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How Much Does it Cost to Make an App?

“how much it would cost to…” “could i get a quote for…” “can I get a ballpark range…”… these are the most common questions that grace my inbox. I think the reason people keep asking this question is because there is no easy answer. Mobile apps are not a commodity product. There isn’t a set pricing schedule floating around for this or that kind of app. Layer on developers wide range of hourly rates and you have mass confusion around the real costs associated with app development!

So, I think its time to yank off the band-aid and break down:

#1 – What Goes into Developing Apps
#2 – Why It’s Difficult to Name a “Ballpark Range”
#3 – How Designers/Developers Charge for Making Apps
#4 – Defining Your Budget

What Goes into Developing Apps?

A common misconception is that mobile apps are as simple to program as a website. Although mobile computing has been around for a long time, mainstream programming for smart-phones is only a few years old. Mobile programming technologies are not as evolved web technologies, where you can have a site online within a matter of minutes. To get your app idea off the ground, expect a more involved process than you’re used to on the web.

Why It’s Difficult to Name a “Ballpark Range”

It’s actually not difficult to name a “ballpark range” if you know exactly what you want, and your developer has developed a LOT of apps. The problem is most people:

  1. Don’t have their idea completely flushed out, it’s just a basic idea
  2. Are unwilling to give all of the details (for fear of someone stealing the idea)

Know that to get a realistic estimate you’ll need to:

  1. Detail EXACTLY how the app will work (drawing mockups is recommended)
  2. Have anyone you talk to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement

How Designers/Developers Charge for Making Apps

Having worked an a design/development team I can give you the inside scoop on how we charge for making apps. It’s pretty simple really – we track our hours and create a time range for various tasks. We tie our hourly rate to our time and there you have it – an estimate.

It may seem elementary and not worth mentioning, but the reason I bring it up is to emphasize a point: use an experienced team for your project.

Only an experienced team can give you an accurate estimate.

Defining Your Budget

Development = About 50% of Your Costs

The bulk of your expenses will go towards development. iPhone/iPad apps are coded using Objective C, which is a lesser-known programming language than HTML/CSS/Javascript. Android uses Java. The talent pool for mobile development is still shallow, and you will often find hourly rates higher than your average web developer. Hourly rates for development in the US can range from $30 – $150/hour. On the other end of the spectrum you have overseas outfits charging $20 or less an hour to churn out code.

Design = About 30% of Your Costs

There are very few designers that have in-depth knowledge of how to design mobile interfaces. Visual designers and interaction designers that really know what they’re doing are able to charge a premium for producing designs, layouts and flows that will create an experience that stands out in the App Store.

App Marketing = 20% of Your Costs

A lot of information exists in the realm of web marketing. Not so for app marketing. Your best bet for success is hiring an app marketing professional that has experience watching the sales trends in the App Store. I recommend checking out an SEO reseller service for professional help, you can also contact a SEO consultant so that you can more in deep information. No one else has that kind of visibility into App Store sales. For this kind of help the minimum investment is usually around $2,500.

From here a good next step is to download the Project Outline Worksheet.

This will help you think through the details of how your app will work to get an accurate price for getting it done!


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