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How Much Does It Cost to Build an App From Scratch?

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Building a mobile app could be your ticket to independent wealth. Assuming you’re able to come up with an idea that people are interested in, and you have a decent monetization strategy to back it up, you could feasibly generate enough income to sustain yourself indefinitely. In some cases, you may even be able to sell your app to a bigger company for millions of dollars.

It all sounds fantastic and simple on paper, but before you start enjoying the fruits of your idea, you have to take that idea from mental concept to reality. Regardless of whether you plan on doing any of the development work yourself, you’ll need an accurate idea of how much it costs—and how long it takes—to build an app.

The Mobile App Development Cycle

Even simple apps can take a long time to develop. The mobile app lifecycle demands that you go through several steps, including:

  • Research and discovery. If you want to make money with an app, you need to spend lots of time in advance researching your idea and learning more about the market. There’s no way around this step.
  • Wireframing and storyboards. You’ll then draw up plans for how the app could work, using wireframes and storyboards as a kind of outline.
  • Building the backend. Building the backend is the crux of mobile app development, and it can get very complicated depending on what functions you’re going to build.
  • Creating the UI. Designing the UI is an entirely separate job, and one that may require an entirely separate team.
  • Customizing the app for different operating systems. Different operating systems require different tech specs, and need to be addressed
  • A good app will go through a thorough testing process, sometimes for months before launch.
  • Launch prep. Building out the landing page for your app and developing a marketing strategy can help you make a big initial impact.
  • Come launch day, you’ll need to submit your app to each of the major app stores, and be ready to test that app in a live environment. Marketing and advertising strategies should follow.
  • Ongoing support. Don’t forget that your app will also need ongoing support if it’s going to survive, including help for existing users, new updates to fix bugs and improve security, and new features to maintain user interest.

Even if these steps go quickly, and even if you’re creating a basic app with rudimentary functionality, you can count on at least several weeks for development.

Hiring a Professional

Unless you have significant mobile app development experience under your belt, you’ll probably need to rely on a third-party app developer (or an entire team) to build your app. Otherwise, your app could merely cost you time.

There’s no easy way to estimate how much your app will cost without understanding what type of app it is and what type of developers you’ll need. Some apps can be built for just a few thousand dollars if they offer only the most basic functions and features. Other apps can cost well over a million dollars.

These variables will significantly affect the price you pay:

  • The size and complexity of the app. Apps vary in complexity based on the number of features they have and how tricky those features are to develop. If you’re building a simple mobile game with straightforward elements, you won’t pay nearly as much as you’d pay for a mobile payment app that needs to make multiple API calls and needs to follow strict legal regulations. The more your app does, and the harder those functions are to code, the more money you’re going to pay.
  • The number of platforms you’re optimizing for. It takes time to build versions of an app that can run efficiently on different platforms. If you’re developing exclusively for iOS, you’ll pay less than if you’re developing for iOS, Android, and other devices.
  • The type of people you’re hiring. You also need to consider the type of people you’re hiring for the job. Freelancers tend to be less expensive than app development agencies, but they’re also less reliable and may not be able to back up their work with a guarantee. Offshore developers may offer cheaper rates than their contemporaries, but you may encounter a language barrier or a skill gap. And of course, the more experienced your chosen developer is, the more they’re going to charge (and the more polished your app will be).

So how much does it cost to build an app from scratch? If you’re relying on other professionals to handle the work, you can expect to pay at least $10,000, but probably closer to six figures if your app is decently complex. This doesn’t include peripheral costs, like the price of making updates, maintaining your app over time, marketing, or advertising. Accordingly, the app development game can be difficult to get into—but if you have a solid business idea, those costs may be well worth it.

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