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How much mobile application development costs

Hi everyone, my name is Seva, I’m the Project Management  Director at Citronium. All my friends somehow connected with business constantly ask me two questions: “How much does it cost to make a mobile app? You know, one that’s just good. Standard, but not too expensive.” and “How much do websites cost these days? You know, the standard ones, like everyone else’s”.

At first, I said that everything was always different, but then I thought about both the questions and decided to answer them. In order. Let’s start with a mobile app. I’ve calculated the average cost of each development stage for all the components of a mobile app and got the approximate figures. In short, it is about $ 30,000 for a hybrid mobile application and about $ 45,000 for two native applications, that is one for Android and another for iOS.

Oh boy! Why is it so expensive?

For some people it is a lot of money, for others, it is not. But on the whole, it is not expensive. It just costs that much. Let’s talk about everything step by step.

The development of a “good, standard” mobile app, as well as a web product, consists of four or five stages, mostly five:

  1. Presales and business analytics.
  2. Preparatory stage.
  3. Development.
  4. Project completion, application publishing.
  5. Additional development (as required).

All these stages need people who get salary for their work, use the internet, electricity, etc.. In short, these people spend the money of the business dealing with outsourcing development . This money has to be taken back and the company should have a profit, which is the essence of any business.

Let’s speak about each stage in detail.

Presales and business analytics

This phase is conditionally free (it costs about $1500). The customer will pay for it only if he chooses us for his project implementation. At this stage, we develop a vision of the project (make the mind-map), identify key project stakeholders and their expectations, analyze the target audience of the future application, study similar solutions of competitors and as a result, we obtain the structure of the future mobile application, as well as its administration panel.

I’d like to underline that very often ( in 90% cases) a mobile app  needs an admin panel, i.e. a web application, so it makes the development more expensive.

After making the mind-map of the project structure, we start developing the technical solution and a clickable prototype of the future application (without design). The technical solution includes database structure, research and selection of libraries for the development, study of third-party APIs to be connected and a project context diagram preparation . The prototype includes the prototype. Based on these two artifacts, we give an outline estimate of the project (from start to finish) and provide the customer with estimates. If the customer agrees to continue working with us, the cost of the business analytics phase will be included in the project cost, if not – well, that’s our risk.

Preparatory stage

Design + preparation for project deployment, documentation base for the mobile application and for the content management system – administration panel (about $1800 for the stage).

We think through the app UX, create a Customer Journey Map (CJM) and User Flow, start writing a user guide for the app. We draw the UI, according to the customer’s wishes/brand book and go through a lot of design approvals.

At the same time we work on the project architecture and entity descriptions. Here the following artifacts are detalised and prepared:

  • Context diagram
  • Container diagram
  • Class diagram
  • Entity relations
  • File describing the database entities (entity tables)

The design is ready. The architecture is ready. Then we set up server infrastructure, repositories and builds (CI/CD) and start coding.

Development

We develop applications using all the rules of agile development. (This stage costs $23,000.) Keeping the customer up to date, we regularly (usually weekly, but once every 2 weeks at the start of the project ) show the results of our work and make quick changes and bug fixing. We take into account the customer’s wishes and requests during the development stage, and take additional payment for them, or remove something from the plans.

We move the cards on the Trello board, update the functionality readiness table, edit the documentation in Confluence, and, of course, create and push the new code to the repository. During the work process, we improve the project architecture, and do many other things: have meetings, review the code, test, present, etc.

Development is the longest stage, it’s often devided into many sprints and interim stages, upon completion of which we get some money. If we’re talking about “a usual, good application” (and an admin panel to it) the payment for the stage is devided like this: 30% prepayment ($7,000) + interim payment of 35% ($8,000) and final payment of 35% ($8,000), if we’re talking about a hybrid application. With two native applications, the approximate scheme is $12,000 + $14,000 + $14,000.

Project completion, application publishing

Then you pay for Apple and Google Developer accounts:

Apple: $299/year

Google: $25 (one time purchase)

The app is published, the app is reviewed. And here it is! The app is available for downloading.

There is, of course, the dreary process of filling in both development accounts, specifying all the necessary financial information, forming the terms of use and the application licence agreement, but these are details that, for an experienced team, are routine rather than a problem.

Additional development

The completion of the main phase doesn’t mean that the project has come to its end. There is something to be improved in any product, and the project manager might have a lot of ideas for features to make the application even better. We tell about them to the customer and if he/she agrees, the development continues. But in this case the price is individual and depends on the number and complexity of new features.

What else do you need to know?

First of all, the cost of cloud services. Usually it is AWS (Amazon Web Services), and it will cost from $100/month depending on how much loaded your app will be.

If the app is going to be hugely popular, get ready to spend some money on SMS messages, if you chose for registration in the spp. There’s also the cost of Push-notification services and others, but they are all optional and free (almost free) until the app gains real traction.

All in all, development is not cheap, but it does cost that much, and sometimes much more.