With the world nearing seven billion smartphone users, mobile apps are a part of our daily life. As a business owner, executive, or marketer, an app is a must-have for your brand.
All innovative companies must have a multi-pronged digital approach; web and mobile. You don’t want to fall behind your competition. You might be a trusted company that wants to engage customers in a new way. Perhaps you’re a startup that’s built a good customer base through some initial SEO success, but now you want to take your brand to the next level.
Building an app can be a great way to reach customers in a new, engaging way. Before you dive into app development, the first question is: how much does it cost to build an app?
You’ve come to the right place. This article will cover the cost of building an app in detail. We’ll also show you the details of how much different types of apps cost to develop.
How Much Does it Cost to Build an App?
“You get what you pay for.” You know it’s true. It goes for mobile app development, too. If you go cheap, you’ll get a product that frustrates you and your customers.
App revenue has been on a steady climb for the past decade. This year, the app industry may reach $1 trillion in revenue. In other words, business is booming. You can’t afford to provide a subpar experience, you need to invest in a mobile-first development strategy.
So, how much does it cost to build a mobile-first app? On average, the cost ranges from $15,000 to $150,000. Many large-scale apps can run $300,000 or more just to develop. These are development costs, ignoring headcount, hardware, testing, maintenance, and support costs.
Everything comes down to the complexity of the project. We’ll cover this in more detail below. Here’s a rough estimate by complexity:
- A simple app costs $15,000 to $60,000.
- A complex app costs $60,000 to $150,000.
- A custom app can start at $300,000.
These are just estimates, of course. And it’s based on the hourly fee for a developer, which is around $50/hr.
Here’s an easy formula to calculate how much it costs to build an app:
Total Development Time x Number of Developers x Hourly Rate = Cost
Easy, right? Yes, but many factors influence the cost of an app. Let’s look at those.
5 Factors that Influence the Cost of an App
With developing an app, you have choices that affect your price. The following five factors determine how much your mobile user experience will cost to build.
The Complexity of the App
The app’s complexity is the most important element in determining the cost. When you build a home, if it has more custom features, it will cost more. It’s the same for apps.
We mentioned above that there are three levels of complexity for apps: simple, complex, and custom. Here’s a breakdown of each with features, examples, and what it costs.
Building an app from the ground up has some key steps that you need to tackle one by one. Once you have an app idea and a list of resources needed to bring that idea to fruition, it comes time to dive into the development stage which normally starts with a mobile-first design.
The design complexity in your mobile app project is a natural overflow of the complexity of the app itself. The more customized, the higher the cost. You need to consider the following:
- User experience. Things like user eye patterns, button placement, color psychology, and emotional response are taken into account to ensure the user has the best possible experience.
- User Interface. The way your app looks–layout, color, font–has an impact on your cost. The app should look and feel like your brand so it stands out among others.
By approach, we mean the person or team you pay to do the work. You can hire someone and do the work in-house, a local agency, a freelancer, or an outsourcing provider.
Here are estimated salaries in the U.S. for specific roles you’ll need:
You’ll need at least an app developer and designer if not all three on your team.
Then, you have to add in the maintenance and operational costs (see next section).
Hiring staff might feel like a dream scenario. But this is probably the most expensive option. Not only do you have to pay a salary, but also benefits (if they’re full-time).
Hire a local agency
If you live in the U.S., the hourly rate is on average $135/hr. If the total time took 4 months, that cost ends up being $86,400 (135 x 16 weeks at 40/hr per week).
You also still need to include maintenance and functional costs, among other hidden fees.
This may be a good option if you have a good relationship with a local agency, have the money, and want to give them business.
But it’s far from the most affordable option.
Hire a freelancer
The average hourly charge for a freelancer ranges from $15-50/hr depending on where they are located.
Let’s stick with the example of hiring a U.S.-based person. In our 4-month timeline, that puts the app cost at $32,000.
Hiring a freelancer is one of the most affordable ways to complete any project. One of the concerns will always be a freelancer’s breadth of knowledge and experience. Can one person do everything you need for a project as complex as building an app?
Another concern is follow-through. You need to make sure you have someone who can stick with it until completion.
And once the app is completed, you must factor in ongoing maintenance and management. Every app needs to continually meet Google and Apple’s requirements. These change at least once a year. Ensuring your freelancer is available to continually support must be factored in.
Hire an outsourcing provider
An outsourcing provider is different than a local agency in that it generally does a wider scope of work. An agency will specialize. Because of that, outsourcing will be more affordable.
This is especially true if you use a company in Ukraine, China, or other countries in Asia. Here’s a snapshot of cost ranges for a few areas of the world:
- North America: $40-60/hr
- Eastern Europe: $25-50/hr
- Asia: $18-40/hr
If you outsourced to a company in Ukraine (about $30/hr), your 4-month project would only cost $19,200.
One of the downsides of outsourcing is that you will work with someone you are likely to never meet. They may even be overseas and speak a different native language than you.
On the other hand, if you are determined that experts build a custom app for you, using an outsourcing provider will be the most affordable option. Additionally, these companies are often big enough that they’ll have staff for everything you need to make sure your project is a success.
5 More Cost Considerations for Mobile App Development
If you thought that was all, there’s more. Here are five more considerations when asking, “How much does it cost to build an app?”
These are charges for using third-party integrations like SMS, geolocation, databases, push notifications, payment gateways, and more. This can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $20,000 per year
This is the amount you spend on bug fixes, updates, and server fees. Keep in mind that app servers are different from a website’s web hosting. You can expect around 15-20% of your annual costs will go toward maintenance.
In layman’s terms, the infrastructure is the software framework that supports your app. This will be one of the larger costs associated with developing the app and will vary depending on the features and services within the app.
You technically could build an app without marketing it. But why would you want to? All your hard work would be for naught. Marketing is more than just sending out a mass email to your subscribers or working on your Google ranking. That’s a good start. To go all-in, however, marketing could run you between 50-100% of the total app development cost.
We know what you’re thinking. “Wait. Security?! I just want an app!” Like websites, apps are considered business assets. And like websites, they are susceptible to cyber attacks, malware, and data breaches.
That means you need to protect your business and your customers! You’ll want to check out cyber liability insurance. Coverage costs between $900-1,500 per year.
Wrapping It Up
Building an app can be a game-changer for your business. It can increase the excitement for your brand, lead to new customers, and generate income. But it will cost you. Some businesses pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for an app. Because of that cost, developing a custom app isn’t possible for many companies.
The good news is that with Thunkable, a drag and drop app builder, you don’t need to hire a development team or outsource overseas. Create a no code mobile app for your business for a fraction of the cost.
If you want an all-in-one app development platform for no code mobile app development, Thunkable is for you. Start creating with the best no code app builder today, for free.
Ready to take your first steps towards developing that amazing idea? Get started on your app for free.