How much will my mobile app cost?

Alexandra Rostovtseva
Alexandra Rostovtseva, Co-founder & Business Manager at GBKSOFT
Published on Jul 08, 2016 in App Development

The most important part of the decision making process is estimating how much time the development of your mobile application will take. Usually, it passes through several stages until the final budget is determined and that alone depends on a number of factors, including:

  • How urgently you need your application to be ready for use
  • How big you need the development team to be
  • Determining what team members will be involved
  • Determining how complex your application is
  • Determining what technology and programming language the application is going to be developed on

There are several calculators available that will give you a rough idea as to how much it would cost, such as Howmuchtomakeanapp, which asks several questions to help determine an estimated cost. However, each calculator usually shows too huge of a budget amount since it utilizes a worst case scenario, instead of analyzing each of your individual features. Read more about the cost of a mobile app in this GBKSOFT guest post.

To continue, let’s define what type of quote you need in order to make a decision if you should move forward with the app at all or if you have to begin the development process.

The rough Budget

One of the most common first requests from our clients is “How much does the social media/location based/whatever app cost?” or “I want an app like Facebook. How much would it cost?”

This information is usually not enough for us to give you a rough budget because a location-based application might simply be a checking-in app OR something more advanced like a high level tracking application that includes real time chat, file sharing, and a photo recognition tool. A Facebook-like application might result in being a simple newsfeed and a following app, verses a complex application with satellite mobile applications like the Facebook Messenger app and Facebook Pages app.

In determining a budget from a situation like above, we, in GBKSOFT usually give our clients the location based/social media/whatever apps that we have previously developed, along with the time it took to develop them so that clients can get a better idea as to how much their app will cost to develop. With this information, you will have a better idea on pricing for applications of a specific size.

Usually, the rough budget is enough to make a decision if you want to go ahead with your application. However, if you have basic list of features, specifications, or even wireframes; you should already request the detailed estimate instead of a rough one.

The detailed estimate

For anyone starting the mobile development process for the first time, it can be hard to create the desired specifications and to make them easily understandable for the technical team. Clients usually concentrate on a description of business goals rather than specific features.

To simplify the process for you, we usually ask a set of questions on particular features that you'd like to see in your mobile application. This is a +/- set questionnaire that allows us to better understand the scope of the project. Apart from the questions that define your business goals, we pay particular attention to functionality options that your application should have, such as a sign up form, a sign-in process, how they will work, what information needs to be displayed in the user profile, etc. GBKSOFT team also focuses on how each of those features will meet the established business goal.

All this functionality is turned into user stories that are passed to the development team for estimating costs. The development team breaks down that functionality into logical modules with a description of what is included in each module.

You can see the individually estimated hours of each task separately and see how much time the full module will take. This gives you the freedom to scratch out any items that you do not need, any that are not as important for the current release, any that can be postponed, etc.

The development is broken down into milestones and each milestone has a duration of no more than 2 weeks. That way, you can review the scope that was completed against the control points and make sure that the development process is going as planned.

We also show you which team members are involved in the dev process and at what stage. Therefore, all hours are broken down between all members. By doing it this way, you will see which tasks are specific to one person and which ones are for all members. When a tester starts doing his or her job, you will know. You will also know how much involvement is required by the project manager for each task.

This kind of cost estimation also allows you to understand what number of team members should be involved and what technology will be best for the development process.

The overall app-development strategy for cost estimating is usually sufficient to close the deal, but this estimation process is not something that the development team can commit to. Most clients, especially new ones, are not ready to work under “Time and Material” pricing, but would rather request a budget that the development team can commit to.

Pre-development stage

The pre-development phase is the required stage that always goes before any mobile app development. This stage includes the following:

  • Technical documentation for the project is completed
  • Wireframes and designs are developed and coordinated with you
  • Use cases (not user stories) are written down
  • Technology risks are defined
  • Infrastructure for development is built

Upon completion of this stage, we give mobile app project owners the final estimate cost that we can commit to.

Usually, it differs from the detailed estimate by 20%. It can decrease or grow. We won’t lie to you, it usually grows. At least you will know about this at the very beginning of the project and will not experience a surprise somewhere in the middle of development.

The bucket approach

When the quote is ready for review and sent to the client, one of the biggest concerns that they face is when the estimation exceeds the budget that they had in mind. Sometimes it’s handled the wrong way, including:

  • Putting the idea of the mobile application aside
  • Turning to junior freelance developers that soon disappear in the end and never complete the app, which also brings them to putting the app aside
  • Searching for investors, which are difficult to obtain and to get involved in your project so you give up on idea

If the app is put aside, you lose money and your great idea is dead.

The death of your app should never happen. There’s the so called “bucket” approach, which consists of taking the budget that you have and using it for as much functionality as you can. Preference should be given to the most important features first, especially ones that separate you from your competition.

The biggest benefit of the "bucket" approach is that you can release Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and keep adding other, more expensive features later on. Sometimes, results may show that your target users don't even need features that you initially wanted to incorporate into your app. Based on their feedback, they would like to see other useful things in the app instead, giving you more power to grow.

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About the author
Alexandra RostovtsevaCo-founder & Business Manager at GBKSOFT

Alexandra is one of the three co-founders for GBKSOFT. Her experience has brought her to become one of the leaders in software development companies. She has been working on web and mobile development forever. Her job mainly consists of taking the ma...

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