The Hidden Costs Of Building Mobile Apps

Hidden Costs of Mobile App DevelopmentThe quick answer:

Hidden costs of mobile app development include the following:

Many of the costs to develop a mobile app are relatively easy to predict. Especially the upfront costs. But, app development also incurs costs that may not be apparent if you’ve never done it before.

These costs can be particularly troublesome when you’re in a committed project before you’re aware of them. At this point, the only practical solution is likely to invest additional money that may not be within your original budget.

The process of developing a budget for your mobile app begins with an estimation of the major, upfront costs. After this step is complete, you can begin accounting for the less obvious, long-term costs. Keep in mind that the hidden costs can sometimes be greater than the upfront costs, especially for a successful app.

Standard Mobile App Development Costs

The standard costs of app development include development and marketing:

Development Costs

The development costs of a mobile app include the interface, prototyping and testing.

The quality of the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) are some of the first factors you need to consider when developing an app. You may choose a basic UI/UX that emphasizes functionality rather than appearance.

A medium-level UI/UX may have a greater level of detail, but may still look like many of the apps already on the market. A high-end interface will have a polished design with custom widgets that give it a unique look and feel.

A very simple app may not require prototyping, but most apps have multiple features, interactions, and integrations that make prototyping worthwhile. This process involves developing just enough of the app’s functionality to give developers a good feel for how the full version should perform. A typical prototype may consist of five fully developed screens.

Testing is an essential development phase for all apps. You’ll typically install the app on several devices to see how they function under real-world conditions. Native tools will be necessary to test the performance of native apps. This phase should account for 10 to 20 percent of the app’s total development budget.

Marketing Costs

You shouldn’t expect an app to sell well just because you’ve built it and uploaded it to an app store. Even if it’s better than similar apps already on the market, it will still need to overcome the brand loyalty of the existing apps’ customers.

A proper marketing strategy for a new mobile app can cost anywhere from $5,000 – $100,000 each month. Many small businesses also use Growth Hack techniques to experiment with methods of increasing their app’s popularity.

Hidden Mobile App Development Costs

The hidden costs of mobile app development include the following:

Back-end Hosting

The processes in a mobile app may be classified into front-end and back-end processes. Front-end processes include the interface and in addition to the code that accepts and displays information. The development of these processes is relatively easy to understand and include in the budgets.

However, you may not realize that most apps also require a back end to store and access the data that was obtained by the front end. An app’s back end may be a web service or Application Programmer Interface (API), which often must be hosted separately.

It may also take the form of cloud storage, which includes the full functionality of a web server or API. Either way, the app’s back end will incur a monthly hosting charge based on the provider and amount of storage the app requires.

Developer Account

App stores require developers to maintain an account that allows them to upload and store apps. The fees for a developer account are small compared to other development costs, but some of them are recurring charges.

For example, developer accounts for the Amazon and Apple app stores currently cost $99 per year. The Google Play store charges a one-time fee of $25, while the Windows store charges businesses a one-time fee of $99.

Operating System Updates

Mobile operating systems (OSs) are routinely updated with bug fixes, security patches and additional functionality. These changes frequently require developers to changes their apps, which can incur unexpected and highly variable costs. Updates that allow apps to take advantage of an OS’s added functionality may also be needed to remain competitive with newer apps.

In the case of bug fixes and security patches, the app may need to be updated just to keep it running safely. Much of an app’s maintenance budget should be devoted to keeping it secure. Once hackers learn of a vulnerability in an OS, they can quickly develop malware to exploit it.

These programs can impair an app’s functionality or even gain access to confidential information. Some security issues may also require the services of a specialized consultant to resolve them.

Consumer Feedback

Consumer feedback is an essential method of identifying ways an app can be improved. The major app stores all have the capability of allowing expert reviewers and regular users to provide feedback on apps. This feedback should result in many changes to an app, especially if it’s just been uploaded to the store.

New Devices

Mobile app developers are often surprised to learn that they will need to support additional devices. For example, a native Android app won’t work on an iPhone and vice versa. Developers who want their apps to use native capabilities will generally need to develop a separate app for each platform.

However, in some cases, it may be possible to develop a hybrid app that only requires minor tweaks to work on another platform.

Maintenance and Support

Developers must view a mobile app as an ongoing project that requires periodic maintenance rather than one that only requires a one-time investment. An app requires regular changes to retain its intended functionality and add the new features needed by its users. The cost of maintaining and supporting an app often exceeds its development costs.

Get A Detailed Mobile App Estimate

When working with a developer, it’s critical to work with a trustworthy, proven company that you can feel confident in. On top of that, you should still be as explicit and specific about your budget, your expectations and any other details surrounding the app you want developed.

Want to get a better idea of what your mobile app will cost to develop? Read this article: How Much Does It Cost To Make An App? or call us with any questions at 804-616-3546.

Why You Should Not Build an App for Free

don't create an app for freeHere’s a common situation in the app world: a person has an idea for an app and wants to move forward with it.

But, that person doesn’t have the financing to pay a developer or the application development chops to do it on their own. That leads folks to investigate the options for building an app for free.

There are really three basic options for building apps for free or at a nominal cost. These include:

  • Paying a developer with equity
  • Building an app with DIY tools
  • Learning how to write the code yourself

The first option – paying with equity – actually often results in a higher development cost over the long term when compared to hiring a professional developer. And the second and third options are often just farfetched, with many people starting down that path and realizing they don’t have the time or true desire to learn the programs and languages needed to build a reliable app.

However, if you’re dead-set on making your app a reality, you’ll probably investigate each of these avenues in more depth. So, we’ll walk through each of the options with you and help you understand why, in most cases, it’s best to avoid the “free” options for building your app.

Using Equity Shares To Finance Your App

You may be tempted to offer a contractor a share of your company in exchange for developing a minimum viable product (MVP) in addition to future support.

However, it’s almost always better to pay for the development up front, which should typically include at least six months of maintenance. If you don’t have this much cash on hand, you might consider applying for a line of credit to cover it.

Assume for this example that you wish to offer a contractor 5% equity, which is at the low end for developing an MVP. The cost of this service is typically in the range of $10,000 to $15,000, so this strategy only makes sense if you consider your company to be worth no more than $200,000 to $300,000.

Your company may be worth less than this if your idea is all you have to offer towards your company’s future success, even if it’s a good idea. On the other hand, your company is probably worth more than $300,000 if you can make other contributions towards success such as executive management, fundraising or sales.

Furthermore, a contractor is unlikely to provide future support if you’re only compensating them with equity. Assume the contractor agrees to provide development and support for two years, with the transfer of equity spread out over this period.

The contractor in this arrangement will have leverage over you and will be likely to ask you for more equity at some point because they’ll know you’re completely dependent upon them for technical guidance.

If you agree, you’ll give up more of your business. Even if you refuse, you’ll still lose out because the contractors can simply walk off with whatever equity they currently have, leaving you without the support you were counting on.

While 5% equity is a minimal figure for developing an app, it’s still more than the 1-3% that early-stage technical employees typically receive. That means you’re paying more to a temporary contractor than an employee who actually has a vested interest in your company’s success.

In this case, it would be better to give the equity to the employee who is dedicated to your company than a contractor who likely has other clients. Even though you’re also paying employees a salary, you will still get more buy-in from an early tech-hire than a contractor.

Another disadvantage of offering equity is that it keeps you from hiring the developer full-time. Even though you aren’t paying the contractor anything, you’ll almost certainly have to sign an iron-clad contract that prevents you from poaching the contractor’s employees.

Using DIY Tools To Create Your App For Free

Why You Should Not Build an App for Free

DIY tools like Appy Pie, ShoutEm and SwifTec allow non-programmers to develop mobile apps. While they do allow you to develop simple apps without writing code, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to develop a robust app – or any app with customized features – with these tools.

About Appy Pie

Appy Pie is a tool for creating mobile apps on all the major mobile operating systems (OSs), including Android, iOS and Windows Phone. It also allows users to monetize their apps with its own marketplace.

You can use Appy Pie to create forms, such as those that might be used in a simple survey or quiz and create an app with Appy Pie that links to these forms on an external source. However, you won’t be able to create complex forms, gather data or create statistics without additional development.

About ShoutEm

ShoutEm was originally a social app for mobile networks, although it’s now used to create mobile apps. You can use ShoutEm to develop apps with written content and multimedia files that allow users to select their favorite pages for quick access.

However, it won’t allow you to create in-app purchases, as is the case with some other app makers. You could get around this by creating a separate version for paying customers with additional content. Pages that allow users to input their own data would also not be possible with Shoutem.

About SwifTec

SwifTec is one of the most popular mobile app makers currently available and has helped to create over a million apps since 2010. Its customer loyalty features are some of SwifTec’s most distinctive characteristics.

These features can be a highly effective method of promoting discount coupons. You can use SwifTec to create an app for a store by integrating services from Etsy and Shopify or using a checkout feature from a payment service like PayPal.

However, you can’t create a composite seller app like eBay with SwiTec, as this capability would require a back-end that app makers can’t handle. One possible workaround to this limitation would be to create an app to host basic classified ads by using social post, although this approach wouldn’t enforce a consistent appearance for the posts.

Using Educational Tools To Build Your Own App

Learning how to build an app from scratch is something that’s possible, but it’s certainly a long-term approach to building an app. You’ll risk losing interest, someone else developing your app while you learn and many times you’ll still end up paying for part of the build even if you learn how to do part of it.

With that said, the most popular tools for teaching non-technical users how to program include Udemy, Codecademy and Udacity.

Udemy

Udemy is an online learning platform with over 10 million students currently enrolled. It offers more than 40,000 courses, which students primarily use to advance their careers or improve their personal education.

The biggest challenge with using Udemy for learning to program is that many of these courses are too short to provide the student with a solid background in the subject matter.

Most courses don’t have an assessment feature, and those that do have assessments use them inconsistently. Furthermore, Udemy courses aren’t regulated for consistency on pricing or quality.

Codecademy

Codecademy is an interactive platform that offers coding classes in many programming languages at no charge. These include many languages used in mobile apps such as Java, JavaScript, Python, Ruby and SQL in addition to markup languages like CSS and HTML.

Codecademy also offers additional features for a charge, including live support, a personalized learning plan and realistic projects. It offers a hands-on approach to programming, but fails to place these exercises within the context of creating a real-world project. Students can learn to write code with Codecademy, but they won’t be able to develop an independent app.

Udacity

Udacity offers massive open online courses (MOOCs) for a fee. It was originally created to provide university-style courses, although it’s currently best known for its vocational courses for professionals.

Cost is the greatest disadvantage of MOOCs like Udacity, which typically budgets about $200,000 to develop each of its courses. By comparison, universities only spend about $50,000 to build their online courses.

MOOCs must recoup these costs in the form of tuition, which makes them an expensive method of learning online. The high cost means that MOOC users are primarily large organizations that are already spending heavily on traditional training methods.

The Real Price Of Building An App For Free

Now you can see why, for most, building your own app for free will likely cost you more in the end. You also realize the folly of giving up equity for software development so early in the game. In order for your app to be truly worthwhile, it’s best to leverage a professional app developer to support you. The only question left is, “Are You Ready?”

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