You’ve got the idea, you know what you want it to look like, but how much is your app going to cost you to make?
Since Apple launched the App Store in 2008, apps have become more and more integrated into our everyday lives. We use them for almost everything including our work, our leisure time and even our health. Whatever your project be it an event, business, service or promotion, an app can be a seriously potent marketing tool. If managed correctly an app can drive unlimited traffic and revenue your way and its potential should not be underestimated.
While some apps can be phenomenally expensive to develop, others can cost practically nothing. Infinite Monkeys offer a range of pricing structures for native apps which cost from nothing up to a maximum of 9 dollars per month when billed annually. Depending on what you want from your app, services like Infinite Monkeys can be extremely useful. It’s all about deciding what’s right for you.
How much should you set aside to create the app you have in mind and engineer an appropriate user experience? To begin with, you should consider the points below.
What Do You Have In Mind?
You probably have some idea of what genre or category your app will fall into according to its subject and content, but more important than content is the app’s architecture. In other words, the basic framework upon which it will operate. Writing for Bluecloud Solutions, Carter Thomas observes that although the range of apps available varies infinitely, for the most part an app will fall into one of the following categories.
- Table-based apps
- Database driven apps
- Web-based or fully dynamic apps
- Apps which enhance or modify device firmware or hardware (eg. the in-built camera)
- Custom utilities
The type of app you choose will depend in part on how much content you have. Keep your options open but don’t approach anyone to help you until your idea has crystallized and you have a clear idea of what you want.
Decide whether you want your app to be native to a particular platform. It is worth mentioning that Apple enforces quality control measures on the apps sold in the App Store in a way that is not seen across other platforms. This may or may not work in your favor depending on what sort of app you are creating.
During the initial stages of development it is important to consider the types of devices you are targeting with your app, taking into account specific features and constraints and understanding how they work with the scope of your project. Competition means that the market is forever evolving and as phones and tablets change so do their screen sizes. Your app needs to be compatible with all devices past, present and future which carry your chosen platform.
Put simply, this type of app works by providing the user with a series of options. Clicking on one of the buttons gives the user a new list and so on. Referring specifically to the cost of iOS apps in his article, Thomas estimates that developing this type of app will set you back between $1,000 and $4,000, although he goes on to mention that if you know your way around Photoshop you may be able to create your own graphics, potentially cutting the cost of the project to around $1,500. If you require extra features such as social media compatibility or GPS locators the cost is certain to rise.
How long is a piece of string? Games are up there with the most expensive apps because they are rich in functionality and their coding is generally the most technically complex. For this reason, it is difficult to put a figure on just how much a game app will cost to develop, it depends entirely on how complex you want to go. The cost could range anywhere from $10,000 to $250,000 and beyond. Think about your first encounter with a video game and how it looked. Now compare it to some of the advanced games of today with their highly realized graphics. All levels of games can be fun but simple or not, code costs cash. Even things like Angry Birds and racing games with their simple gyroscope format can cost in excess of $125,000 and there is still so much to pay on top. Extra things to think about include top scores, online communities and plugging the game into the game center.
The cost here comes from taking all of your data, content, images or sounds and loading it onto a framework. This can be extremely complicated as it involves figuring out the logic within the app. How long that takes depends on the amount of content you wish to include. Again referring to those created for iOS, Thomas writes that apps of this nature cost between $8,000 and $50,000 to develop.
Thomas also writes that no matter the format of your app, you should be prepared to add on more if you want to integrate any of the following: share capabilities ($1,000-$5,000), Game Center ($1,000), in-app purchasing ($1,000-$3,000) or web services ($1,000-$5,000).
These figures concerning app development in the US seem to be in line with those published elsewhere; an article on PadGadget.com explores the cost of building an iPad app and suggested the development costs alone range from about $12,000 to $150,000. There are of course further costs to consider before you attempt to draft your budget.
If you are aiming high with your app, good design is an investment. Whether or not you have a grasp of Photoshop or web design, it may be worth considering hiring someone who works specifically in mobile app design as they are best equipped to understand the requirements of such a project. Design can be costly because what with separate screens, icons and buttons apps often have so many elements to design separately. Referring specifically to the cost of designing an iOS app, Thomas estimates a figure of between $500 and $10,000, although he notes that between 25 and 50 per cent should be added on to this figure if you are planning to launch your app on the iPad or other iOS devices. Android apps can cost more owing to the range of devices and sizes the design has to be tailored to.
There are several other figures to take into account. Total costs are difficult to estimate because of the levels of variables involved but outside of development and design you need only consider the fees charged by your platform (Apple charges 99 dollars per year and around 30 per cent of sales) and IT factors like servers and hosting.
How do such figures in the US compare to those throughout the rest of the world? In an article on budgeting for app development, UK website Waracle lists average costs for developing apps for iPhone and Google Android in the UK from between £8,000 and £13,000 for a simple single platform app and between £34,000 and £51,000 for a complex three platform.
Another UK site Money.co.uk lists the cost involves in producing successful apps like Angry Birds and the BBC News app at £125,000. Australian business computing and app development company Lateral Solutions give their customers the following price guide (in Australian dollars) for creating custom apps: a “basic” app (a small utility like a calculator or simple reference app) costs between $5,000 and $15,000, a “complex” app between $20,000 and $80,000 and a “top-shelf” app (those of a high enough quality to compete among well-known sites such as Instagram) between $100,000 and $200,000.
Such figures refer exclusively to apps aiming at the top end of the spectrum, but as mentioned before, apps don’t have to cost the earth. If you are thinking on a smaller scale, sites like Infinite Monkeys allow you a great deal of control over your app and its range of features for a small monthly subscription, or even for free.