Step by Step Guide to Mobile App Development Cost in 2017

Today only a website or an e-mail newsletter is not enough to improve sales and customer engagement. According to Yahoo's Flurry Analytics, apps take up to 90% of time spent on a smartphone. So more and more brands shift their business towards mobile.

Take a look at world-famous brands like Nike, United Airlines, L'Oreal or ZARA. No matter what industry – they are creating their own apps to raise customer loyalty.

Want to follow their example but have no idea where to start? In this article we have prepared a detailed guide on the cost of custom mobile application development for business.

What application means for business?

Smartphone has changed from a useful communication tool to an important life asset. The number of people living without a cell decreases every year. That is why reaching out to the audience with usual advertising methods has stopped working. Using mobile application can help your business keep and attract new customers. Here's a list of what it does:
1
Access
A custom application is available to your prospects 24/7. Give users ability to look through, order, and even buy your products in one click whenever they want, and they will choose your brand.
2
Engagement
The smartphone is the source of personal entertainment, social activity, and interaction. Thus, it is a perfect communication channel to keep in touch with customers.
3
Recognition
Use the logo as your app's icon. Your clients will look at it day by day as it grows into their minds. Afterwards, they will easily be able to recognize it anywhere.Your business will reach the minds and stay there with a simple app.
4
Value
The mobile application can be useful to customers in many ways. From a special discount program to a support team ready to solve any issue.
5
Sales
Want to boost sales? Go Mobile. Report shows that millennials more that anyone prefer using mobile for shopping.

Cost Affecting Factors

Lost of clients come to us asking how much does it cost to develop an app. And our answer is always "It depends." According to the latest Clutch.Co survey even the most experienced businessmen cannot come to the same opinion regarding the topic. There are lots of factors that can change the final application development cost. Among them the most essential are:

  1. Developer Team
  2. Development Platform
  3. Application type and functionality
  4. Post-development application support

Developer Team

The biggest part of the final price depends on the tech team you hire and their working process. Thanks to the internet, you can choose out of many companies according to the location, rates and working process suitable for your budget.

Take a look at the average hourly rates by region on the image below. We choose the most common locations of software development agencies and freelance developers:
locations of software development agencies and freelance developers

Freelance app developer

Initially, there are two options to choose from. You can work with a development company or hire some freelance developers.

Yes, there are top-notch apps created by freelancers. Yes, it is cheaper to hire a freelancer or even a group of them to work for you. However, freelancers are unreliable workers.One day they work, another day - gone. These guys can vanish in the middle of the project with access to the source code and documentation.

They will not come up with creative solutions for your business. If you are not sure what you want to or how to name it, freelancers are no good. You can give them specific tasks or hire for a quick fix up but a one person cannot become a well-trained team.
Advantages of hiring a freelancer:
  • Low rates
  • Narrow-focused
  • Flexible

Disadvantages
  • Ghousty
  • Non Supervised
  • Inconsistent performance
Even the best developers may not have enough experience in creating the kind of app you need. Moreover, more pitfalls are going to appear as you build an application. As a result, the finished product may not answer your initial requirements and need.

Thus, if you decide to go with a freelancer try such platforms as Upwork or Toptal. There you can look through portfolios, check reviews and assess their performance to find the most reliable worker.

Development agencies

Hiring a company that creates apps definitely sound more expensive but it's actually not. Sometimes their rates are the same if not lower as of freelance workers. Thus, you pay for a team of professionals. When we say team we mean a company that has a relevant expertise, proper management and skilled specialists that build your idea.
Project manager
Project manager is a person responsible for conveying your business vision to the team. Key responsibilities: communicate tasks to the team, avoid drawbacks and meet deadlines.
Developer
A staff member that handles the technical part of the project. They write the source code, build features, integrate the data source and fix bugs that may occur.
UX | UI Designer
Designer works on creating intuitive application interfaces and enjoyable user experiences. They are responsible for how applications look and feel to the final user.
Quality assurance engineer
QA engineers test the application to assess the quality of the code and design. They make sure the project meets the requirements of the client. QAs test the product, detect bugs and make sure they are fixed on time.
Advantages of working with a developer agency:
  • Full team of professional specialists
  • Time and money saving
  • Niche workers
  • Access to commercial and technical expertise

Disadvantages
  • Time-zones and language differences
  • Team morale
  • Quality concerns

Development platform

Native App

Native applications are built for each platform individually. Building a native app is an expensive as the number of platforms you would like to access. Is it going to be for iOS, for Android, for Windows Phone or for all of them at the same time?

Android platform holds 80.8% of the global mobile market. Combined with a simple launching process for Google Market and high revenue from advertising, it seems like a good deal. Yet, development takes much time to make sure the app is the same on different Android devices.

In comparison to Android, iOS applications bring twice as much revenue. They are consistent on all devices and have a dedicated user base open to paid application and in-app purchases. The only disadvantage is a complicated publication process with lots of quality standards.

We recommend choosing one platform for the app to test out how it is going to interact with the target audience. If it proves to be successful, then expand it to other platforms. If not, you save the cost of simultaneous multiple-platform development.
Hybrid application

Apart from developing an app for a certain OS, there is an option to build one hybrid application for every platform. Yes, this option saves money. No, it does not create unforgettable graphically rich apps.
Application type and complexity

Once you decide on the platform, it is time to move further to deciding on the set of features. The type of application and its functionality determine how many hours it will take to build it. We have separated the apps by types and complexity.
Basic list-based applications
These applications are built to deliver information. The user can select a certain subject and access the related materials. Like a wikipedia mobile app that is very familiar to the original website and is a perfect example of list-based applications.
Database-based applications
These apps are built to access, search, sort and display information from large data sets stored on web servers.
Dynamic applications
These apps cooperate with other platforms and software through APIs. For example, Tinder applies the Facebook API to pull list of user's friends and establish connections.
Games
The last but not the least come Game application. These guys are the hardest to develop. There are simple game apps similar in development and cost to dynamic applications. At the same time, complex games with the 3D environment and advanced physics cost more than any other kind of app.
Memo: Every 3d party API integrated into the application has a charge for usage, from monthly to annual paying plans.

It can affect the initial budget of the project and increase the mobile app development cost.
According to their complexity, the apps can be divided into three categories:

  • Simple
  • Moderate
  • Complex
Simple App
Simple apps get built fast due to basic functionality (email or social media registration, calendar). They do not use any outside APIs integration or a backend infrastructure development.

As a result, the average work time to develop such an app is about 300 hours.
Moderate Complexity App
The application of moderate complexity will support APIs and contain interactive elements. It has real-time chats, in-app payments, simple backend server and custom UI features.

The development of such application is going to take from 500 to 800 hours.
Complex App
The complex application is highly interactive and has advanced functionality. Custom animation and high-end design take a lot of time and effort to plan and develop. The majority of top apps belong to the complex category despite how they look. Moreover, the simpler they look the hardest they are to build.

It takes more than 800 hours of work time to develop a complex custom app.
The variety of apps makes it difficult to categorize them. What you have to understand is that the cost of app building depends on the functionality and design.

How much does it cost to create an app

App development cost consists of the time needed for the project and how much company charges for it. The usual development process looks like this:

Project Planning

Research
Building a high-quality mobile solution is impossible without understanding what it is made for. It has to be clear why business needs this product, what problems it is going to solve and for whom (user profile).
The project manager of the team is going to work together with you to define:

  • What devices and platforms do your target audience use the most?
  • How much time do they spend on mobile devices?
  • What do they use the mobile devices for?
  • What should make them use your application?
  • Do you plan to pay more attention to the functionality or the visual part?
Once a model of the prospective user is complete, manager studies and analyses competitors. Is there something you would like to pick up or improve? Are there parts you would like to avoid in your app to provide a better solution?

These are the essentials that decide application's functionality and its cost. When we lay out what the business requires, the next stage is to grasp the complexity of the application.
Discovery
Understanding the complexity of the application development allows managing the time accordingly. Factors to consider:

  • Size of the project
  • Features
  • Applied technologies
  • Team ability to deliver
  • Extra requests of the client

Scoping
Proceeding to project documentation and preparing agreements while developing plan of the project. Scoping aims at studying client's business and how the final product should look.

If client has a vague idea about the app, its features, and purpose, it will take longer to figure it out together.

The average time required to plan an app is about 20-50 hours for the simplest version.

Application Design

Wireframing

Okay, it is clear what you want. Let's move to designing the app's functionality. Here project managers with designers decide on main features and build user experience map.

We approve every wireframe with the client to create structured app screens. The process may last longer due to:

  • Including more details and features into each wireframe.
  • Unclear request for wireframes.
  • More complex design.
  • A number of screens needed.

If client has wireframes or provides detailed requests for each, it will buff the process and lower the cost.
Visual Design

Moving to designing, approving and creating different images, icons, layers. All the elements that are going to become a visual shell of the app. It may take longer to design the app if the following are undecided:

  • The number of app screens and UI elements that each screen contains.
  • Complexity and quantity of custom-designed elements.
  • Specific or not defined customer preferences.

The time needs may be smaller if the client provides the comprehensible design requirements or examples they want to achieve.
User Experience Design

There are five essential rules to ensure that the user is going to enjoy using the app. It has to be:

  • Coherent
  • Clear
  • Credible
  • Common enough
  • Captivating

Keeping all this in mind, we create and check the logics of screen layouts and architecture. UX design has to meet the standards of the exact operating system or device it is made for.

On average it takes from 40 to 120 hours.

Application Features

Final cost of development depends on the complexity of features, its numbers, and technologies used. The most common features that should be in any app are:
1
Authentication
It is created to save the time user is going to spend on inputting personal details every time. Plus, the accumulated data helps to obtain accurate insights on app's users. This block presupposes such options as:

  • Registering with e-mail, phone number or a social media account;
  • Email verification;
  • Password restoration;
Can require from 20 to 45 hours to develop.
2
User Profile
After the user registers, he gets a separate personal account with his data and setting. He has to be able to set up and change profile picture, add more information on himself. There are tons of mini-features that can be included here depending on the type of the application you are building.

Subscriptions, followers, followersfollowees, the number of posts, likes and liked posts, I can go on forever.

This functionality is going to take around 40 hours to develop.
3
Payment integration
Providing users with an ability to buy real stuff online by paying a card sounds simple. The development of the payment integration does not. To be able to make a simple transaction with your card number, a programmer has to connect a payment gateway to the application. Usually, these are the online services like Stripe and Authorize. There is no unified method that allows integrating all payment gateway types. If you choose to go with more than one, each integration is going to take more time.

Developing the payment integration 20-40 hours depending on how many payment gateways you want to add.
4
In-app purchases
These guys deal with charging users for extra functionality, content or app subscriptions while using the app. These payments usually proceed through a wallet of an application store that user is connected to, like App Store or Google Play.

Moreover, there is a huge back-end process behind it (e.g. making payments visible, opening the content after payment, upgrading profile to premium).

Development of in-app purchasing is going to take additional 12-20 hours.
5
Notifications
Push notifications notify the user about app changes, news, messages, and any other important aspects. If you want to add SMS notifications, it is going to require additional regulations with telecommunication operator.

Required time for development starts at 5 hours.

6
Navigation (GPS)
GPS systems are versatile and can be used in every sector. Applying the GPS for your application allows:

  • Determining location of a user or an object;
  • Guiding a user from one location to another;
  • Monitoring movement of the user or an object;
  • Creating maps of the world;
  • Placing Points of interest on the map;
  • Giving user a precise timing of the trip.

Even more, you will be able to provide users with products or services relevant to their location and surroundings. GPS is also used for fitness apps like Move or Apple Health. They tackle the amount of steps you made, where you went and how long you were walking or running.

On average, it takes about 60 hours to set up.
7
Search
Users like to find what they want quickly. Setting up the search filters by hashtags, categories, interests, sizes is essential for any app that wants to succeed.

Think about adding autosuggestion, recent and saved inputs to make the search as user-friendly as possible. It saves the time and effort of the user when searching for the same item again.

The search would take around 20 hours to code.

8
Feed
Check out YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, the user has a personal feed with relevant news, upcoming events, birthdays and important dates, and constantly updates. This is a user engagement feature that keeps them occupied with the application and connected to what is going on in your business. You can set up the feed only for business news, or allows users to communicate with each other and the world around with its help.

Feed is going to take additional 30-40 hours to make.

9
Сhat
Finally, one of the most complicated and vital features is a mean for communication. Setting up a messaging chat is important for getting help from the application support staff, conveying your needs or just talking to the seller, another user, etc.

Of course, you can set up a perfect manual, but there are always people that like talking instead of reading and guessing for themselves.

Chat can have multiple functions like personal messages, group chats, secret chats, support of emoji and stickers, and more.

Setting up a basic chat is going to take around 35-40 hours, but a more complicated version may take up to 250 hours of development.

Quality Assessment

The time needed to texting and fixing the application after the beta launching depends on its size and complexity. Every function has to work according to the app documentation. Therefore, it is going to drive up the cost of development. On average it can last from 30 to 150 hours.

Deployment

Deployment Submitting the application to the store is a process of pampering up the app to meet the Apple standards. It includes creating the app developer account (if your company does not have one), receiving the certificates and being approved by the Apple team.

Post-development application support

Nevertheless, expenses do not end with the release of the application. It is just a square one of application success. The application has to grow the same as OS systems and devices. Therefore, it is going to be updated and improved for every new OS released, as any change in the OS platform is crucial for performance.
User support
Not matter how good your UI/UX is, there are always users that do not get this or that or need a person with a voice on the other side of the screen. Support is vital if your app is a complex service with many options, input fields, in-app purchases or anyhow connected with users spending money.

Therefore, consider adding admin-to-user communicating feature like a live chat, live call or some bot.
Updating application
Users become lazier and lazier each year. They want ground-breaking features that are simple to use, new services, personal data security. There is no limit to their expectations. Whether developing such features and solutions requires more money and brainstorming.

As a business owner, you have to continuously monitor the application trends, analyze the feedback from your audience and act on it.

Bug fixing
Polished application on the release is a rare case. There is no way to avoid bugs, as devices and platforms differ in many ways (screen resolution, performance parameters, etc.). Some of the bugs cannot be detected in the testing phase and appear only after the app was introduced to the mass usage.

Conclusion

Given the number of factors that decide how much making an app will cost, it is understandable why there is no "average cost" for making an app. Every application is unique in its purpose, design and set of features.

In this article, we have outlined the basic factors that are going to affect the final price so you would be able to sum up the cost of your project. In case you are still at a loss and do not know how much does it cost to develop an app, we are ready to help – just reach out!

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