Time & Cost of Building an App
From ballparks figures to driving factors, here’s the information you need to know about the time and cost of building an app.
You know it happens. Those sneaky blogs that force you to read until the bottom before they answer your question. Even worse, the ones you read that didn’t answer it at all! Not our style…
We’ve started below with some ballpark figures to help you get and idea and use the rest of the article to break this down and provide insight on the major factors and how managing them effectively can save you time and money.
As always, we’ve included some tips on the side like this for extra insight.
The cost of building an app
If you’re looking to build an app, we’d recommend setting aside at least £30,000 (GBP) towards development. We’re not saying it’s impossible to go lower but it will almost certainly result in a fairly disappointing end product. That is, if you’re budgeting for a full version that you’re expecting to go on app store(s) and be fit for use.
The time it takes to build an app
As for timing, we’d recommend setting aside at least 6 months. In our own experience, our average app built takes 7 months. This assumes that initial research and due diligence has been undertaken and that we’re including time for testing and actual launch of the app. This timeline can extend depending on the app idea itself but the longest we would recommend a build lasting would be 12 months. Such is the pace of progress in the app world that building for longer will likely result in building something that’s already outdated unless everyone involved has watertight planning, communication and execution.
It also has to be said, the time and cost of apps obviously varies depending on the app idea itself. As does the cost of specific agencies.
A little more to it
You knew it. If you’re looking for more than a ballpark figure, we’ve put together some aspects most likely to effect the time and cost of building an app. This guide gives you more than enough information ahead of meeting developers and receiving official quotes.
Know your scope
It’s easy to say. The reality is it’s much harder to do without the right guidance. Knowing your scope refers to understanding what you are looking to build into your app. Some common questions to get you started include:
Who do you want to use it?
Will everyone use it the same way? If not, what’s different and for whom?
How will users use it? Here, think about the situations/scenarios where it will get used.
What will users do on it? Are there specific functions the app will need (e.g. social media, facilitate payments, use the person’s location, etc.)
As you can imagine, the more there is to your answers and the more factors at play tend to extend both the time and cost of building an app.
As developers, we love the possibilities we see in our client’s apps. New things to excite users, open new revenue opportunities, going that extra step to that creates more value. That being said, our recommendation when developing an app is to think carefully about what you need to have in it.
This doesn’t just apply to those on a tight timeline or budget – great apps start small and build over time. Similarly, some of the best apps fail because they bite off more than they can chew. Often, it’s that there’s simply so much crammed in the user struggles to make sense of it all. The takeaway here is to be focused, specific and do a few things well.
The great things about apps is that they have so much room to evolve and grow. Over time, the app can incorporate new features and functionality and ever remove things that aren’t as popular.
Separating the ‘needs’, ‘wants’ and ‘nice to haves’
Obviously you need to prioritize. Start with divergent thinking – be very open minded in thinking of as many possibilities of directions and things the app could provide. You will know what works best for you in terms of brainstorming – it may be drawing this out as a map or creating a list (etc.). The aim is to cover as many options as possible.
Once you feel you’ve got a broad spread of the potential options, consider the people these ideas could benefit – these will be potential stakeholders. At this point, you are going to start wanting to narrow down these options. Also known as convergent thinking. It’s crucial to use as much primary research to do this as possible. Ask potential stakeholders for their thoughts. Again to get you started:
Where do they see the most value? Specifically for people like themselves.
Would they use an app for this?
If it will cost them money, would they be willing to pay for it? A one-off payment or a monthly/annual cost? If so, how much?
By this point, you will see the options narrowing down in terms of what’s desirable for your potential consumers and customers. This in itself will start to highlight potential key areas to focus in on. From here, you want to revisit your initial options and filter them down to what’s still on the table.
With this shortlist, we recommend making three categories:
Need to have | aspects that the app must have to succeed. In some cases this is dictated by what is needed for customers to be willing to pay.
Good to have | aspects that would be useful but are not essential for initial success.
Nice to have | aspects that some users like the idea of or that provide a little extra wow factor but are not essential.
At this point, you should have a fairly focused list of priorities for your app. You can use this to steer and fine-tune the app’s development as well as the associated timelines, costs and scope. You know your priorities (validated by stakeholder feedback) and can make informed decisions to make sure you get the right balance of quality end product given your timeline and cost requirements.
This stage is often done alongside an app developer or some form of expert support to help facilitate the process. This isn’t essential but can help you stay on track and get the most out of the process.
The aim of our blog is to share our experience and advice in the hope it saves you time, hassle and money. We’re keen to hear your ideas for future posts so if you have any questions or requests please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Thank you!
At Ngage, we’ve had the pleasure of developing apps for amazing organisations and entrepreneurs from around the world. From prototypes for aspiring start-ups seeking user validation to an enterprise app being gathering input for international projects spanning continents. So what have we learnt so far? More importantly, how can we use it to help you?