The great thing about building your own mobile app is that you can create something that is new or different than what is available today. Even though millions of mobile apps have been built, yours will be custom to you and your organization.

Because apps are one of a kind, it can be challenging to provide an estimate. The answer to, ‘What does it cost to build a mobile app for you?’ is, it depends.

Mobile App Costs: The Short Answer

In our experience, the majority of custom mobile app projects fall somewhere between the $40,000 and $250,000 mark to design and develop the software.

It’s a broad range, and probably not that useful if you are ready to put a number in your budget.  That’s because a mobile application can mean anything from a calculator to a full enterprise shopping system like Amazon that supports millions of users.  No two custom built applications are the same.

To get a better idea of where you might fall on the spectrum, below are the biggest factors that we find when it comes to mobile app costs.

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Biggest Impacts on Mobile App Costs

App Size

This one is straight forward.  The more screens/pages you have, the more work that needs to be done to build your mobile app, and the more expensive it will be.

Small applications range from 10-25 screens, medium are in the realm of 25-40 and large is anything more than 40.

What constitutes a screen?  Generally, you would count anything that the user sees when they first come open your mobile app, and then each unique screen behind every button click, link click or menu click.

It’s good to know that a screen to view customer information and a screen to edit customer information are two different screens, even though they show the same information. This is because the display and the logic are actually different and need to be written separately.

Generally speaking, small apps tend to run $40-75K, medium apps are around $75-150K and large apps are $150K +.
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Software Complexity

Complicated logic means more time coding and testing.  If your application performs a lot of heavy analysis, scoring or number crunching, or if your secret sauce has a lot of nuances and permutations, your application probably has some complexity to it that warrants special attention.

Creative Design

Creative design is fun! This is where you get to select your fonts, color palettes and images as well as have custom illustrations and animations made to give your application some sizzle.

Like when you decorate a house or buy a new wardrobe, there are nice options, there are extravagant options, and there is a range in between.

We typically recommend a budget of about $8,000 – 16,000 to cover coming up with the design and going through a few iterations of feedback and re-design.  If you need more design time or have a lot of custom artwork that needs to be created, then the cost of the project will go up.

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Administration System

A stand-alone app, like a calculator, is something that can run on its own without internet connectivity. But most mobile apps have some kind of server and administration component that supports them.

What does a server and administration system let you do?  The following is a short list to illustrate the point.

  • Have a central repository to store and share data with the app and allow users to access the same information from any device (like Dropbox or Evernote)
  • Manage the app, including users, security settings, and other configurations
  • Process user requests (like placing an order)
  • Interact with a user through messages
  • Analyze data with reports
  • Integrate with 3rd party tools like payment gateways and text messaging

Stand-alone applications are cheaper to build than systems with servers and administration sites. The more extensive your server and administration portal functionality, the more expensive your application will be.

Integration With Other Systems

Integrating with external software introduces a lot of unknown variables into the equation. Sometimes the integrations are effortless and sometimes they are extremely difficult.

Common integrations like payment providers such as PayPal or Authorize.Net are extremely easy to integrate with.  The same goes for credit check services from Equifax or Experian.

But older, or lesser known systems may pose a challenge and increase the project cost.

When integrating with a third party system, you will need to program the application to handle all possible failure points. What happens when service isn’t available or is returning a result you don’t expect? Handling these types of issues so that your application responds with grace adds time and effort to your project.

Designing Your Mobile App to a Budget

Similar to building a house, software can be designed to fit a certain budget.  You may want a butler’s pantry and a finished basement but if it doesn’t fit your numbers, these may be lower priority items that you decide to not include in the house.

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The same goes for building software.  A good software development team can take your ideas, and create a design with a target budget in mind.  Once the initial design and cost estimate are complete, certain features can be added or removed to hit your target number.  It is worth while to put a reasonable number to your target budget when you start a project.

But what is reasonable?  Well, we all know that you can’t build much of a house for $10,000. Similarly, you can’t build much software for $10,000.

If your budget falls somewhere between the $40,000 – $250,000 range with allowances given to the factors that typically increase cost, chances are it can be designed to your budget.

But if you still are not sure, that’s ok. Contact us and we will let you know what we think the cost range for your project is.

Resource: The Checklist For Sharing Your Software Vision

Before you get started in developing your software app, your thoughts and ideas should be clarified and written down so they can be consistently and easily shared and understood. To help you get started on the right foot, we have created a checklist.

You can grab a copy of that checklist below and share it with your team!

Create Your Application with a Clear Vision