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Costs to develop an app – part 1: Project cost examples

Judith

July 25, 2022

tl;dr quick summary
At the beginning of a software project, there are many questions to be answered: What will the app cost? How long will the implementation take until the release? And: how far will entrepreneurs get with a certain budget?

The question about the real costs of developing an app is one of the most frequent questions we web developers get asked. The short answer: it depends. And yes, we admit: while this sentence might be true, it still raises more questions than answers. That is why we wrote this article, to provide you with information about the actual development costs. Using specific examples from Peerigon practice, we show which factors the price of an app really depends on. What have other companies actually paid for their software projects? What are the main cost factors in app development? How can you successfully avoid pitfalls? In this series of articles, you can have a good peer over our shoulders. So in part 1, we will present real-life cost examples.

Cost examples for famous public apps

The German app for Covid prevention, a famous app cost example

The German app for Covid prevention, a famous app cost example

The cost of the Corona Warning App & Co.

In order to answer the "million dollar question," let's first take a look at public cost examples. In Germany, the Corona Warn app made headlines in the media: Initial development costs were put at 7.5 million euros, according to a breakdown by the German government (Source). Together with maintenance, operation, hotlines and marketing, the total bill included a proud total sum of 68 million Eur. Does that seem daunting to you? We think so, too. However, given the Covid situation is a singular historical precedent, we hope that accordingly, from a developer's point of view, such budgets are more of an exception than a rule. A recent study by the US company GoodFirms seems to be more realistic to us. It cites an average price range of $26,740 to $211,785 (which is surprisingly accurate to the penny) – from idea to very first app release.

"Expensive app = good, cheap = bad?" Why this balance is off

What is a fair price for an app? The calculation "high price equals good quality" doesn't work out any more than the prejudice "there is no such thing as a cheap app". In order to make the relationship between costs and product more transparent, we present three practical examples from our software development. Their feature sets can be divided into "simple", "medium" and "complex". In doing so, we deliberately disregard further aspects such as customer-internal working time, subsequent support, marketing and licensing, and focus on the initial, actually incurred costs for the IT service of bespoke software development, from commissioning to the first release.

Real-life cost examples for developing an app from our company

App example with a bigger feature scope: Project "L"

App example with a bigger feature scope: Project "L" @Judith Urban

App project "L": high level of complexity

Objective

Digitalization and in-house process optimization

What was done

Implementation of a dynamic Excel prototype as web-based software for in-house, industrial process optimization.


"L"'s Function scope (excerpts):

Requirements workshop, backend implementation with a database, data versioning, integration into an existing in-house IT user management system, authentication, 3-level user roles (admin, editor, reader), each with their own rights, straightforward UI design creation using template customization of an open source UI framework, 3-language internationalization, automated, individualized deployment, setup of a test environment without live data, continuous live preview in running development state, on-premise hosting.

Cost framework of the app "L" (depending on time limit):

80000–90000 Eur

App project "M": medium level of complexity

Project "M": example for an app with a medium feature scope

Project "M": example for an app with a medium feature scope ([Illustration: @Judith Urban])(www.judithurban.de)

Objective

User-friendly application control system

What was done

Simple IoT infotainment system


"M"'s Function scope (excerpt):

Requirements workshop, implementation of a prototype in order to get investors on board, frontend implementation according to existing design template using Raspberry Pi, interactive controls of the navigation system and temperature, implementation of existing APIs.

Cost framework of the app "M" (depending on a time limit):

10000–20000 Eur

App project "S": simple prototype

A software project with a smaller scale

A software project with a smaller scale (illustration: @Judith Urban)

Objective

Promoting citizenship in public mobility

What was done

Navigation helper app as a prototype for testing purposes


"S"' Function scope (excerpt):

Designsprint workshop, prototype implementation: search field, finding the user's own location and the Scooter's location, implementing a public API, optimization on smartphones (mobile only), simple UI/frontend, integration of an open map system, Peerigoninternal hosting & deployment.

Cost framework of the app "S":

6000–9000 Eur

Summary

Every successful software project begins with a good idea. As soon as the concept becomes more elaborate, you will start asking the question of how much it will cost. To illustrate this, we have shown three cost examples from our everyday development work. If we want an unbiased approach to cost analysis, we must take more than one variable into account: e.g. environment, team constellation, duration and type of implementation, and last but not least the specific scope of features. In Part II of our series "what does it cost to develop an app", we will clarify which factors really determine the price of an app, and give you some advice on how to avoid cost traps. Stay tuned!

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