How much does an app cost?

As much as a car.

2018-08-02

As a development agency focused on consumer apps, we sell a service, a product, and a process at the same time. The first question I usually get from clients is of course: How much does an app cost?

In this post, I want to demystify this question a bit.

Let’s start with a few extreme examples:

  • A simple portfolio website with Wix would be around $100–200/year.
  • Uber has apparently spent $10.7 billion so far and they continue to develop their app.

Our question then becomes: What app?

We probably can’t buy a car for either of those prices, but the range of the cost of a car is still incredibly wide, let’s say $5k-5M. You can probably visualize the cars you can get at the prices in that range. This is a useful range for pricing apps as well. Even more than for cars, you have choices on what you want your end product to look like.

With that in mind, I want to walk you through some similarities and differences between buying a car and building an app.

Similarities

Budget: You should start with a budget.

Options: Your budget will determine your options. You should do your research on costs and tradeoffs.

Upgrading: You should think of how long you want this version of the app to last you (same as you would a car).

Maintenance: You should have a budget for servicing your app after purchase. You can choose features that minimize the maintenance needs or you can get the equivalent of a BMW.

Features: You have the power to customize your price based on your priorities.

Financing: Not to turn this into financial advice, but you probably should think about the financing of the app in a similar way as you would a car.

  • 5–20k — cash or credit card | savings, friends & family round
  • 20–250k — traditional financing | angel investor
  • 250k+ — you should probably buy it if you can afford it | VC funding

Sales: Unfortunately in the same way that your car salesperson can impact your price, the same happens with apps. It is crucial to have a budget, do your research, and be well informed (particularly as a non-technical person) to avoid being taken advantage of.

Differences

Revisions: A blessing and a curse of software development is that you can (and will) change your mind in the middle of the building process.

  • This means that when you buy a car you make all the decisions and get the price in the same afternoon while in building an app you have weeks/months to make all the decisions and therefore weeks/months to push the price up and down.

Design: With a car, you have pre-designed options laid out for you. With the app, you have to lay out the options yourself.

  • I suggest scoping out three options: budget, target, and reach.

Team: The car you take home will be the same no matter who personally builds it or sells it to you, but with an app, the team makes all the difference.

  • A typical team composed of a designer, frontend developer, backend developer, integration expert, devops engineer, mobile developer, product manager, and QA analyst can cost something between $400–800k/year in salaries. Your cost will vary on how efficiently you use your human resources.

Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of how to think about the cost of an app. All these variables are the reason why my answer is usually: it depends.

Our Offering

Now with this framing in mind, let’s dig into the specifics of what types of apps we are making here at Get It Built.

By showing you the specific pricing/tradeoffs I hope to convince you we are like “the car you got yourself after your first real job”.

Budget: The ideal budget for working with us is $20–250k

Options: Your options with us include production quality Web Apps and iOS Apps built by an outsourced team with commercially available features (what you see in your everyday apps).

Upgrading: In terms of when you can expect your next upgrade to come, we offer two options: beta or launch.

  • The beta is useful to pack more features into a lower budget product to test out different things with users. The goal of this product is learning, and you can expect to rebuild a lot of the functionality before launch.
  • The launch is typically the essential features built in a sustainable way. The goal of this product is selling, and you can expect to launch and run with this version for a while.

Maintenance: Our clients select a number of hours per week, month or even quarter after launch as a budget to fix bugs, improve performance, and add new features.

Features: The first thing we do is scope the app. Typically we scope two or three versions of the app to compare the tradeoffs and choose our model.

Financing: Our typical client has raised some angel funding to build out the product.

Sales: We are passionate about bringing products to life. To do that we need our clients to be well informed and our engagement to be a partnership, not a “sale”.

Revisions: We know things change, so we have designed a process that gives you a lot of chances to change your mind and iterate on things early on when the cost of change is the least.

Design: We have mentioned scoping a few times. One of the key differentiators of Get It Built is our phased development. The first step of our process is the collaborative and iterative planning phase. We do this at a fixed cost depending on how many versions you want to scope. We iterate on them “on paper” until we are on the same page about what we want to build, we price them. Deliverables include the Mockups & Technical Spec Document that together define the app.

Team: One of the biggest savings costs of working with us is the costs of hiring, on-boarding, managing, housing, entertaining, and compensating a team of (at least) eight. We have product managers, designers, frontend developers, architects, backend developers, mobile developers, integration specialists, devops engineers, and quality assurance analysts on our team. With us you have the benefit of their skills on your team without the cost of having them in house.

img

Conclusion

There are a lot of ways to build apps and a lot of flexibility in what you want to prioritize to save on and spend on. At Get It Built we focus on helping you manage costs by planning the build, iterating in lower fidelity and talent sharing until you are ready for a full time team.


At Get It Built we help our clients build web and mobile applications. Hopefully this comparison helps you clarify pricing for apps a bit. Keep in mind that for each of these points there are thousands of ways to do things. If you think the Get It Built way is a good fit for you feel free to reach out to us at info@getitbuilt.today

Reach Out For Inquiries