How much does it cost to develop an app in 2022?
Your business needs an app, but you aren’t sure about the cost of creating an app. Without some figures, you can’t even begin to estimate the potential budget, so let’s get you sorted with the information you need to make your app a reality.
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This guide will help in the following topics:
Develop in-house or outsource?
This is the first question to ask yourself. You might have a kick-ass team of coders in your company, but do they have the necessary experience to take an app from design to delivery? Even if they’re great at solving problems, fixing bugs, and dealing with internal problems, they might struggle to create an app. Going with your in-house team might seem attractive at first, because you already have them on your payroll, but you need to consider that their existing workload will suffer if you ask them to take on an extra project. You could ultimately fail to deliver an app if you go in-house and also end up costing yourself more in terms of lost work and demoralized teams.
If you just want to make a really basic app, then you might get away with it. Otherwise, it’s best to seek out an external partner who can take your idea and develop it with no fuss and no drama. Get more insights in the "In-house development vs outsourcing software development" article.
The average cost of developers per region
When you decide to outsource app development, that opens up a world of potential developers. This can make a big difference to your budget and the average app development cost. Different countries have different costs of living and this will be reflected in how much developers based there will charge.
You need to factor in complications such as time zones or potential language barriers, but these days most serious development teams are experienced and motivated enough to overcome these complications.
Luckily, plenty of research has already been carried out on how much it costs to develop an app in, for instance, the US, India, Europe, or Asia. Based on a survey of over 167 mobile app development companies across the world, GoodFirms reports that you will see huge differences between these regions. While an American developer might charge $100-150 per hour, a European developer could bill at $35-55 per hour, and Indian developers might cost $20-35 per hour.
How much does it cost to develop an app in each region?
Armed with hourly rates for developer time from its surveys, GoodFirms estimates app development costs in the US at $38,200-91,000 for a simple app, $55,000-131,000 for a complex app, or over $150,000 for an advanced app. The numbers aren’t too different if you go for Australia or Canada, but they plummet down to just $30,000 for an advanced app if you choose an Indian development team.
Based on an average hourly rate of $65, GoodFirms came up some estimates that we’ve rounded for clarity:
Simple app: $25,000 to $60,000
Complex app: $36,000 to $85,000
Advanced app: $60,000 to $137,000
The main takeaway here is that, besides the vast differences across the globe, once you modify that $65 average dev rate, apps will cost more depending on how complicated they are. Let’s briefly explore what makes an app simple, complex, or advanced.
App development cost based on complexity
A straightforward way to assess complexity is to use how much time it would take to develop the app. A simple app might take hundreds of developer hours while a complex app might take thousands. But that also depends on how efficient the team is. At the end of the day, the average cost of app development is all about features.
Simple app: might include basic features such as a login screen, user account management, file upload and download, search, and admin tools to manage the system. There might be limited integrations with other apps, such as the ability to send messages or get data from external websites. You should expect it to take 3-6 months for the app to be completed.
Complex app: take everything that a simple app offers and add a lot more. A complex app will include many more integrations, profile feeds, payment gateways, media streaming, image galleries, and more complex file management. The admin tools will also be beefed up to offer things like order management, analytics, security controls, or extensive database management from within the app. Development of a complex app can take 6-12 months.
Advanced app: now we’re getting into the world of some of the big-name online apps you use every day. An advanced app will include multi-language support, versioning, backups, lots of user customization options, and might even take advantage of cutting-edge AI or augmented reality. Could take as long as 12-24 months to develop.
App development cost breakdown based on development stages
Once you’ve decided on how, and where, you’re going to create your app and you have established realistic expectations, you should understand the phases of development that it will go through before it goes live.
Research: also known as discovery, this is where requirements are clarified, user stories prepared, and the goals and deliverables of the project finalized. The discovery phase is when stakeholders are consulted, and risks or threats assessed. If this phase is carried out thoroughly, the budget for the project should start to become clear. Note that Clutch research found that “70% of app development agencies" require a discovery stage before moving forward with a project”, so it should be taken seriously.
Design: the development team will need wireframes, diagrams, and a clear idea of what the app should look like when completed. The design phase will take longer, and be more expensive, depending on the number of screens, the complexity of the user interface, and the extent of user-facing visual elements that need to be created.
Development: this is when the dev team knuckles down into sprints and makes the app come to life. Each feature will add to the cost in this stage, as will changes or added functionality. The best way to keep the development phase on track and on budget is to have prepared properly in the first two phases and not to get tempted to redesign or expand the app during development.
Testing: the app works, but does it work as expected? Automated tests will identify some problems, but usability testing will probably need human users to ensure that the correct functionality and user experience have been delivered.
Support: it would be nice if apps survived exposure to the real world without needing maintenance and support. In practice, bugs and unexpected behavior will always arise eventually. Sometimes these result from changes in how integrations work, or from modifications to databases that the app relies on. Fixing the app might not be too difficult, but it is essential to remember and budget for this final, but ongoing, phase.
What should you include in app costs?
We’re back to complexity here, but at a more granular level, where even a simple app has to be assessed for how complex it will be. So what factors do you need to take into account?
Many apps and programs start off straightforward, but feature creep hits them during development until they become a bloated mess. It makes sense to add the features you and your users need, but it’s much easier, and cheaper, to plan them before you start building. Stick to the design, get the app finished, then worry about adding extra features.
The same applies to adding functionality. You might start off by designing your app so that users can choose a username when they sign up. Pretty straightforward, but maybe you decide to make it possible to change the username close to the end of development. That apparently tiny change hides a lot of complexity that will need to be incorporated into the design and even the database architecture.
Number of screens
The more screens, the more your app will cost. A screen can be considered any graphical user interface or view of the app that will be presented to a user or an admin. Those screens will need to be designed and optimized for usability, the graphical elements sourced or created, and they will ultimately have to be tested on a range of different devices. If you need more than about 20 screens, your app might be considered complex or even advanced.
UI and UX
This ties into the number of screens, but also applies to the app as a whole. User interface and user experience are important aspects of app design, especially if you’re creating an app for users not connected to your company. If you just need something internal, you might be able to get away with a barebones look, but modern Internet users demand a lot more style and pizzazz.
Administration and backend infrastructure
If you just need the admins of the app to be able to log in and reset user passwords or delete accounts, the admin interface can be simple. If you need advanced dashboards, payment or order management, analytics, or automation, your app will increase in complexity. The backend covers everything from the servers used to store data to third-party software used for security, and even APIs that might charge for every request sent to their systems.
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These can include licensing fees for using images or design elements, legal fees, or fees for releasing your app on mobile platforms. They can add up, so you need to include them in your budget from the beginning. This is much easier if you’re working with a team that has a lot of experience in building apps, as they’ll have been down this road many times before and warn you of potential hidden costs.
Want to learn how we work? Read the recent case study on how we built a mobile app for our client, Fairphone, in a short period and on budget.
Tips to reduce your app development budget
If you’re worried that your budget isn’t going to get you the app you want, there are ways to cut costs. Here are our top 5 tips for reducing the cost of app development while still completing your project. Each of these could cut your final costs by a significant percentage.
Go with an MVP
A minimum viable product might seem like a disappointment if you were planning an app with all the bells and whistles, but you will probably find that you can achieve a lot if you focus on core functionality. Get the MVP made, test it on your users, identify what needs to be added, and repeat. Eventually, you’ll find yourself with a full-featured app, but you will have learned how to optimize your budget along the way.
Rely on SDKs wherever you can
Software development kits are great for letting you do things in your app without having to build functionality from scratch. If your development team uses third-party tools or code, this could trim weeks or months off your development schedule – and thousands off your development budget.
Consolidate design and development
If you can find a reliable company that can do both design and development effectively, you won’t need to deal with communication problems when going from the drawing board to coding. A team that has experience working together will have already optimized their workflows, which means that you have one less headache to manage.
If you know that you want to support users on different platforms, it can make a lot of sense to develop using a cross-platform framework. It can be tempting to think that you can develop on one platform and then just replicate your app on another, but there are a lot of risks involved in limiting your potential audience from the start.
Forget about old models or operating systems
This might seem to run counter to our advice about making sure you can reach a wider audience, but it’s often just not worth it to support older devices. When it comes to iOS and Android, even just a couple of years makes a huge difference. This might not be possible for a banking app that needs to support the entire client base, but for many other apps it can make sense to focus on consumers who keep up to date.
Not sure what should be developed first? Read more on how much the software development cost at Blocshop depending on the size of the software, technology is being used, and team size. If you need the custom price estimation, fill our software price calculation form to tell more about your project so we can get back to you with a detailed cost breakdown.