How much does it cost to build a mobile app or website?

The current times of pandemic are challenging, but as they say sometimes a tough time may be the right time to start. If you are planning to foray into the world of digital, now is the time to take that one step and convert your idea into a digital product which solves problems for its intended users or helps you in managing your business better. While the core of a business more or less remains the same, the operational and engagement rules keep going through various changes and enhancements, these enhancements have a significant impact on the way business needs to be conducted. As an entrepreneur if you are planning to build a website or a mobile app for your idea, it is important to get some clue about this crucial question which is  ‘How much would it cost to build a website or a mobile app?’. A simple Google search of this question generates 4,93,00,00,000 results (0.84 seconds), trust this question is worth a millions. 

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How much does it cost to build a mobile app or website?

The first few pages of the search would give you information like, a basic app with few screens would cost anywhere between US$ 10,000 to US$ 50,000 and complex apps can cost anywhere between US$ 50,000 to US$ 100,000. If you take a step further and talk to some of the app development companies and app developers, your confusion may only increase further. Confusion would be there because the price variations and quotes may be received from different teams, having different levels of experiences which would vary. Let me try to share an example with you, which could help you prepare better to get a response to this million dollar question. I was introduced to a prospective customer by a common friend. The prospective customer who is into off-line trading with a retail outlet was looking for an Omni-channel app design and development and was very keen to get it done.

The state of the customer was as follows:

  1. Retail outlet in a premium locality of tier-1 Indian city, with a size of 1000 sq.ft 
  2. Staff of 4 to 5 spanning across counter sales and daily business operations 
  3. An off-line local system installed on computer for billing and inventory (Customer had no clue on what technology this system was built on)
  4. The requirement of the customer was:
    1. Omni-channel eCommerce solution with Mobile Apps on Android and iOS and a responsive website
    2. Backend of the solution with APIs, hosting on Cloud
    3. Admin and Desktop portal/interface for:
      1. Billing and inventory management 
      2. Custom marketing module with ability to design retail coupons and offers as per business needs
      3. GST integration and filing
      4. Ability to handle GST with returns management
      5. Loyalty 
      6. Unified approach for syncing off-line and online inventory and bunch of more features which are part of some of the top tier eCommerce solutions

The customer was a well-informed customer and had collected few proposals:

  1. Quotation from a freelancer – who assured to build the complete solution with omni-channel presence in 4 to 5 weeks and the cost was extremely optimised
  2. Quotation from a local company from the city in which he was residing – the company gave a quotation of design and development of the entire solution in span of 12 weeks – the cost was higher than the freelancer but the proposal did not have details about architecture or breakdown of key technology components
  3. A similar company like the previous company with a working demo and a cost slightly higher than the previous company with a complete end to end delivery time of 12 to 14 weeks

Now the issue was, all 3 proposals were on the same tech-stack but each had their own understanding of the customer’s requirement. All the 3 proposals did have few points in common:

  1. All proposals had a very high level mention of the tech stack involved
  2. None of the proposals had any mention on UI/UX and the effort involved on same
  3. None of the proposals had any mention of Gantt chart or release timelines (proposals at a high level just talked about calendar weeks of delivery)
  4. No clarity on how will the user-features specified in the proposal be accepted by the prospective customer
  5. No mention of how testing would be done
  6. No clue on post launch support

Most of the time when we try to get a proposal for technological implementation, as a business/product-idea owner we think we have absolute clarity about the idea and we know it all, but when the software requirement team starts talking about it, we seldom are able to give them clarity about each of the features. If you need to get a quality proposal which is realistic you need to give full details to the team with whom you plan to engage or take the proposal. Technology is not cheap, there are ways to do quick work but it would be quick work and would be good as a frugal solution, if you are settling for numbers because something is going to be low cost, be prepared the outcome of such design and development may be frugal.

There is no magic formula which can give you the exact cost of software development. But I will try my best to share a few pointers with you which can help in getting a right price from various software developers and companies.

Below mentioned points can help you prepare better and thus result in getting a right cost for your dream idea:

  1. Sharing and talking with various development tams about your core business idea and how would you monetise from the app/website – if the idea is what you value, do enter into signing of a Mutual NDA instead of signing a one sided NDA
  2. Thorough information about your target users, if you are not sure you could discuss this with the design and development company and they could do it for you, at BiCSoM this is one of the activities we do for our customers
  3. The number of screens that would be involved in your website or an application, most of the times you could say the app involves only 2 or 3 screens, but in reality apart from the ‘You are rich app’ and few apps of the early 2009 and 2010 a simple app today would have close to 20 screen flows. For eg: a simple user authentication module could involve a screen for Sign up and Login, a screen for Forgot Password, a screen for OTP validation if it is there, we are talking about 3 screens for this flow, there could be more as well based on the complexity. Try your best to get some idea as to how many screens roughly you can think of and share the same with your software developer, this will help them prepare better and share a breakdown of the efforts accordingly
  4. If your idea is to build something similar to a topnotch benchmark of an existing digital product, please be realistic about the cost, time and efforts involved in building such a product. Building a product the same as one of the most popular global app-based taxi booking in a few thousands of US Dollars may not be realistic, but you can definitely get a working product similar to early days of the global app-based taxi booking in a couple of thousands of US Dollars, but the product will not be anywhere close to what the current version of global app-based taxi booking is today. That needs investment of millions of US Dollars both in terms of technology, marketing and user-retention
  5. Do ask for breakup of the costs and efforts for:
    1. UX and UI design of the product – Please understand that UX and UI are not same, your product design will differentiate it from other similar products, this comes at a cost, do check if the proposal mentions this cost
    2. Proposed technology planned to use
    3. How would the engagement model be during design and development
    4. Cost involved in product definition and discovery
    5. Breakdown of the features
    6. Cost for Backend and Frontend separately if both are applicable for your business idea
    7. How would testing be conducted and the cost for same
    8. Support period and AMC cost after the product is released 
    9. Steps on documentation and knowledge transfer and cost for same
    10. Any other costs like project management tools cost and other tools cost
    11. Costs involved in the infrastructure setup, if it applicable to your project
  6. It is also good to align with the software development team on the definition of what is a simple project, medium complexity project and a complex project, good idea would be to break it in terms of man efforts involved(One man hour is equal to 1 person working for 1 hour, if 2 person work for 1 hours it is 2 man hours). A well-accepted model in the industry for complexity levels for apps and website is:
    1. 400 man hours to 500 man hours – simple projects
    2. 600 man hours to 900 man hours – medium complexity projects
    3. 1000 man hours+ complex projects
  7. What is a typical lean product development team like if I need a mobile app on Android and iOS, a responsive website, database and API development,  a back-office operations portal, cloud-infrastructure and design service?
    1. A high level breakup of design and development team would be as follows:
      1. A SPOC for the project – May be full-time or part time depending on project complexity
      2. At Least 1 to 2 developers each per platform for Frontend based on project complexity – (Frontend design and development is extremely laborious and it takes lots of time and energy to get pixel perfection)
      3. 2 developers on API development and database based on project size
      4. 1 developer for DevOps and Infrastructure again depending on the project complexity it could be full-time or part time or more team members could be required
      5. At Least 1 to 2 UI/UX designer for the project and
      6. 1 to 2 testers based on project size
      7. A total of 11 to 13 team members
    2. You could argue wouldn’t the number of developers reduce if we go with cross platform mobile application development, yes it would but it will not be exact 50% you may optimise by 25%, i.e in native app development let us assume you may need 4 developers for Android and iOS in cross-platform like React-Native you may need 3 developers

Digital product development is a proper new venture design and development and does involve cost. Experiences of business owners and developers have been mixed in this entire process. At BiCSoM we understand that it takes emotions and efforts when you are building a business. If you are looking for a high quality mobile application, responsive website development, UX or UI design service or Cloud cost optimization, please do message us at [email protected]. We will be happy to partner with you, share a right cost proposal which is realistic and help you build a great digital experience.

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