The process of building a mobile app is very similar to that of building a website. Just as you can buy a template to build a website, you can buy one for an app. However, most businesses need custom platforms to successfully grow their business online, and further their digital efforts.
Whenever we hear the word “custom,” we often think of prices. So just how much does it cost to build a professional mobile app from scratch for your business? If you’ve determined that building an app is the right strategic move for your company, its time to evaluate what the building process will look like in terms of time, cost, and manpower. So here is what to expect when you’re expecting…a mobile app.
Hours: 30 hrs. for a simple app, to 150 hrs. depending on complexity.
Cost: $125 - $250/hr.
Team: 1 strategist, but can call for a team based on the project size.
Just like a website, how much an app will cost is largely determined by the number of features the app will have. The more elements that the platform demands, the more planning and people that will have to be assigned to it. Before you can start to design and built the app, you need to have a clear understanding of what your goals are. How is your app different and how is it going to be used? The strategy process will evaluate all of this, while also looking at who your audience is, and analyzing what their wants and needs are. The manpower and time required to complete a strategic plan will vary based on the size and complexity of the project. Smaller ones will naturally be easier, while larger projects that call for additional tasks, such as stakeholder interviews, would require more resources.
Information Architecture & Usability
Hours: Between 40 – 500 hours
Cost: $125 - $250/hr.
Team: 1 – 2 people, along with the strategist
The information architecture is where the project begins to really take form. One or two people work with the strategist to come up with the right layout for the app. This includes structural diagrams, wireframes, and specification documents. These plans lay the foundation for how everything is going to work within the app. The functionality and the way in which the user will navigate the platform is determined through these plans. Simple apps can take less time to do this, however an app that requires more customization, such as Uber, can take up a lot more hours of planning how an individual will interact with each aspect of the app.
Mock-ups in Photoshop
Hours: Between 160 – 1,000 hours
Cost: $125 - $250/hr.
Team: Can range from 1 designer, to an entire team
When you design a website, you ideally want a responsive design that adjusts to fit into desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. However with an app, you only need to worry about mobile platforms. This process is what ties together the strategy and the information architecture, and brings color and life to your mobile app. These mock-ups are usually done through Photoshop, and they can be simple visual representations, or they can be interactive to give you a better idea of how your app will actually perform. The complexity and usage of the app will play a large role in how long it will take the designers to make these mock-ups. It can be anywhere from one designer taking 2 or 3 weeks, to a whole team of designers contributing up to 3 months of work to the project.
Coding & Quality Assurance
Hours: Between 1,000 – 10,000
Cost: $125 - $250/hr.
Team: Full team of around 10 people
The development and maintenance of the app is where the actual building takes place. Your app will be continuously tested as it is being built to ensure its functionality through each step of the process. As a general rule, 20% of the development process will be dedicated to testing the product. Meaning that for every 5 hours of development that takes place, 1 hour of quality assurance should be following it.
As always, the complexity of the project will reflect the size of the team needed to build it. But generally you will be assigned a System Administrator, an Account Manager, a Technical Lead, Digital Strategist, Designer, IA/UX team member, a Quality Assurance individual, and 1-3 developers. This can range from company to company, but this is typically the people that will be assigned to your custom app.
All of these individuals will help in the launching of the app, maintenance of it, and collection of feedback to ensure that it is regularly performing the way you intend it to.
The launch of your app is the fun part. However, there is still some work that needs to go into the marketing of the product to make sure it gains visibility and traction especially during those first few weeks following the release. Take a look at our previous blog post that covers more information about sending your app out into the market.
Continued Quality Assurance
Even after your launch, you will need a quality assurance team that is responsible to stay on your app in order to make sure that it is working properly and consistently. They are your maintenance team who will be able to regularly improve your app, and add updates whenever necessary.
For a general idea, a simple customized app will cost about $35,000-$50,000, while the mid-level designs will range from $75,000-$100,000. High-end, complex and deeply tailored mobiles apps will typically be $200,000 and above. Different companies will charge different amounts, but these costs are based off of a $150/hr. pricing model.
Development rates in the US can range from $125-$250 an hour. Overseas prices can tend to be less expensive, and while you may not necessarily be losing quality in the finished product, you do lose a lot of control. If a company doesn't deliver what they promised you, there is very little you can do about it to rectify the situation. However, even having some parts of the app completed within the US can hold the business accountable for what you agreed upon. Having the entire project outsourced can be risky, so it is ideal to work with a global or US-based company.
In terms of timing, 400 hours would be the very minimum for building a low-end app, while other projects can take up as much as 10,000 hours. Apps like Amazon require more functionality with customer information and marketing integration, causing designs like these to take up a lot more time.
If you are looking to build a mobile app for your business and are interested in a deeper understanding of pricing, please contact Blue Fountain Media, or request a quote today.