Requesting an App Estimate: What You Need to Know

August 9, 2017

Can’t figure out how much your app will cost to make? You may want to stop searching because the number you’ll receive at the beginning of your startup journey will likely be far off from reality.

Say you have an idea for a brand new social network and tell developers you want to develop “an app like Instagram.” Depending on the type of developer that you’re speaking to 一freelancer, offshore developer, in-house developer 一 you can wind up receiving quotes ranging from $20k to $200k because developers need more than an idea or description to give you an accurate price estimate.

And use caution when receiving upfront quotes, as those agencies haven’t had the opportunity to discuss the scope of your app. This means that they are giving you a price quote based on their own assumptions of how your app will function, which may not accurately capture your vision.

They are also giving you a quote under the assumption that your app’s scope won’t change during the development process, leaving no room for iteration. Meaning, new features, feature changes, updates, and bug fixes will not be included in the estimate.

Don’t make the mistake of walking into app development blindly. Here’s what you need to know:

Building an App is Like Building a House

As any architect could tell you, there are many ways to build a two-bed, two-bath house. This is dependent on the quality of materials used, amount of time allotted for construction, the complexity of the house’s design, and many other factors.

The same concept applies to app development 一 building an app is a multi-faceted process, requiring careful planning and execution. An app can be built in infinite ways depending on a handful of key decisions that are made during the development process.

Here are the key things that go into an app development estimate:

  • Planning
  • Design
  • Platform
  • Complexity
  • Infrastructure
  • Testing
  • Updates

Not to mention, the people responsible for putting it all together. The cost of labor is also factored into an estimate: estimated hours to complete features x billing rate.

Every app needs a blueprint of what exactly needs to be built, the resources involved, and a development timeline. With the proper information for the app’s blueprint, the development team can create an accurate price estimate and proposal.

What to Do Next

Provide your developer with as much relevant information and documentation as possible. The more information you provide, the more accurate and detailed your estimate will be.

Consider putting together one or more of the following pieces of documentation before requesting estimates:

If you don’t have any documentation before approaching a developer, it’s okay. However, you should have at least some of the following information ready for review:

Budget: This will allow the developer to figure out if the project scope is feasible. If you’re searching for seed capital or already have funding, you should mention that as well.

Feature list: List both required and “nice to have” features, so developers have room to work with. This will help the project stay within budget.

Description of what has been completed and which services will you need: Does the developer need to create a new backend, branding, and UX/UI?

Desired platformsWhat do you want to develop your app for? iOS, Android, web, wearables, TV, IoT, or a combination of platforms?

Timeframe: When do you need a proposal? When do you expect to choose a developer? Do you have a specific launch date?

Keep in mind; full development typically takes 3-6 months. If you’re hoping to launch at a much earlier date, this may require you to cut a couple of features out of v1.

Key Takeaways

  • Developers need more than a brief description to give you an accurate price estimate.
  • Don’t trust upfront quotes, because the final quote will not account for new features, feature changes, updates, and/or bug fixes.
  • Keep in mind that developing an app is like building a house.
  • Consider having documentation ready: RFPbusiness planpitch deck, or BMC
  • If you don’t have any documentation, have these pieces of information ready to discuss: budget, feature list, what services you need, what platform you want to develop for, development timeline.
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