cost of app development in 2020

How much does it cost to build an app in 2020? App development cost is one of the key factors that not only determines the software development approach but also the quality of applications delivered.

With mobile app revenue expected to reach $935B USD by 2023, businesses are keen on introducing mobile applications to their digital transformation strategy. They significantly boost revenue, increase customer retention rates, and enhance customer experience. 

However, this process often gets stuck in the pipeline when businesses aren’t able to make the right financial decisions related to these applications. To simplify this decision-making process, businesses need to understand the many factors that can influence the final cost of their application. 

Let’s have a look at what surveys indicate

For most application development, estimated costs are calculated based on this formula:

Total development time x hourly rate for development = cost of app development

The total development time includes time taken for planning, building features, making UI changes, and more. Most surveys indicate that this cost ranged between $5,000 and $500,000.

Business of Apps breaks the costs down by app type:

Type of App

Average cost of development

iOS

$28K

Android

$23K

Windows

$18K

While, for most of the industries, the cost for basic features and development remains the same, some intricate functionalities can effect the overall cost. As per a story by YourStory, industry-specific app development costs can be:

Industry

Average cost of development

Healthcare

$425,000

Education

$5000-$15000

Retail

$25000-$35000

Breaking down app development costs 

App development typically has four stages, with a number of key decisions involved in each. Every decision will have an impact on the final cost of development.

Here’s a look at the major cost considerations, as well as a breakdown of the differences between traditional vs. low-code development.

1. Discovery stage

The pre-research, or discovery, stage is the base for your entire mobile app development lifecycle. 

This stage covers:

  • Conducting market research

  • Studying the target market and competition

  • Visualizing the app

  • Determining the capabilities of the application

  • Setting the product roadmap

  • Risk assessment

  • Figuring out KPIs

  • Setting the timeline

Nearly 70% of app development agencies require a discovery stage before proceeding with a project.

Ideally, if the project has minimum requirements, the cost is a fixed amount. But if the application is complex, the discovery phase will also become a more detailed and in-depth exercise. 

The major factors that influence the cost of development in this stage include: 

In-house development or outsourcing? 

If you choose to get the app developed externally, the initial cost estimation is based on the product roadmap decided on by the business. This cost can either be on an hourly basis or a fixed amount. That being said, this estimate might increase if changes are introduced in later stages. In-house development is relatively cheaper and gives the flexibility to alter budgets as conditions change.

Number and complexity of features

The number of features you want to introduce in your app directly impacts its development cost. The more complex the features, the higher the price, along with the time taken to research and develop it. Application features are mostly mapped in the discovery phase, with a scope to introduce new ones in the form of updates in later stages.

Most businesses define a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) at this stage, that puts together a basic prototype with essential features. Initial development costs depend upon the key set of features decided for the MVP.

This stage of development itself, covering the research, planning, and conceptualizations, costs somewhere between $5,000-$10,000.

2. UI/UX design

This is the stage that gives you a preview of what your application is actually going to look like. This includes mapping the overall design and user journey of the application.

While there is a set amount of time and cost involved in arriving at the final application design, the cost of translating it into the application depends on the complexity of the design. Simple elements in the UI require little coding effort compared to complex elements that need to be added to the design. Subsequently, the hours invested by developers can rise, increasing the overall cost of the project.

However, if the app is being developed on low-code platforms, this step becomes easier. With a drag and drop interface and a range of precoded, customizable elements, getting the design from the drawing board onto your app becomes faster.

Low-code platforms significantly reduce or eliminate coding requirements, reducing the development cost drastically. 

This stage generally costs somewhere around $5,000 with the traditional methods of development.

3. App development

This is the core stage, where most of the budget is invested, as the actual development takes place here. This cost of development is dependent on the following factors:

Infrastructure and APIs

App features often need the support of other web-based APIs to function smoothly. For instance, adding payment gateways and integrating third-party applications increases the cost of development. Moreover, apps that require a backend to manage the functionality of the app cost more, owing to the complexity of the coding involved. 

Development approach (native, mobile, web, hybrid, etc) 

The development approach that you pick for your apps influences the final cost. For instance, if you’re building a native app, then you’ll have to build the app for each operating system separately. Hence, the price increases with each system that you develop for.

For most businesses, the cost of implementing simple features like push notifications is less than $5,000. However, the web portal used for managing the app is one of the costliest features, and it ranges between $5,000-$25,000 alone. 

However, if the app is being developed on a low-code platform,

  • You only invest in building the app once, and it automatically delivers a native app for different OSes, as well as being web compatible.

  • Low-code platforms offer one-click deployment of features and built-in API integrations, reducing the time, effort, and cost involved.

  • Ease of use and collaboration on low-code platforms also enables a rapid development cycle.

4. App testing and maintenance

Once the app is developed, it’s crucial to check its performance before launching it on the marketplace. A dedicated QA phase helps in identifying bugs that might hamper the efficiency of the application and the user experience.

Most app development agencies claim that this cost is somewhere around $5,000-$10,000. 

Clutch says that, for a year after launching an app, 28% of app development firms predict that post-launch maintenance will cost less than $5,000, while another 28% predict it will cost $5,001-$10,000. 

Thankfully, maintaining and testing the application is much simpler on a low-code platform. This is because the bugs can be fixed quickly, without the need for complex coding, and features like application diagnostics and automatic backups help in identifying and analyzing problems better.

By considering low-code platforms for building mobile applications, businesses can develop them on smaller budgets and add more powerful features, compared to traditional platforms. Moreover, this agile development process takes businesses another step toward achieving their digital transformation goals, making it an ideal option for businesses that value their go-to-market speed and plan to achieve it at significantly lower app development costs.

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