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How are mobile app development cost estimates calculated?

Amit Ashwini
June 14, 2017

You have a mobile app vision and it's time to make it a reality. There's only one thing standing in your way - figuring out how your development budget. App costs may range from $20,000 to $500,000, so the differences in prices are significant. You don't want to find out your available resources for launching an app aren't nearly enough to match your feature and functionality list. Many factors influence mobile app development costs, so your first step in the creation process is calculating the cost estimate. This figure doesn't always match your final price, but it provides an excellent foundation during the planning stages.

Key Cost Components in Mobile App Development

You start by breaking down the mobile app development project into individual components. This process gives you greater visibility into the factors influencing your price and helps you understand where the money is going. Here are common mobile app components:

App complexity - The biggest influence on your mobile app development cost estimate is the type of app you want. Some apps function as glorified web browsers, with basic features and content. Other apps introduce complicated workflows, high end designs, and include everything but the kitchen sink. Their development time not only takes longer, it may also require specialized developers.

Platforms - You generate additional expenses if you want to launch your mobile app on multiple platforms.

Timeline - The development time influences your budget in two ways. The first is that the project timeline impacts how many hours you pay for. The second way concerns accelerated timelines. If you push for faster deployment, you need more people to get the job done within this schedule. You rack up more man hours for your app, which increases the cost.

Integration - Do you need your app to work with third-party applications, APIs or data sources? Proper integration increases your app's complexity and introduces more testing variables.

Scaling - If you want your mobile app to gracefully scale with usage, you need flexible architecture designed to accommodate this scenario.

Location - Mobile app developer costs vary worldwide, so the location plays a significant pricing factor.

Planning - Did you spend a lot of time planning out the app's functionality, researching your audience's needs, understanding a realistic timeframe for the app project category, and gathering the necessary resources to make the project a success? A properly planned out mobile app development project helps you avoid unexpected costs.

Features - How much functionality does your app need? If you only want a handful of basic features, your costs remain relatively low. If you want many features, you need to accommodate that in your budget.

Design - Don't forget about the costs to create your user interface and any necessary graphics. Costs like font licensing and stock imagery also fall under this category.

Administration - Your app may need administration support, whether you're monitoring user data or running a community.

Testing/QA - App testing is essential throughout the development process. You can't guarantee a good user experience without confirming that all features work as intended. You don't want your mobile app launch marred with bad reviews because you didn't remember to budget for extensive QA.

Deployment - These costs cover your app's launch, such as advertising it on your website or placing it on app stores. Factoring in Changes and Scope Creep

Even the best planned project may need changes. Sometimes a competitor puts out a mobile app too similar to what you're developing, or you find out your users actually want something completely different out of their mobile experience. Regardless of the cause, you get put in a position where you need to adjust during the course of development. You want to keep a careful eye on "scope creep," which refers to adding requirements throughout the course of the project. Your original mobile app development scope changes and may require far more work or time than the original cost estimate covered. Try to hold part of your development budget as a contingency to cover these unpredicted costs.

Your mobile app development cost estimate gives you a starting point on your project. When you consider every cost component of your app, as well as expecting the unexpected, you put yourself in a better position to stay on time and close to your original budget.

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Amit Ashwini