How much does it take to build an app? This is a very common question. The usual reply is “it depends”, which adds more to your confusion instead of providing an answer. If you search online, you may find some resources that may advertise estimating the price of developing an app; however, the estimate may not be accurate so you need to beware.

The app development price may vary from thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands, which means there is a huge gap. This is primarily because the cost of customized app development depends on several factors. It is a complex process and lots of variables go into the successful completion of the project.

Building an app requires investing time and money and the entire project can take between 12 and 20 weeks. Here are five factors that affect the cost of building an app:

  1. Your priorities – cost, speed, and quality

One of the rules in app development is choosing two from the three attributes namely cheap, fast, and good. Most projects will have two of these but having all three is almost impossible. If you find a development service provider that claims to build an excellent quality app in a short period at an affordable price, it should raise a red flag. The statement “you get what you pay for” has never been more true than in the case of building an app. So, if you want the app to be of good quality, you need to choose a larger budget with a shorter timeline or a smaller budget with a longer development cycle. While determining the timeline, you must not overlook the time needed for product definition and upfront designing.

  1. In-house or offshore development

Some development companies may have an in-house team for the designing process but may use an offshore team for the actual development. Therefore, you must clearly get the details of all people involved in your project. Additionally, check their past projects to determine the quality and usability of the apps built by the team members. It is also recommended you speak to the team to understand their experience and expertise. An offshore development team can reduce the cost but in-house engineers can be more efficient, especially during the designing phase and can bring technical expertise in the planning process, which can be time and cost-efficient in the long-term.

  1. Agile versus waterfall development process

Agile and waterfall development are the two common methods for app development but both are very different. The former does not depend on having clear documentation before the start of the development process. The developers work in weekly schedules and figure things out as they proceed in the development process. Waterfall development has clear documentation laid out before the start of the development and these are strictly adhered to with almost no variation. Iterative development is a hybrid approach that uses some upfront documentation like mockups and wireframes but other details and aspects are figured out as the development progresses.

Waterfall development provides limited flexibility and you know what you will be getting and the cost. Additionally, detailed records are maintained that enable easier modifications if required in the future. However, it is difficult to document every eventuality at the start and requires a longer development timeline.

Agile development lacks initial structure, which may make it costlier but provides greater flexibility to make adjustments as required during the development process. Moreover, you can have incremental releases at every development cycle so you can launch and take your app to market quicker.

  1. Fixed fees versus time and materials costs

If you choose waterfall development, you may be able to set up a fixed fee, which includes a certain amount for the documentation and designing and a fixed cost for the actual development. However, there will be changes and the developer will charge an additional fee for the extra work. While signing the agreement, you should agree on the rates, the number of people involved in the project, and the difference between the original contract and costs with work orders.

The agile development bills you based on the actual work done and the developer will provide an estimated rate for which you will be billed. If the billing is on an hourly rate, you must check their time tracking software and have access to it in case of any disputes.

  1. Estimate creation

This factor can have a significant impact on the app-building cost. During the estimate creation process, ask questions like who makes the estimate, does the person have a detailed understanding of your vision, and does the team have experience in working on similar apps and has used these technologies. If the team hasn’t worked on the technologies before, there is a possibility of misestimating the cost. You should also compare the actual costs with initial estimates in the past, to prevent any miscalculation. It is recommended you include a contingency to accommodate any cost overruns.

The cost to build an app depends on several factors, which are its complexity, the number of platforms, expenses related to the development team and their location, maintaining the app, and others. It also depends on the type of business and the features included in the app.

Building an app may need a huge investment; however, the ROI in the long-term can be worth incurring this cost.