What does custom software cost?
By Tim Smith
If you ask a custom home builder “What does a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath house cost?,” he may talk in generalities and give you a ballpark price range, or he may ask you a few clarifying questions:
- What is the square footage?
- Will you have a basement?
- How big do you want the garage?
- Is the outside brick, stone, cedar and/or stucco?
- Will you have a fireplace?
- What kind of windows, flooring, lights, cabinets and countertops would you like?
Without knowing the specifics, a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath house could cost $200K or $2MM. The cost is determined by your requirements, and your final design.
Building custom software is like building a custom home.
The prices can vary by a large margin depending on what you want. To get a reliable quote, you really need a full solution design, much like the blueprint of a house. If you are early on in the process, the more details you can provide about what you want, the better. A five minute conversation about your ideas may get you a rough ballpark price, but don’t count on it being reliable.
Below are some questions a good technology partner might ask you to determine the cost of your custom software application:
- Is it a mobile application, web application, an API or all of the above?
- Will it be available on iOS, Android and/or Windows?
- Will it work differently on a tablet vs. a phone?
- Does there need to be a separate administration portal?
- Will you be taking payments or integrating with other third party systems?
- How big is the application?
- Does it need security?
- Does it need a unique user interface?
- How much data and how many users will you support?
- What kind of reporting will you need?
- Does your application need to be compliant?
Evaluating Multiple Estimates
If you intend to select a technology partner to build your custom software, and are considering multiple estimates, I would suggest evaluating the quality of the estimate as well as the final price.
Creating an accurate estimate is difficult.
To produce a good output, you need good inputs. Beginning with a poor estimate is one of the reasons you hear that projects run over-time and over-budget. It takes a little bit of art, a little bit of science, and a whole lot of experience to do it right.
Creating a quality estimate is also very labor-intensive. Not all software development companies or individuals have the capacity or skill to do more than give you a best guess. To help avoid future budget issues with your project, below are some questions that will help you gauge the accuracy of your estimate.
- Is the estimate based on an application blueprint, solution design, wireframes or some other documentation that describes the final solution? The more details you provide and the closer you are to the final solution design, the better chance you have for the estimate to be accurate.
- Did the company providing the estimate ask plenty of clarifying questions about your application?
- Did the company providing the estimate seem to get your idea and try to collaborate with you on possible solutions and designs, or are they acting more as an order taker?
- Does the estimate contain assumptions on what is included in the solution, what is not included in the solution and what technologies will be used to build the solution?
- Is the estimate detailed, documenting each feature and function of the application(s) needed to complete the solution?
- Does the estimate contain a risk factor, taking into account any uncertainty based on the current level of documentation?
- Are there any unknowns at this time, like integrations with 3rd party systems that require further investigation and research, and is this reflected into the estimate?
- Does the estimate include Project Management, Quality Assurance, Technical Design and Oversight? These things may seem like overhead, but they are necessary to have a success final product.
- Does the estimate include User Experience / Usability Design? You not only want your software to be developed well, on time and on budget, but you want a system your users will USE. Creative Design and User Experience are critical.
- Does your web application include Responsive Design? Responsive Design allows your website or web application to be viewed well on a phone or tablet device. If SEO is important to you, Google’s new algorithm makes Responsive Design a must.
We hope you find these tips helpful in evaluating estimates to make the best decision for your project! If you are interested in having SOLTECH estimate the cost of your software, please click the button below and our technical team will be happy to to provide you with a detailed estimate.