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Product Development

How much does it cost to build an MVP?

Nisha Gopinath Menon
September 25, 2017

If you’ve already started shopping for the right vendors or freelancers to work on your MVP, you would have come across the huge disparity in the prices they quote. Often the disparity in the prices they quote is so huge that you begin to wonder whether all those prices are to build the same MVP. Before we get into the right pricing and how to determine whether the quote is correct, you as startup founders and product leaders should go deep. Meaning, break down the requirements and prioritize. This will help you understand whether what you’re looking to build is truly an MVP or a prototype.

I’m sure you already have a basic understanding of what an MVP is. Even so, let’s go through it quickly to make sure our definition matches. If you’re building one-half of a product, call it the first version. It’s not an MVP. Now, both an MVP and a prototype is meant to test out a hypothesis. However, with a prototype, you won’t get anything more than feedback. An MVP, on the other hand, has to fulfill the primary function you envision for your product, it should be able to collect valuable data from actual user engagement. An MVP is what comes after the prototype. A prototype isn’t always necessary unless you’re looking for an opportunity to get feedback. Freelancers are more likely give you prototypes when you’re actually expecting an MVP.

Why do I need an MVP?

If you’re looking to build the next big thing, start with an MVP and find yourselves a competent team to help you do so. Look at your MVP as the initial product version, cheaper and wiser than building a fully finished product in one go. The major advantages of building a Minimum Viable Prototype are:

  • Consumes less money
  • Reduces business risks
  • Makes it easy to enter the market
  • Provides genuine feedback from target users
  • Demands less investment

What do I have to think of first?

To build an MVP application, you need a sound marketing strategy in place. You’ll need all the details, specifics, tools, team and MVP development plan. You’ll have to decide what type of MVP it is going to be and the app features, critical to include. The point is not to launch a full-featured product. Instead, adopt an iterative approach to product development and add additional functionality within time, armed with validated data.

Begin by asking yourself what your end vision for your product is. What are the fundamental assumptions you need to validate to prove that the ultimate goal is attainable? This is the central question your MVP should aim to answer. Now, according to your budget and needs, decide whether you’ll go for a throw-away MVP, which will get discarded the moment there is a need to scale or to go with a platform over which you can continue to add additional features. These decisions require a technical input and often a lot of research as well.

What will it cost me?

The tricky part to MVP mobile app cost is that it differs, and depends on various factors. A freelancer would charge around $4,000 to $15,000 for an app prototype. If you hire a development company, they will tell you it should cost between $20,000 to $30,000, depending on the scope of work. The constant here is, all estimates regarding an MVP price is based on an hourly rate. So are they even talking about the same MVP? No.

Design and functionality are the two integral aspects of an MVP development. You have to see how a user interface would eventually look like. Does it keep users engaged? Is it simple and eye-catching? Is the navigation sound? Customized gestures, buttons and transitions will cost you — it's not at all cheap being beautiful.

Here we are going to assume that what you're looking for is not a throw-away MVP but in fact, a scalable, API based platform which can sustain many iterations of back-end and front-end improvement. In this case, the total MVP cost will be around $30,000.

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Nisha Gopinath Menon