How Much Does It Cost to Make an App?

If you've ever had an app idea (and who hasn't) your passion to make it happen can consume you for weeks -- until you realize you've hit a wall: you have no idea how to build it, how long it'll take, and how much it'll cost. You write it down in your idea journal and get back to your day job, occasionally bringing it up at dinner parties. Eventually, at one of those dinner parties, your new friend whips our his or her phone, "Oh, so your idea was like this new app, right? Yeah, it's great - they just raised $10 million to hit every college campus!" You're furious. But for the next idea, you don't have to be. For that next one, you can get it built. 

But how much is it going to cost? 

As an application developer, this is above all the most common question I hear. And it's like asking a property developer how much it costs to build a house. Are you looking for a mansion or a shack? Do you want a house made of straw, sticks, or brick? Do you want a custom home or a tract home?

Just like a house, the variables in developing an app are endless, and the answer to the question varies depending on these variables. In order for someone to be able to tell you how much it costs to make an app, you must first outline the desired qualities.

Here's how to get started.

First, Develop a Storyboard

The first place to start is defining what you want your application to do. An easy way to do this is to “storyboard” your app. The storyboard, or wireframe, is like the blueprint in the house analogy. The goal for developing a wireframe is to capture functionality and flow. This is not the time to worry about the actual aesthetics of the application yet.

It’s important to start from the beginning, which is when a user first launches the app. Think about what the first thing they see will be and what options they will have going forward. On the home screen, if they tap the first menu selection, what happens next? Continue this line of questioning throughout the application and think about how a user will navigate the app

To create wireframes, some designers use a design tool called Balsamiq. You can also download this PowerPoint template, which you can use to create a digital wireframe with PowerPoint’s drawing tools or print it out and draw the design by hand. 

Next, Understand the Details

Beyond the storyboard, there are other factors that will impact the development and cost of your application.

For example, whether or not you need to integrate your app to an existing backend or develop a completely new backend is something to keep in mind. Nowadays, most new apps either need to interact with an existing backend or call for the creation of a backend to support the app.

Integration to a third party vendor is another variable to consider. Many features that used to be expensive to develop, like push notifications and mobile commerce, can now be affordably added by leveraging third party vendors. If your app requires extensive integrations to third party vendors, you may need to put together an architectural diagram in addition to the wireframe.

Third, Get an Estimate

For the most part, a developer should be able to provide a quote based on your wireframe (and architectural diagram, if you have one). You can find reputable U.S. based developers on Thumbtack, TheymakeApps, or Gigster - which offers a free, quick quote.

You can also find freelancers and offshore teams at Upwork. Be cautious, though. I’ve talked to clients that have used developers from these sites and it seems to be a mixed bag; while I’ve spoken to a few people that have had good experiences with these sites, I’ve also heard some horror stories about them, so beware.

If you feel like your app concept is the next Uber, it’s okay to ask the developer for an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) or to ask them to sign your NDA. When you go through this process, you’ll find that quotes range vastly. My recommendation is to throw out the highest and lowest quotes and instead focus on the mid-range quotes.

Last, Consider the Alternatives

Like most technology, application development has become commoditized to some extent. If you have little budget for app development, you may consider DIY (Do It Yourself) App services like iBuildApp or Seattle Cloud. There is also a middle ground where a developer can create a robust but cost effective solution based on templates. Apptology offers a cost effective app development solution using templates called ReadyBuilt. Mobile Roadie is another developer that uses template. Apps based on templates are primarily used to promote a business or to provide content and are typically a fraction of the cost of developing apps from scratch.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the answer to “How much does it cost to develop an app?” is “It depends.” If you are thinking about developing an app, take a little time to create a wireframe. Just like the blueprint of a house helps property developers estimate the cost of a home, the wireframe will help you flush out your concept and will greatly assist a developer in providing a solid quote for your application.


    Hey, here's one article published at the Cleveroad Inc. blog - https://www.cleveroad.com/blog/how-much-does-it-cost-to-create-an-app There's infographic How much does it cost to create an app? and also at that blog you could find information about How much costs app like Instagram, Uber, Vine, Postmates, Whats up etc.

    Reply 1

    For those, who would like to know the estimates for developing an app, we specifically wrote an article. It explains the factors influencing the app development cost and gives the average rates, check it out:

    Reply 1

    Brief, basic but good and info-packed article, nice job!

    Reply 0

    The best dev shops charge a monthly burn rate rather than a sum for a "project" because they understand 1) Every app is completely different and will therefore take a different amount of time to build and 2) Every client is completely different and the number of iterations on an app can essentially be infinite. Another factor to consider is speed of execution. If you want you app to be built in 3 months, it's possible, but you'll need more engineers working on it. Your monthly burn rate will thus be higher. Finally you need to consider whether you want you app to run on iOS and Android or only on one of the two - building apps on each of these platforms is completely different, both are built individually.

    Would be worth going into a lot more detail in this article Rich! But as it's nice and simple, it's probably more readable, if that's what you were going for.


    Reply 0

    Good article. An app is one of the most effective tools for business growth. The best ways to hire a developer is to have them build a prototype app: a light, bare essential app to make sure that the company has the necessary skills to see your project through. See more at: https://www.softwaredevelopersindia.com/blog/app-business-costs-for-startups-and-entrepreneurs/

    Reply 0

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    Reply 0

    The cost of an app really depend on a developers team. The usually work on hourly rate and this rate really varies from $5 up to even $500 per hour. If you want more details, check it out https://thunderrise.com/blog/how-much-does-it-cost-to-develop-an-appa

    Reply 0

    Often clients ask for app development cost so that they can compare mobile app development quotes of different companies and choose the best fit as per budget, efficiency and services offered. See more at: https://artjoker.net/blog/how-much-does-it-cost-to-develop-a-mobile-app/

    Reply 0

    There are a lot of factors and details, for example: number of platforms, is it going to be simple or comlete business service, how many parties are going to be involved? So all these factors have an influence on the final price of mob apps. More information you can read in this article http://idapgroup.com/blog/how-much-cost-develop-custom-app/

    Reply 0

    The cost of the application will always change, for some reason, so that you would understand how the situation is currently happening in the market: https://www.cleveroad.com/blog/mobile-app-cost-calculator--how-to-choose-the-best-one

    Reply 0

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