What does it cost to develop an app?

Often I get the question what it costs to develop an app. The only answer I can give without having any information is “it depends”. Simply because is does depend, on a lot of things. In this blog I will try to explain.


So what does an app cost?
It depends.

On what?
On a lot of things.

Like what?
The single most important aspect of course is the amount of time it will take to do the development. IT consultancy companies (like Lightbase) most of the times work on hourly basis or on fixed fee basis, but both boil down to the same principle: in exchange for our work we send an invoice and we measure our work by counting the number of hours spent. So the more hours we need to spend to get the work done, the more costful the app will be.

If an app project is complex or has a large scope, or both, it will take more time to develop than a small app that is not complex. So there is a direct correlation between costs on one side and complexity and scope on the other side.

When is an app complex?
Complexity can take many forms. It can be complex (and thus time consuming) to connect the app to a constantly changing or poorly documented system that contains information that the app needs to display. It can also be complex to use new technologies. Like Augmented Reality, for example. Any developer sooner or later will encounter difficultes which need to be solved. Luckily, almost always those problems have been encountered before by other developers that either blog about it or post questions about it on platforms like stackoverflow.com. And probably there is documentation to refer to.

It’s a simple fact that less developers are working on- or have worked with new technologies, resulting in less available information to be found that helps solve the problem. And that means more attempts and hours spent on figuring it out yourself. The chances of finding helpful open source software using these new technologies are also smaller, making it more likely that certain pieces of software that otherwise might have been available as open source project, have to be developed from scratch.

When does an app have a large scope?
As a rule of thumb, you can assume that the more information and user interface an app contains, the more time it will take to develop it. All information has to come from somewhere and all of it needs to be structured neatly in the app’s data layer. And the more user interface involved, the more time spent on making it pixel perfect, in the right color, showing properly on devices of different screen sizes etc.

Also, there are currently two major mobile platforms (iOS and Android) and if the app has to be available on both, you can kind of double the amount of time needed. Unless you use a cross-platform framework, like we do with ReactNative.

And that is only the development stage. There is more involved, like getting the concept clear, designing and publishing to the App Store / Play Store. Read more about these different stages here (🇳🇱).

The development of a dedicated backend, like many apps have, can also require a significant amount of time.

So what does an app cost?
In western Europe, the minimum would be about € 15.000 for an app with a limited scope and low complexity. For apps with a large scope and complexity that amount will surpass € 100.000.