How much does it cost to make an app? 5 options for any budget
10 minute read
Written by Liam Donoghue, Marketing Executive
Asking how much it costs to develop an app is like asking “How long is a piece of string?”
There isn’t one defined answer. The price will vary depending on what you want the app to do and who is making it for you.
So the cost can vary, it can be as cheap as a couple $100 a month all the way up to a stone-cold $1 million for a really top of the line app.
“Thanks for the information, I guess? This hasn’t answered my question at all”
We hear you. It isn’t easy putting a price on app development and the comments above are often touted out by app developers and freelancers as it’s difficult to put a final price on something that hasn’t been built.
It’s kind of like asking a shipwright how much it would cost to build a cruise liner before he’s seen the plans. He’ll have a rough idea but there’s no way he could give you a definite sum.
Material costs, design changes, hiring labor, not to mention the possibility of the shipbuilding project running over. These all add costs to a project and it’s impossible to predict them at the onset.
The same principles apply to app development.
So, is it impossible to get an actual figure?
No, not entirely.
App development and app developer services come in several different price bands. You can find reliable ball-park figures for your app project by looking at the features you want in your app and who’s building it for you (Are you doing it yourself, hiring an agency, etc).
By taking some time to understand what is required to build an app you can start to calculate in your head how much it might cost.
Don’t have time for that? TL;DR?
Never fear, we’ve summed up the main price ranges for app development below and added a list of 5 app builder options for different price ranges. (Look out for our handy rule of thumb guides)
How much does it cost to build an app the traditional way
You might think that a simple app wouldn’t cost too much to build. But even basic apps with limited functionality can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Especially if you’re partnering with an app agency and building your idea from scratch. Simple app ideas can become extremely complex ‘under the hood’, so don’t bank on your idea being cheap because you can explain it in a sentence.
Rule of Thumb 1: Hiring a professional app agency that has a team of designers, project managers, and programmers will cost you no less than $100,000.
Using an offshore app development agency to build your app is another popular option. Many offshore agencies will quote $15 – $40K to launch the first version of your app. This sounds a lot better on the wallet than a traditional app agency but there is a greater risk.
If the price is too good to be true that’s probably because it is. Taking your development offshore can lead to miscommunication and a lack of transparency between an entrepreneur and their offshore development team. This can lead to spiraling costs further down the line when you’re trying to fix a poorly designed app instead of paying upfront for a working one in the first place.
Just for the record, we’re not saying all offshore development agencies are bad, far from it. You just need to be extra careful and have constant communication to make sure your vision is aligned with what’s being built.
Rule of Thumb 2: An offshore development team won’t cost as much as a traditional agency (around 15-40K). But that number comes with an increased risk of the project being mishandled.
The figures mentioned above need some more explaining too. Creating your app’s software is just the first step in this project. Building an app isn’t a ‘one-time’ transaction.
You don’t just give a development team your money, they build something for you, then you go your separate ways.
Proper app development relies on several development phases, each phase informs the last until you get the first version of your app. From there you need to keep testing and improving your app until you find a version that really gels with your customer.
This is called ‘product-market fit’.
Continued improvements, maintenance, and code reviews mean that your app’s development is never truly finished. It’s advisable that you keep 25% of your development budget for this post-launch phase.
You’ll need money in the coffers to continue maintaining and developing your app after launch.
Rule of Thumb 3: Be prepared to pay for constant maintenance. Building an app isn’t a onetime purchase it requires constant updates and monitoring.
Do these numbers make your eyes water? Are you shaking your head thinking “I can never afford that!”.
Don’t worry, below we’ve listed several app building options for any budget. So if you don’t fancy hiring a team of developers to build your app there are affordable solutions below to help you out.
5 app development methods suitable for any budget
If hiring an expensive team of software developers isn’t your thing there are plenty of other solutions you can use to make your own app. We’ve listed them below from the cheapest to the most expensive.
Learn to code and build an app yourself [Cheap, but you’re paying with time]
But you’re not looking to improve your CV you want to build an app. Learning the necessary coding skills is achievable and affordable (Check out FreeCodeCamp.org for free lessons) but you might find yourself sucked into a coding course for years and before you know it. . .
You’ve forgotten what app you were supposed to be developing.
Price range: $0 – $6000
Use an app development platform [We’re biassed but this is the best solution]
Save time and money by using a no-code app creation platform. There are loads of online solutions available for people wanting to build their own mobile app quickly and cheaply.
Many platforms (Like Passion.io) have a drag and drop user interface. Which means you can start building easily and with confidence. We specialize in creating e-learning mobile apps. If that’s not your thing don’t worry, you can check out our recommended app builder platform in this article.
Prices for app development platforms vary. They can start at $30 per month up to $1000 per month. Ours starts at a reasonable $79 per month. You can see our pricing below.
Buy an app template or starter kit then customize it [Can you even do that?]
Who knew you could buy an app template straight of the digital shelf!
App templates are a great resource to use if your app idea is similar to something already on the market. There are loads of app templates out there and developers sell the source code (This is a fancy way of saying the template), so you’re not doing anything illegal by buying it.
Purchasing a template cuts out a lot of the tricky coding and gives you a defined framework to work with. You’ll still need to fill the template with your artwork though and if you want to make and edits to the template you’ll have to hire a developer.
So depending on how tech-savvy you determines how viable an option this is for you.
Be aware, if you’re hiring a freelancer to help edit your template, a small job can soon snowball into a bigger one and you might find yourself paying a lot more than you expected.
A source code license can set you back around $75 – $300
You’ll also need to pay for app store hosting $99 per year
And any development and designer costs you’ll need to make the app a reality $??
Pay an offshore agency or freelancer to create your app for you. [Here comes the expense]
We’ve already covered this point above but we’ll mention it here too. Offshore agencies and freelancers can be great if you find the right one. There can be communication issues and a lack of transparency in this process though so make sure you thoroughly vet your freelancer or agency before hiring them.
Price range: $15,000 – $40,000
Pay a software company or mobile app development agency to build your app
Time to bring out the big guns.
If you believe you need a bespoke app with a lot of niche features then going with an app agency is probably the right choice for you. The large price tag comes with the assurance that there’s a dedicated team of people working on your app.
This option isn’t for everyone and if you want to control more of your product’s journey then handing off construction to a development team might be the wrong move.