How much does it cost to build an online platform or mobile app?

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How much does it cost to build a platform or app

Cost is a big factor with any investment, and software development is no different. So, how much does it cost to build an online platform or mobile app?

The answer - it depends. You might be able to get away with $10,000 or it might cost you $200,000+.

Yes, an infuriating and vague response, but unfortunately, very true.

Think along the lines of "how long is a piece string?" Software development projects can be small or they can be big. This, of course, affects the cost.

Factors that can affect cost

There are many things that can affect the cost of software development. Here are some main ones:

  1. What features and functionality you want (and how complicated it is)
  2. Who will build it
  3. How it will be built
  4. What devices need to be supported

Let's look at each of these in more detail.

1. What features and functionality you want (and how complicated it is)

There is a direct correlation between how much you want to build and the cost. An app with 50 functions is going to cost more than an app with 10. It just takes longer to build more, than to build less.

The next part of this relates to how complicated the functionality is. We might both define a product with 10 functions, but they may differ in complexity. Mine might have lots of different rules, require lots of information to be captured and stored, and need lots of calculations to be completed. Yours may just be displaying different types of content that has been loaded into the system. Mine will probably cost more to build.

2. Who will build it

It's no secret that going offshore will get you a lower daily rate than staying onshore. You're probably looking at a difference of $50-$75 per hour. This can add up over a large project. However, the quality may not be there.

There is also a difference between using a freelancer versus an agency. Agencies have a lot more overheads to cover, which makes them more expensive, but they usually have better coverage of the end-to-end process, because they have staff to address all of the skill sets needed to build software.

Another element is the experience of the developer. As expected, if you use someone with lots of experience, it's going to cost a lot more than if you have an inexperienced one. The balancing act between cost and experience is a tough one. Depending on your budget, it may be worth the risk to give someone less experienced a chance. However, if you don't have a lot of time to spend on the project, then you'll need someone more experienced.

3. How it will be built

If you're building a mobile app, then the question of native vs hybrid will often be raised. Native apps are built individually for each phone operating system (e.g. iOS vs Android), and in the language of those operating systems. On the other hand, a hybrid app will be built once, and then converted into apps for different operating systems. The former is much more expensive because you have to build the app multiple times, but it allows you to have a product that is made specifically for that operating system. Hybrid apps work well too - and are often a good starting point - but you have to compromise because you're building a "one-size-fits-all" product.

On the web side, there are lots of ways to build a platform. You can use existing platforms like Wordpress to build very functional and experience-rich applications. Or you can build from scratch. This approach can have varying costs too depending on what you want.  If you can leverage an existing platform, it's probably going to be cheaper than building from scratch. However, down the line, you might have to replace it with something else that allows you to do all the things that you might want to do.

4.What devices need to be supported

The number of devices that you want to run your product on will also affect the cost. If you're only looking at a platform that someone will use on a laptop or desktop, that's a different proposition to having it work on all device types. Just dealing with multiple screen types adds lots of overheads. Think about the different sizes of mobile screens and you'll start getting an idea of the effort involved. Even if your product is built to be responsive, you still have to test it on all of these devices to make sure it works as expected. If you want to support touch screens, then there's even more stuff to design, build and test. A lot more work has to go into making your product work on multiple devices, than making it work on one.

How much will your project cost?

Hopefully, you've now got a better feel of some of the major things that affect the cost of a software project. There isn't a standard number that someone can give you.  If you want to know how much you need to budget for, then you really need to talk to a few developers about your specific idea. They should be able to give you can indication of the cost. You also need to find out how different parts of your idea will affect the cost, and where you might be able to simplify things or reduce what you build. This might affect the viability of your idea.

At the end of the day, you need to know what it's going to cost to make your idea a reality. This also includes all of the other costs that you'll incur to launch your product. To give yourself the best chance at success, make sure your budget can cover it all.

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