At Spring Digital, within the first five minutes after we hear a pitch, we’ll hear the question “So … how much will this cost us?”Our answer to that question is always going to be “It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish!”

Think about some of the most recent products or services that you’ve bought. Whether it’s a car, smart phone, or cleaning service, there are different price points depending on certain elements. And the same goes for your app or software.

You should never take on a software or app project on the ‘chance’ or ‘possibility’ of return. Even at this early stage, the value of your project can be quantified.

First thing’s first, you need to take a step back and be sure that you understand what goes into developing an app. If you understand that, you’ll understand where the cost estimate comes from.

What you need to know about the development process.

When you come to us with your great ideas, we’ll measure, discuss, dive in and ask plenty of questions. If the idea holds some benefit and the solution will return some measurable business value – which isn’t always money – then we’ll explore more.

At this point, we can come up with what we call a ‘guesstimate’ of development costs. At this point you will go elsewhere, or we’ll start rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.

If you decide to stay, we move into the ‘discovery process’, where we cover the foundation level of assets needed for the project – like requirements, wireframes, sitemaps and user flows. Only after the discovery process can we create an estimate instead of a guesstimate.

Every agency is different, but at Spring Digital, we have a fixed cost model, which most clients move forward with, because there are no hidden costs. Our model is specifically designed to add cost assurance, so our clients are getting what they’ve asked for. We don’t dabble in conversations that go along the lines of “Oh, sorry, this took longer, and we need more money”.

How much will it cost? Exploring the figures.

There are a few big factors that affect the app development costs, and that includes who builds your app, what the design costs are, what you need your app to do and what your maintenance costs are going to look like.

In terms of who develops your app, you can either go with a freelancer or an agency.   Since Spring Digital is an agency, our estimates come from that perspective.

The design phase

Where your idea comes to life visually – can range anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 for simple apps and $25,000 to $50,000 for more complex apps. The design process is usually the first step and can take around 2-6 weeks to complete, depending on complexity. The design sprint should account for roughly 10-15% of the total development budget. Take it with a grain of salt, because it is a rough estimate.

Development and coding

This is the largest function of the whole process, so it will have a significant influence on the overall budget. The cost will depend on various factors, like the app’s complexity, features, the platform used, and development and testing resources. In saying that, you can expect the costs to be anywhere between $20,000 to $1M – we know…it’s a broad range! Let’s look at a couple of examples for clarity:

  • Mobile apps usually cost between $20,000 – $400,000
  • Business apps or software cost between $50,000 – $300,000
  • Social media apps can cost between $100,000 – $200,000
  • Games are usually no less than $200,000

Projects like this need to be undertaken with your eyes wide open. If you really want to keep the estimate simple, you can take the total project hours and multiply that by the agency’s hourly rate – that will give you a rough figure. But remember to factor in maintenance and ongoing costs! These can range between $5,000 – $10,000 a year, but if success comes your way, be ready to scale up these costs.

Support, changes and upgrade – in the world of software development, you’re always going to have to implement updates, new features, bug fixes and emergency maintenance. It’s just the name of the game. The time and cost of these updates will vary depending on the nature and size of your project – for example, updating a functional aspect can take days and cost around $2,000 – $3,000 based on hourly rates, but larger features can take weeks. Consider where you want to take your business, what support you will need, how quickly you need them to respond, and then budget accordingly.