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The real cost to develop an app in 2021: How to make a reasonable estimate and fit into your budget

Nov 16, 2020 · 14 minuten om te lezen

Before you hire someone to make an app for you, it’s good to get aware of the fair price for the service. However, there is no way to get a quick and accurate answer to “how much does it cost to make an app for your business” as there are too many factors to take into account.

Official surveys report that it will cost you somewhere between 10,000€ and 250,000€ to build an app depending on its type and complexity. Quite a wide range, isn’t it? Let’s try to narrow it down. This article will help you accurately estimate your cost to make an app.

Know the average cost to develop an app

Imagine you are talking to an app agency or a freelance software developer that’s going to give you a quote. To make a quick estimate they’d ask you about:

  • Number of platforms you choose – iOs, Android, or both
  • Design quality you need – template or custom
  • Your vision of the app and its key functions
  • Ways you plan to make money with your app
  • Integrations with your own or third-party assets

After a five-minute conversation, you’d find out that your app falls into one of the categories:

  • Simple. A mobile app with basic functionality and design, which can cost less than 50,000€ for one platform.
  • Medium. An app with a custom UI, a big set of features, and simple integrations, which can cost from 50,000€ to 100,000€ per platform.
  • Complex. A feature-reach app with custom professional design, complex backend and integrations, that may cost 100,000€ to 250,000€+ for one platform.

Normally, about 60% of your initial app development cost you’ll pay your developers. Another 40% of the cost you’ll spend on quality assurance, UI and UX design, and project management.

Now you know the average app development cost. What about a more accurate estimate for your particular project? A good way to get it is by looking closer at your technical and business requirements. It means breaking your app down into components or essential features to see the exact scope of work.

Check our example app development cost estimate

Let’s assume that you want to create a dating app, like Tinder. It’ll be a cross-platform app that works on iOs and Android. For this, you’ll need to hire a team that consists of a developer, designer, tester, and project manager. Now, let’s estimate the money you’ll pay every member of your team.

What do designers charge for creating your app design?

Before coding, you'll need to have your app design done. Starting with the design will help you refine your app idea, test business logic, and communicate the awesomeness of the future product to investors.

For example, your dating app requires designing about 15–20 screens. We calculated the cost of design as if you hired UI/UX designers for 29€ / h on Proxify.io.

A dating mobile app design cost breakdown

  • UX design. Create a user flow diagram that maps the structure of the app, sketch low-fidelity wireframes, high-fidelity wireframes, and create clickable prototypes to plan user flow in the app. 40 h for 1,160€
  • UI design. Create the look and feel of the app that includes colors, typographic, illustrations, animations, and motions that are cohesive with the app's branding. 80 h for 2,320€

In total, the design for your dating app will cost 3,480€ for 120h of work.

If you don't care about the aesthetics very much, you can save some money on your app design by using templates, OS-supplied items, and standard screen elements instead of creating custom ones. However, you should remember that users like visually appealing apps much more.

How much do app developers charge for building an app?

To create a cross-platform app, the best choice is to hire a React Native or Flutter developer. They can build a solid app that delivers perfect experiences on both iOs and Android.

We asked Artem Misiura, Senior Software Developer at Proxify.io, to estimate the time and cost for our example dating app. The cost was calculated as if you hired app developers for 30€ / h on Proxify.io.

A dating mobile app development cost breakdown

Project Setup

  • Initialize the app using React Native CLI with specific presets (preprocessors, templates, ESLint standards). 2h for 60€
  • Create files with common styles, variables, constants. Follow Don't Repeat Yourself (DRY) principles. 3h for 90€
  • Install core UI libraries (React Native Components or NativeBase), HTTP Client (Axios), global state manager (Redux or React Context), validation libraries (React Hook Form). 8h for 240€
  • Connect app with API. Set up interceptors to handle errors. Set up error messages for users. Handle errors for 401, 404, and 500 status codes. 5h for 150€
  • Generate App Icons and Splash Screen resources for Android and iOS with the help of The React Native Generator. 3h for 90€

Authentication

  • Implement user authentication logic. If a user is not logged in, the user gets redirected to the login page. If the user is logged in, the user gets redirected to the Discover Users screen. 6h for 180€
  • Screen: Phone Number Login. Enter a phone number and type a verification code. 10h for 300€
  • Screen: Facebook Login. Connect with Facebook API. 8h for 240€
  • Screen: Account Recovery. 7h for 210€
  • Screen: Privacy Policy, Terms & Conditions. 4h for 120€
  • Screen: User registration (first and last name, description, birth date, gender, sexual orientation, goal, city, adding 3–8 photos) 16h for 480€
  • Set up location permission. Install plugins. 7h for 210€
  • Set up triggers for push notification permission requests. Install plugins. Set up logic for real-time data updates (sockets). 8h for 240€

Discover Users Module

  • Screen: Discover Users. Filter users by different criteria. Swipe right or left for likes or dislikes. 15h for 450€
  • Screen: Discover users that match. Available when using Super Like. 5h for 150€
  • Popup: Get Premium. Show the popup when the user has reached their daily limit for likes. 12h for 360€
  • Popup: Report User. 4h for 120€
  • Screen: User Details. Information about selected users. See photos, descriptions, and users’ activities. 10h for 300€
  • Screen: Matches. The possibility to see all matches with other users. 9h for 270€
  • Screen: Who Liked Me. See the list of users who gave their likes. 8h for 240€

Chats Module

  • Screen: Chats. Start a chat with a matching user. 17h for 510€
  • Screen: Video Calls. Start a call with a selected user. Set up plugins for video calls. 20h for 600€
  • Screen: Audio calls. Start a call with a selected user. Set up plugins for audio calls. 12h for 360€

My Info Module

  • Screen: My Profile. View the user’s profile information. 7h for 210€
  • Screen: Edit My Profile. Add and edit the user’s first and last name, description, birth date, gender, sexual orientation, goal, city, add/remove 3–8 photos. 10h for 300€

Settings Module

  • Screen: Edit Phone Number. Change the phone number for the user’s account. 4h for 120€
  • Screen: Email Settings. Configure email notifications. 5h for 150€
  • Screen: Push Notification Settings. Configure mobile push notifications. 5h for 150€
  • Screen: Filter Settings. Set up search parameters for the Discover Users feature. Change the city, location radius, sexual orientation, etc. 7h for 210€
  • Screen: Privacy Settings. Configure the user’s information visibility. 7h for 210€
  • Screen: Purchases. Manage subscriptions. 10h for 300€
  • Screen: Select a Payment Plan. 4h for 120€
  • Feature: Delete Account. 5h for 150€

Release

  • Publishing on TestFlight (for Beta testing). 3h for 90€
  • Publishing on Apple Store (for Production). 3h for 90€
  • Publishing on Google Play (for Beta testing). 5h for 150€
  • Publishing on Google Play (for Production). 5h for 150€

To build a cross-platform dating app you’ll pay 8,370€ for 279h of work. However, it’s recommended to add about 30% of the estimated time to cover risks. So, the total sum you’ll pay the developer makes 10,881€ for 362.7h of work.

How much will you spend on testing your app?

Quality assurance is not a separate stage in your app creation process. It’s rather integrated into every stage of the development process. This is why the cost of quality assurance is proportional to the cost of building app features.

A good practice is to engage a QA engineer early. This way, you’ll fix small errors that occur at the early stages before they grow into complex issues.

Quality assurance usually would take 20% of the overall time estimated for development. That being said, it may potentially save you much more money. You’ll release your app with confidence and ensure a great experience for your very first users.

How much should you pay a software project manager?

If you have time to dedicate to managing your project, you can get your app built without a project manager. It’s a good option for startup founders who had run software projects before.

However, if you decide to hire a project manager, make sure your estimate includes at least 20 h for project management per every 70 h of your team's work. This means you’ll have to add another 10% to your budget to offload yourself from micromanagement. A good project manager will facilitate your team’s work and ensure that deadlines are met.

So far we discussed the money you’ll pay to the members of your software development team for their work. However, that’s not all. There are several categories of substantial costs that are easy to overlook.

Consider the hidden costs of app development

After you calculate the initial costs of making an app, you should calculate the budget for post-launch expenses for the first 2 to 3 years. Here’s what will you pay for:

  • Development tools and platforms. Subscriptions to any paid tools, SDKs, libraries, and platforms your developers may use to ease and speed up the development process, like Appcelerator, Kinvey, etc.
  • App infrastructure. Annual fees for hosting your app and storing the growing amount of data it collects on the servers provided by Amazon, Azure, or similar cloud services.
  • Functional services. Subscriptions for third-party services that help you deliver some of your app features, like sending emails, SMS, or push notifications. App publishing and promotion. Fees for publishing your app on Google Play, Apple App Store, or Amazon App Store together with the cost of app store optimization services (ASO) aimed to improve your app visibility and ranking in search results.
  • App maintenance. Paying developers for bug fixes, iOS and Android updates, third-party API updates, feature updates, monitoring, and optimization of the app performance.

As for the post-launch costs estimate, it’s safe to think that you’ll spend an additional 50% of the product’s initial price in the first year, 25% in the second year, and 15% for every year after.

Be aware of major app development cost drivers

As you can see it’s quite difficult to calculate how much it will cost you to build an app. It requires splitting the project into small chunks of functionality that can be measured in working hours and priced.

However, even if you make a thorough estimate, you still can run out of the planned budget and exceed the average cost of app development. Here are some reasons why your app can cost more than estimated:

  • Continuous ideation. Normally, you’d come up with ideas for a few new features for your app amid the development process. You’ll have to make a hard choice on whether to add them and extend the budget or to put them off for later and stick to the initial plan.
  • Technical difficulties. A particular feature may appear more difficult to create than expected. For example, you may request some search and filtering functionality on your app. Initially, it may be estimated as a standard feature, but then it may require developing a unique custom algorithm.
  • Pivoting. Your idea may seem unique and promising at first, but there’s always a chance that a similar product appears on the market. In this case, you might have to reconsider your unique selling proposition, change the target market/vertical, or tweak functionality. It may result in extra costs and a longer time to market.

Keep those risks in mind and make sure you have some contingency funds to cover unpredictable expenses.

Having decided on your app development scope and team size you’re halfway through to your app development cost estimate. The next step is to make several calculations based on various app development hourly rates available on the market.

Build the right team to fit into your budget

Who you hire to build your app affects its development cost a lot. Today, you have access to technical talent from literally any country. Your outsourcing options are unlimited. This raises your chances to recruit a proficient team and fit your app into your budget. Let’s look at the rates that exist on the market.

How much does it cost to hire an app developer, tester, designer?

It depends on the approach you take to build your team. You can either employ app development specialists in-house, outsource to an agency, or hire independent contractors. Let’s compare different hiring options.

  • Traditional employment. Hourly rates make 40–51€. Approximate time to hire is 1–4 months. As an employer, you'll have to cover additional recruitment costs of about 1000–2000€ and pay overheads.
  • Traditional Consultancy. Hourly rates make 70–150€. Approximate time to hire is 2–8 weeks.
  • Proxify.io talent network. Hourly rates make 29–35€. Approximate time to hire is 1–2 weeks.

For an early-stage app startup, it may not be reasonable and sometimes even hard to hire an in-house team. That’s why most founders choose between outsourcing their project to an agency and hiring freelancers.

App development agencies vs independent contractors

Outsource agencies usually claim higher proficiency and charge more for providing turnkey services. However, it’s not always reasonable to pay a higher price. Many highly-skilled developers have become digital nomads and prefer working as independent contractors via talent network platforms, such as Proxify.io. This means you can hire a distributed all-star team without overspending.

If you have some tech expertise and an understanding of the app development process, you may not need any intermediaries between you and your developers. The opportunity to manage the project yourself may even look more appealing to you. In this case, you can get the same or even better result with a smaller team of freelancers, at a lower cost. All you need is to find the right contractors.

And here is an important point. Recruitment challenges have been the main objection against hiring independent contractors. You know what it means. Find them all. Check their technical skills. Make sure they’ll be good teammates. Tough. However, with talent network platforms, none of those is a problem anymore. They do all the legwork for you.

Your optimal way and cost to build an app

Proxify.io makes it simple for you to build a great remote app development team. We’ve created a community of tech stars with versatile experiences. Those are people we’ve worked with. The people we trust. And we believe that having them on your team will set your app for success.

All you need is to tell us about your needs, and we’ll find a perfect match for your project in two weeks. Moreover, you’ll be able to hire senior-level developers at rates starting from 29€ / h. If you need help with calculating the cost of developing your app, contact Proxify.io to get a free cost estimate.

Quick app development Q&A

You ask, we answer.

How much does it cost to build an app?

An app with basic functionality and design will cost less than 15,000€, while a complex feature-reach app with custom professional design, complex backend, and integrations, may cost up to 250,000€.

How much does it cost to develop a mobile app?

Our example app development cost estimate shows that having a 15,0000€ budget you can build an MVP of a dating mobile app, like Tinder. For this, you’ll need a designer and a React Native developer.

What is the average cost to build an app?

The cost to build an app varies significantly depending on the project complexity. The development itself usually takes about 60% of the initial app cost while 40% of the cost is spent on quality assurance, UI and UX design, and project management. Another 20% goes on app maintenance.

Is it cheaper to build an app or website?

Building a static website using one of the popular CMSs remains the cheapest option. That said, such a website would have limited functionality and may not meet today’s customer expectations. Although building a web app or a progressive web app is a more costly option, it’s a better choice for most online businesses.

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