How much does it cost to make an app?
Spending less time designing a more robust app because it’s a lower priority can help reduce the cost to build your app..
At the same time, if you’re trying to build an app that’s ready to win a market, you’d likely want to spend more time and budget crafting the right experience. When it comes to budgeting, there are many different options you can consider but whatever you decide to build, you should aim to meet the same level of quality across all your app’s features.
1. Features of your app
For every app, there are many features you could choose to build and each feature could be built at least a hundred different ways. One of the best ways to start defining what you need to build in your app is to list your features in order of priority. Creating a priority list of features for what needs to be built now and which features could be added in the future can be helpful when it comes to defining a budget and timeframe for your app. These priorities may change as you build, but it’s a helpful way to organize what’s most important to the success of your app now.
Once you have a priority list of features, you can also decide what to include and what to leave out based on factors such as budget. For example, rather than building all the features you listed, you could create the first version of your product without the 'would be nice to have' features. This would allow you to release earlier and potentially save on development costs. It could also be useful to see how your app gets used without the 'nice to haven features to determine if the those features would even be worth building.
2. Your app stage
Are you building an app to test the market, or are you building an app that’s market ready? Depending on your answer, this could have a substantial impact on the cost to build your app. If you’re building an app as a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) then it’s likely this version of your app is a test to see if your app concept resonates with your target audience. The budget needed to make this type of app could be much less compared to an app that you want to be featured in Apple’s App Store. Foursquare launched their first iPhone app in 2008. The app allowed you to check-in at places, leave tips, and collect points. Because the App Store was still relatively young, it was hard to know if iPhone users would gravitate toward the app. When Foursquare released the first version of their iPhone app, it didn’t look the best and had very few features:
At the start, one of the reasons Foursquare likely chose to focus on fewer features was because it was more important to test if their core set of unproven features would be interesting enough to stick. If they spent more time designing an unproven app concept and then released a few months later, a large chunk of time and resources could have gone to waste. In an interview, Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai acknowledged this approach with Foursquare’s first app:
'We made the first prototype in June 2008… I think once we launched, we realized it had staying power..'
Naveen went on to say that the game-like characteristics built-in to the app 'excited a lot of people'. This was enough validation for Naveen and his co-founder to continue improving their first version. Foursquare’s app now looks much different:
Two years after they released the first version of their app, Foursquare worked to improve it and went on to win a Webby Award for being one of the best, mobile social networks. They have since grown to support over 45 million members. The creators of Foursquare wanted to first prove if people would use an app for checking in to places that was focused around a few core features, even though those features were limited and not as well-designed as they could have been. Launching earlier was more important than spending additional weeks designing and developing a better, first version.
Although the initial version of Foursquare didn’t look as good as it could have, it was built as a test. If you’re looking to prove a market exists or you’re still learning about the mix of features you’ll need to include in your product, than focusing too early on 'nice-to-have' elements could cost you in time and money. However, if you have a good feel for the core features your customers need, then spending time designing an experience that people enjoy could be a much higher priority.
3. Complex, uncertain app technologies
Does your app have features that are technically complex or include a level of technical uncertainty? If so, this will increase the cost required to build your app. For example, if you’re building an app that requires a search feature similar to Google’s search that’s based on complex algorithms, the cost to build this feature would be much greater than building a simpler search based on keyword tags. The budget needed to create a keyword search feature would cost much less than building a search function similar to Google. For most features that are technically complex, it’s likely that they will require a much larger budget to build than simpler features.
Ballpark budgets for different types of apps
If you’re building the first version of your app, the most important objective might be testing if there’s a market for what you’re building. In this case, you’d likely want to build an app that’s usable but it might be too early to optimize each screen, button, or action before proving that people actually want to use it. Spending less time designing a robust app because it’s a lower priority can help reduce the cost to build your app. At the same time, if you’re trying to build an app that’s validated and ready to win a market, you’d likely want to spend more time and budget crafting the right experience. There are many resources for this. Bluerang.com for example, helps startups and enterprises find tech partners, hassle-free.
When it comes to budgeting, there are many different ways to reduce the cost of building your app, but whatever you decide to build, you should aim to meet the same level of quality across all your app’s features. It’s much better to build an app that has one feature that functions perfectly versus building an app with ten features that all break.
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