How Much Does App Development Cost?

Launching an app can feel like a huge risk, but doing your research and finding a great app development team to work with can produce amazing results.

Photo: Riley Panko; Credit:
Washington DC Headshots
Photo: Riley Panko; Credit:
Washington DC Headshots

Business owners who want to launch a successful app should be thoughtful and deliberate in app development from day one. Many entrepreneurs run on tight budgets, so overlooked costs or pricey mistakes can end an app project before it even begins.

If you’re deciding whether to launch an app, the first step is to understand app development pricing and how your budget impacts the final product.

With this topic in mind, at Clutch, a B2B research firm based in Washington, D.C., we recently surveyed 102 app development companies from around the world to explain how the process works and approximate costs.

Here are some of the most important findings from Clutch’s “How Much Does It Cost to Develop an App: 2017 Survey”:


1. App development costs are not universal

When you create a budget you generally seek to stay within it. However, app development budgeting can be tricky, because the cost of various stages and features are not universal across projects.

App development can be divided into specific stages:

  • Discovery

  • Design

  • Development

  • Testing/Deployment

  • Marketing

Each of these stages has the potential to vary greatly in costs. Some stages are slightly more predictable. For example, the design stage can vary, but it is based on the number of screens your app requires.

One of the most difficult stages to predict is the development stage. Think of all the potential features of an app – push notifications, payment systems, native feature integration, etc. The list is nearly endless.


Photo: © berc, YFS Magazine

The app development process has significant breadth, which can result in an expansive price range. A simple feature like push notifications can cost less than $5,000 or upwards of $50,000, according to Clutch’s survey.

“Every project is different. The underlying process and layers of complexity required to deliver each particular feature will determine the cost just as much as the total number of features,” explains Drew Johnson, Co-CEO of App Partner, a mobile app design and development agency.


2. Consider hourly rates vs. fixed fees

App development pricing is typically presented in two ways: a fixed project bid or hourly rates based on labor, time and resources needed to complete the project.

Here’s the difference between these two options:


Fixed bid

A fixed project bid is a price based on a specific set of criteria. The benefit is that there’s a clear understanding of what you’ll pay from the very start. However, if developers need to deviate from the original plans for any reason, you may need to readjust your budget. If you decide to keep your budget the same, you may sacrifice certain features.

Small projects can comfortably work within a fixed bid, but large app development projects often have so many moving parts, that it’s almost guaranteed the bid will change as issues or changes arise within the project.


Hourly bid

An hourly pricing structure allows for flexibility with a clear idea of how cost will be calculated based on time spent and skills needed to build the app. The downside is little insight into budget parameters.

According to Fueled, a good mobile app development team includes:

  • A designer to create visual content

  • An account manager to act as a liaison for clients

  • A product manager who oversees the strategy

  • Developers to optimize the product for rollout


3. Flexibility can boost quality

Many app development companies say the process is ultimately a balance between these three characteristics:

  • Speed

  • Quality/Complexity

  • Cost

If one of these three qualities is not easily changed, you may need to make concessions on the other two.

For example, if your cost is firmly set, be open simplifying your app to avoid going over budget. While your app may not fulfill every functionality you’ve imagined, you can still build a quality app targeted to your business goals within budget.


Photo: © s4svisuals, YFS Magazine

Alternately, if you need to launch an app within a certain timeframe, you may need to pay more money or reduce the quality of the final product to fit your schedule. If you demand every feature possible for a particular price within a very specific timeframe, you are destined for disappointment.


Final thoughts

App development costs can be a tricky subject to fully understand, considering the complexity of mobile app development.

Launching an app can feel like a huge risk, but doing your research and finding a great app development team to work with can produce amazing results.

Dominic Tancredi, CEO of end-to-end product development agency Dom & Tom, has some great advice:  “Don’t avoid the fact that you’re going to make a mistake. And don’t avoid that you’re going to be afraid.” After all, you’ll never know what you can accomplish if you don’t give it a try.


This article has been edited.

Riley Panko is a Senior Content Developer and Marketer at Clutch, a Washington, D.C.-based research, ratings and reviews platform for B2B services. She conducts relevant research that aims to help consumers enhance their business and select the services and software best-suited to their needs. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, exploring D.C. and participating in her competitive karaoke league. Connect with @RileyPanko on Twitter.


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