May 31, 2016

How much does it cost to develop an app?

Desmond Brisbin |


Software development cost is a very important factor for any entrepreneur. Besides good references, this is probably the biggest deciding factor when looking at IT or development partners (side note – if you don’t already have good references you absolutely must for any development partner). Now, building custom apps is much like building a custom home and “one price fits all” is not a suitable pricing strategy. The technical complexities and deliverables vary considerably if you’re building a rustic cabin at the lake versus an 8 bedroom estate. How much does it cost to develop your app? In short, the professional answer is “It depends”. It depends on the client specifications, the timelines, and the requirements.

A longer answer? What will it cost NOT to develop this app?  Moreover, what is the opportunity cost of not doing it well?

Let’s interrupt right away to let you know that we can’t give you a dollar figure. Not in this article, and not until after we have an understanding of what it is you want to build. If anyone is offering you a quote before having detailed knowledge of exactly what your app will accomplish and who will be using it, you should be very cautious. After our first discussions with you we can provide some ballpark estimates, and as you’ll see later in this article we can provide concrete estimates after a discovery period.

Budget discussions often lead to another question: what happens if the app fails to take off? We understand the value of money management in the early stages of the startup as we were there not too long ago. We are one of the biggest stakeholders in the future success of our clients. To explore the feasibility of your idea, we advise you to develop a deeper understanding of the target user base and get a feel of their requirements before the app development process. Successful and happy clients are the backbone and the key to our long-term success and if you have done this research before it can will help us provide initial estimates as well as set you up for success. Market research, including customer interaction is critical for the success of the mobile application.

We follow an agile process that starts with the development of an MVP (minimum viable product); further software development is guided by analysis of the software interaction and feedback by its early adopters. The resulting deliverables for each phase make excellent inputs for your marketing campaign.


PHASE 0 — Discovery Phase: (very, very, important)

We work with the client to clearly define the requirements and draw out the project workflow. The phase ensures that our clients have a concrete and a written resource document to work with. At FreshWorks Studios, we do not commit to any project without a detailed set of User Stories and/or an SRS document. It is at the end of this phase that we can provide concrete forecasts of what your app will cost to develop.


PHASE 1 — UI & UX Design:

At this stage, the focus shifts on to the look and feel of the software — i.e graphics, interactions, flow and colour scheme etc. We deliver clickable wireframes and then detailed graphic designs as part of this phase.

Wireframes can be used to showcase app functionality (UX – User Experience) without the need for any backend or server interaction. Phase 1 is critical for our clients in terms of getting real feedback on how people will interact with their app.

After this phase, you can make a decision whether to go ahead with the full blown development, or if you wish to revisit some of the initial project scope. Usually this is to limit the number of features in the MVP but sometimes additional helpful features emerge once the idea has been fully explored.

Phase 0 and 1 are small investments to better understand the feasibility and viability of the idea. We have yet to experience a client pulling the plug at this stage, but the option is still available.


PHASE 2 — Development Phase:

Despite the fact that the process is usually called app development, the actual development (programming) doesn’t begin for a while into the project.  However, this is the most extensive and laborious part. If these things were not determined through discovery, the development phase includes choosing the backend, architecture design, and data structure design. We then confirm those choices, plan ahead for 2 week sprints of agile development and we’re off to the races (pun DEFINITELY intended). During this time we recommend our clients (startups) start implementing their desired marketing campaigns while we work tirelessly to finish the app development.


PHASE 3 — QA & Testing:

During this period we celebrate and encourage finding bugs as we work to improve the overall usability of the app. We will strongly encourage you to perform UAT (user acceptance testing) and pass on the beta build to your friends, family, and members of your target audience for this app.

The beta version is a tangible product which is very close to the final version of the app. Ideally, now is the time to scale up marketing and generate excitement around the app launch.


PHASE 4 — Deployment:

Last but not the least, the mobile application is added on to the Apple app store or/and Google play store. The client takes over the ownership of the app, profiles and licenses. We provide 1 of FREE month of technical support to our customers post product delivery and will work with you to create a maintenance plan that suits your needs.

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