A quality mobile app built in Australia will cost between $50,000-$250,000+. A start-up looking to develop an app with a basic feature set for an MVP is likely to cost between $50,000-$100,000. Businesses wanting to digitise internal processes or integrate with other systems should expect to pay $100,000-$250,000 for an app.
These are the six factors that influence how much it costs to build an app:
- number of platforms (iPhone, Android, Web)
- number of screens
- app design
- app integrations
- backend development requirements
- number and complexity of the app features
Not yet ready to develop your app? An app prototype can be a cost-effective first step for founders and businesses. Created using design tools, an app prototype allows users, stakeholders and investors to interact with and explore your app on their phone.
1. Number of platforms
How many platforms you require has a huge influence on how much your app will cost to build. Will you be engaging a developer for iPhone app development, Android app development and to create a web app?
“Every time you add a new platform,’’ says Guy Cooper, Managing Director of Wave Digital, “that will, typically, increase the cost. We can use newer technologies such as React Native to build for both iPhone and Android platforms. However you will often still need certain elements written natively and you always have to test on both platforms."
We also find that clients approach us asking for a mobile app. But in fact, to achieve their goals, they require both a web app and a mobile app. A web app is typically used to manage the administration of the mobile app. For instance, managing the content, business reports, push notifications and users.
A good example is the Educator Passport App we built for our client, Chisholm Institute. Chisholm required a web app that their administrators could use to manage the professional development platform available through the mobile app. This included the capability to update course content, generate reports on Educator performance and view user information. The iPhone and Android app was therefore a relatively small part of the design and development engagement. It was the web app that accounted for a significant portion of the app development cost.
2. Number of screens
It may sound simple, but every screen on your mobile app requires design and development effort. Therefore a simple mobile app with five screens will generally cost less to build than an app with twenty screens. One way to reduce the cost of your app build is by reviewing your app features and therefore the number of screens (see point 6 below).
3. App design
The more bespoke the app design, the higher the cost to build your app. Think about when you build a house - you can pick a house design from a developer, or you can approach an architect to design a custom built home. App design is the same. A designer could use the standard design components provided by Apple in their iOS human interface guidelines. Alternatively, if a client is seeking an app that looks unique, the designer can create something tailored to their needs. This customised design would involve more effort, and therefore, would be more costly.
The interactions included in your app - the way an image loads, the way it responds to how you swipe, how a button animates when it is pressed - also impacts on app cost. Simplifying these interactions will provide opportunities to reduce the cost to build your app.
4. Backend development requirements
When you build an app, it can be standalone or require backend development. A backend will add to the cost of your app build.
A backend is essentially an API which facilitates the transfer of data between your app and a cloud hosted database. It is best explained with an example. Wave Digital's Les Verbes app has been developed as a standalone iPhone app and Android app. The app does not recognise who uses it and Wave Digital has no access to the responses to the french verb questions. We could build a backend to facilitate data transfer from the app. This backend would then enable us, for example, to write some business logic to tailor the questions to the user's history.
5. App integrations
If your app is required to integrate with other systems, then the type of integration will be a big influence on app cost. Is it a proprietary integration or an integration to a well-documented publicly available API?
A good practical example of how integrations are used within an app is Wave Digital's VicTraffic app for VicRoads. The app uses proprietary integrations to internal VicRoads enterprise systems, as well as integrations with publicly available APIs (ie. Google Maps).
Also, the nature of the integration will have an impact. At its simplest level, your app may send data to the other system. A more complex integration may involve the data flowing both ways. Is the supplier of the other system in a position to make changes to their API to facilitate the integration? Or if that's not possible, will you need to build logic to enable the integration to occur?
6. Number and complexity of app features
The number and complexity of your app's features will impact the app cost.
Every time you have a feature - for example, a map interface, payments, social media, push notifications - there is an additional cost. This is because for each feature, the interfaces will be designed and the rules/business logic associated with the features created. The more complex the business logic (and developer effort) the higher the cost will be.
There are countless ways a feature can be implemented, meaning clients have a lot of scope to influence their app cost. An example is a sign up feature. A base option would be requiring a user email and password. Another, more expensive option would be to allow sign in via google, facebook or LinkedIn. Both achieve the same outcome but have different levels of developer effort.
We suggest clients consider what they really need to test with the launch of their app. How far do you need to go in version one and what can be prioritised for future releases?
A few more things to consider
Some methods are better than others and some methods are costlier than others. The key is knowing which process best suits your concept – and your budget. “The fact is, you can build an app for pretty much any budget, from $50,000 to $250,000,’’ says Guy. “It really does depend, among other things, on what you are trying to achieve, which app developer you are trusting to build your app, what tools they are using and how rigorous their processes are.”
What is critical for first-time software developers is knowing that you will need to extend your budget beyond version one, so you shouldn’t spend it all up front. For example, if you have an app budget of $150,000, then spend $100,000 on the first version and spend $50,000 on iterations. Also remember that there are other costs that go into building an app that many people don’t consider, like legals and marketing.
Looking for tailored advice about your app idea?
We offer free 30 minute consultations with Wave Digital's Managing Director, Guy Cooper, who can provide you with:
- A clear understanding of what would be involved with your app project, including a realistic expectation of cost/time
- Insight into the most important things you should consider for your project before you proceed
- Recommendations on next steps
We would love to hear from you. Get in touch with us today.