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App Development
7 minutes read

What Does It Really Cost to Develop a World-Class App?

by Robert Kazmi
App Development
7 minutes read

The story goes something like this: 

  1. Inspiration hits you.
  2. You develop a great business idea that will revolutionize the world. 
  3. You start thinking about how to execute it.
  4. You realize you need an app to make it happen. 

Now you only have to look for that quality development partner that will assure you on-time delivery and great performance of your app (oh, and don’t forget that you also want them to be willing to go that extra mile). As you search all over the internet you bump into various candidates. You start contacting them one by one and you schedule appointments to discuss your idea. 

Before you know it you are immersed in meetings with various service providers. One meeting after another you discuss your idea, and although everyone you meet is very nice, no one seems to be able to answer one simple question: how much will it cost to develop your app? Every time you address the elephant in the room, a deafening silence seems to take over. 

At Koombea we get this question a lot, so we understand that this is one of the most important issues you probably have; few things can be as stressful as thinking about the costs of your project. However, as much as we’d love to give you a direct and simple answer, developing an app needs to consider various factors. Although ballpark estimations can be made, there is no one-size-fits-all formula that will easily calculate how much developing an app will cost. 

Because we don’t want you crunching numbers in the dark, but instead want your project to succeed, we’d like to share with you some important facts about the costs of developing an app as well as some advice to get the most out of meetings with potential development partners. This way you will get a better idea of what your dream app might cost and whether you have the resources to do it. Remember that how you finance your app is crucial to its success. 

It Depends

The first thing any expert will tell you is that the cost of developing an app may vary a lot depending on what you plan to do. This might seem like the typical sales line that seeks to set you out of course, but it just happens to be true. The cost of an app does vary a lot. 

Having a clear idea of what you plan to do and being able to communicate it clearly will be of much help for advisors when trying to determine an estimation of the cost of your app. Projects that are at an early conceptual stage pose greater uncertainty than those with a more advanced stage of ideation. 

Set Realistic Expectations

Developing an app is not something you do every day. It is important to set realistic expectations from the beginning, so don’t be disillusioned if the numbers seem to frighten you. The best you can do is be honest with the app development company you are engaging with and openly discuss your budget concerns. Ask the questions you consider to be relevant, but most importantly, seek a partner that is transparent, honest, and willing to discuss anything that might cause you anxiety.

Mobile Vs. Web

One common mistake is to think that web and mobile apps have the same development costs. Both types of projects require some of the same resources such as developers, designers, quality assurance, and account and project managers. However, this is about the only things they have in common. In terms of project execution, a mobile app is more expensive to develop than a web app. The main reason for this is because a mobile app requires more time in the initial phases of product development, as well as in the actual software development and subsequent testings. 

Cost Drivers

We know “it depends” is not good enough. You want to understand the drivers that determine the cost of your app. At Koombea we have identified three main cost drivers associated with developing an app. These are:

  1. Technology: Bleeding-edge technology is quite appealing, but it can raise your costs in significant ways. Unless technologies like AI or Machine Learning are absolutely essential for your app, it is best to keep things simple and incorporate them later on. An MVP is the best choice for a budget-friendly starter.
  2. Industry: The purpose of your app influences its costs. It is not the same to build an eCommerce app than a MedTech app. Although both need hard work, the latter is more demanding in terms of requirements, compliance, and regulations. The same goes for FinTech in general; because of legal and security matters, this type of app will tend to be more expensive than an eCommerce platform, for example. A simple version of a FinTech app can be around $150K while an eCommerce one can oscillate around $50K.
  3. Features: The more complex an app’s features are, the more its costs will go up due to increased man-hours. Apps with lots of features sound great, but most of the time they are unnecessary and deliver unwanted value to users. As for technology, the best is to keep features strictly to what is necessary. 

Cheap Is Expensive

It might be the case that you’ve found the right app development company. Their experience and knowledge on the subject are strong, but the best of all is that cheap price you were able to negotiate in order to develop your app. This seems like a no brainer, but beware. A well-planned development project needs to take into account the proper amount of working hours. Setting your budget on the optimistic side can lead to unaccounted costs later on. 

Take the recent example of the Boeing 737 Max fiasco which is being widely reported as a software-related issue. I am sure that everyone thought that they were getting a great deal when they signed on an outsourcing order for $9 per hour developers! Little did they realize that they would get what they were paying for. While this is an extreme example, and sadly one with life or death consequences, it is a rude awakening and lesson for all of us to realize that if it seems unrealistic, it probably is. The ramifications of ‘cheap price’ decisions are real, and sadly in this example, it resulted in the loss of life, falling share-holder value, and a PR nightmare that the company has been dealing with for months and continues to do so up to today. All this despite the consistent feedback that pilots, the ultimate users of their equipment and software, gave the manufacturer, and that Boeing was seemingly unable to correct due to their investment in ‘cheap price’. The sad thing is that this example serves as a forever reminder that trashing one’s brand reliability has long term consequences as even today, when Boeing launches fixes for the existing 737 Max issue, or releases new products, the stigma of that bad decision causes everyone to view them skeptically.

Wrapping It Up

Determining the cost of an app is not an exact science. It is a process in which the parties need to develop a relationship of trust and determine what the final product will look like. Only by getting a clear picture of the scope and functionalities of an app will it be possible to reach a precise number. 

At Koombea we focus on not just being your developer, provider or vendor, but on being your app development partner. Many companies take a traditional sales approach, but with us you’ll be talking to someone who can give honest information on pricing, given the factors mentioned above. Our expert advisors are prepared to help you with the questions you might have. 

We’d be more than happy to help you with your project estimation. Contact us for a free consultation. We’ve been doing these assessments since 2017, so we surely can help. And don’t just take our word for it, check out our Clutch Reviews.