected cost: $10,000-$250,000
- Your programmer makes or breaks your app – don’t be cheap by hiring the lowest bidder. Research potential programmers’ qualifications and credentials. Talk to them and see if they’re a good fit for your project and vision. Remember: You get what you pay for. Never cut corners. Once again, the investment you’re willing to make now will pay off in the long run. Opting for the cheapest programmer you can find is actually a poor financial decision.
- Always allow for wiggle room – set budgets and deadlines, but delays and incidental costs are inevitable. Be sure to prepare for any unforeseeable costs
- Converting an iPhone app for iPad compatibility? Add 25-50% of the original cost.
- Don’t forget about marketing – expect to spend $1,000-$3,000 on initial marketing campaigns and ASO. No one wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars building an app that no one’s ever heard of.
Have you built an app? How much did it cost from design to completion? What other costs should app developers consider?
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