The Real Costs of Designing & Developing for the Web & Mobile Apps

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This is the real deal—make no qualms about it. Below you’ll find a straight shooting, transparent assessment of the real costs of producing both websites and mobile apps. We’re going to touch on the obvious costs that most everyone is familiar with, hidden costs, and design/development costs. That being said, let’s dig into it.

The Real Costs of Web and App Development

Web & App Design Costs

Building a website has never been easier. Generally speaking, consumers are going to fall into one of two categories when it comes to web needs—those that want something out-of-the-box and those want some custom. There’s a multitude of services available that allow individuals and businesses to create an entire site with the click of a few buttons. Frankly put, we think that’s pretty awesome. It allows individuals and businesses alike the opportunity to have some semblance of a web presence regardless of any budgetary constraints. The aforementioned out-of-the-box solutions unquestionably have their place in the market. Costs for these services are generally spread out over a relatively modest monthly fee. In this instance, the fees ($15-$500) per month are for the service(s) itself and is always incremental based on the options needed. I don’t think anyone would argue that there is an undeniable tipping point that comes when those indefinite fees outweigh the costs of building a custom website that only requires the recurring fees of hosting. As for design and development costs for out-of-the-box solutions, there clearly isn’t any. The user is very literally getting what they pay for and doing everything themselves.

Transitioning into custom solutions means you’re entering an arena where anything is possible. The reality that arrangements of pixels and strings of code can reshape a businesses’ future is pretty powerful stuff (that applies to both web and apps). Businesses with abstract ideas about web apps, redesigns, subsets of their existing companies, and a whole host of other scenarios are prime candidates for custom-built applications. Care and attention is given through each step our process (and likely similar to any other reputable firm as well). Below is a basic layout of our process and costs:

  • Initial Consultation — ($500-$5000)
  • Wire Frames — ($1000-$3500)
  • Mock Ups — ($1500-$15000)
  • Code — ($1500-the sky is the limit)
  • Testing (Alpha & Beta) — ($1000-$5000)

It’s important to remember that we’re discussing custom solutions, so there is going to be an inherent delta on the spread of costs. One can surmise that a simpler project will be on the less expensive side and a large, development heavy project will likely exceed the figures below. The costs are what you make of them and the product will almost always reflect that. Just like when a consumer signs up for point and click service and they get what they pay for—the same applies for a custom solution as well. It’s been our experience that having an accessible and open dialogue with your firm of choice is what makes or breaks relationships on custom builds. The timeline is another massive consideration in costs. Costs can double and triple if truncated timelines with ‘must-have’ scenarios are in the mix. For us, an average build will be around six weeks and on the lesser side of those estimates above. Larger projects we’ve worked on took over a year to complete—it really all depends on the scope itself, but the timeline should be a consideration.

Consistent between the two options are the domain name and hosting fees. Depending on the registrar and options selected a domain name renewal could be free with your hosting package or cost in upwards of $40/year. Hosting fees are based more on the requirements necessary to run your project. If it’s a memory heavy site, but low on traffic, a middle of the road hosting plan in the $15-$20 range per month would be adequate. Where as elaborate, heavily trafficked sites will need dedicated hosting plans that can be hundreds every month. Also, consider the potential for SSL certificate costs as well ($100-$350 annually).

Specific Mobile App Costs

Developing apps are inherently expensive. It’s an unfortunate reality that the vast majority of the population considers apps something that can be cranked out in a couple weeks and cost a few hundred dollars. Building an app almost always requires building a specific server-side API to access database information, which is the app’s lifeline to actually getting information.

Not to be forgotten, there are now a few considerations about what platforms to develop on—iOS (Apple), Android, and Windows are the big three currently. Generalizing again, it’s not unreasonable to assume that any substantial app project would include at least development for iOS, Android and at the bare minimum a development period of six months and approximate costs ranging from $30k-$150k.

I hope these estimates provide some enlightenment to some of the realities of pricing for custom solutions on both sides of the spectrum. If you have any questions or would like to discuss in more detail, you can contact us here.