Startup Resources
January 8, 2014 by Guest Blogger

By Nicholas Wright, CEO at AppInstruct

In our last post about how to create an app, we looked at whether you should learn to code. For many people, it isn’t practical to learn to code due to time and difficulty constraints, so this week we’ll look at what it may cost to hire an app developer to make your app for you.

Costs are very much dependent on how complicated the app is to build, how much of its design is bespoke or whether it incorporates existing design features (the code for which may already be available to use), and how experienced your developer is.

There are a couple of simple analogies that we find make it easier for people to understand the process of making an app—the architect and the novelist.

Cost factor #1: Scope

Let’s imagine an architect is hired to design a couple’s home. If they’re a newlywed couple with a limited budget, the architect will likely recommend a kit home—straight lines, regular corners—that’s quick and easy, and is therefore cheap to build. On the other hand, if the couple are empty-nesters building their dream home with a lifetime’s savings, then the architect will look to deliver on that dream—he’ll use the latest materials and techniques to create a free-flowing, complex and bespoke design, even though it will be expensive to build.

Alternatively we can think about the novelist, who sits on the first day of writing with a blank piece of paper in the typewriter. Think of your coder as that novelist. On the first day, they just have a blank screen with a flashing cursor. Everything that is to appear in your app, visually and functionally, now has to be written in code. So the coder must spend hours drafting these lines of code, just as a novelist must spend hours writing their prose. There will always be a minimum amount of time involved.

So first and foremost, if your budget is limited, you need to simplify what you’ll make, ideally focusing on one core feature. Be ready to incorporate existing interface designs, the code for which pre-exists and may be available via open source so the developer can incorporate it into your app. (Open source code samples can be found on code repository sites such as GitHub and Bitbucket.) The result is akin to a minimum viable product—it allows you to validate your idea, and to properly assess whether there’s enough demand for your app to make adding features and polish worthwhile.

Cost factor #2: Geography

The great thing about oDesk’s platform is that it provides the opportunity to recruit experienced developers from economies where the cost of living may be less than in Western economies. For example, an experienced independent developer in Sydney, Australia, will expect an hourly rate upwards of $140/hr. Meanwhile, an experienced developer in Russia or Belarus is likely happy to charge substantially less than that ($40-$50/hr) because their living expenses are lower.

While working in the same time zone as your development team can be helpful, there are also advantages to having a distributed team—such as 24/7 working hours. One of the App Store’s most successful apps, Cut the Rope, was developed in conjunction with a US publisher, Chillingo Inc, by a small, independent development team in Russia called Zeptolab. The Chillingo team noted that they rigorously tested the app prior to its release, providing detailed feedback to Zeptolab on the gameplay, as well as bugs. Their app is proof that geographical separation is no impediment to creating well-designed, innovative and hugely successful apps.

Cost factor #3: Platform & Category

In the following table we identify some popular types of apps by category, estimating the number of hours each might take an experienced developer to build for an iPhone or Android device. We’ve separated these platforms because the open Android environment is much more diverse than Apple’s, which makes it at least a third more expensive to build for. The increase in expense for Android is because you have to test the app over multiple different devices and versions of the operating system; this not only takes longer, but bugs are more common.

Type of app Description Apple (hrs) Android (hrs)
Simple app Everything installed on the device, built using templates/drop down menus 70-140 90-170
Database-supported app Data stored on a server/database integration, uses a Backend as a Service (BaaS) 140-210 170-250
Enterprise app Business integration; data stored on device + server 210+ 250+
Game app Single/multiplayer etc. 420+ 550+

 

With Android, there are ways to reduce the amount of extra work involved—and thus lower the costs—by only supporting specific versions of the operating system and certain devices. We’ll talk more about this in a later post.

In our next post, we’ll look at what you should consider when assessing which developer or designer to engage.

Editor’s note: To read more from Nic Wright and learn more about mobile app development, check out these related blog posts.

Nic Wright

Co-founder and CEO of AppInstruct

Nic Wright is co-founder and CEO of AppInstruct, which provides courses on how to create an app. He is actively involved in the start-up space, mentoring other founders with mobile, fundraising and legal advice. Nic’s favorite app is WhatsApp, which allows him to remain in contact with family in America and England.

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  • Dave

    i don’t understand these stories of kids/young people developing apps and going on to make thousands and thousands.. if it costs $20k to develop a decent interactive app, how does anybody get the money to do this? or are all the people you hear about having success in the app world coders to begin with?

  • Dave

    i don’t understand these stories of kids/young people developing apps and going on to make thousands and thousands.. if it costs $20k to develop a decent interactive app, how does anybody get the money to do this? or are all the people you hear about having success in the app world coders to begin with?

  • jonv0755

    I have a simple but great idea for an app that involves bluetooth. Any developers in San Diego that have fair rates shoot me an email. jvelasquez0755@gmail.com

  • jonv0755

    I have a simple but great idea for an app that involves bluetooth. Any developers in San Diego that have fair rates shoot me an email. jvelasquez0755@gmail.com

  • MootsaGootsa

    I’m looking for a very experienced app writer for a very complicated fantasy politicians game. You may look over the project at http:/mootsgootsa.com I can only give you percentage of the business. Same deal for a great software writer. This is a big project and will probably make any people involved millionaires.

  • MootsaGootsa

    I’m looking for a very experienced app writer for a very complicated fantasy politicians game. You may look over the project at http:/mootsgootsa.com I can only give you percentage of the business. Same deal for a great software writer. This is a big project and will probably make any people involved millionaires.

  • BeautyIndXchange

    what would the hours be if I’ve already care of all the application screens. Wouldn’t the hours change dramatically. Especially if now only coding is involved, and I’ve given step by step instructions on how the app would function

  • http://www.actmobilesolutions.com/en-espanol Alastair Bartlett

    Hi Shimmerchick – well obviously, if you’re looking to get all the profits from the app, you’ll want to raise the money yourself. We have been approached before by various people, to see if we’d like to develop the application free of charge (or a reduced rate) for a share of the profits, but I think you’ll find that 9 out of 10 good application development companies are basically not looking to invest in an app concept. But you’re right, no company should be quoting anything before fully analysing the concept, getting your requirements, and giving a detailed definition of what is included in the project and how long it will approximately take. They should also offer you a non disclosure agreement and a contract. It sounds like you made the right choice in moving on. We’d be happy to take a look at your project and help you with anything you need – we are founded on complete honesty and business integrity and we pride ourselves on delivering applications of the very highest quality. Anything we can do, don’t hesitate to let me know alastair.bartlett@actmobilesolutions.com. Many thanks. Alastair.

  • http://www.philosophie.is jlo

    Definitely check out http://www.philosophie.is
    We make apps for startups in super efficient small teams. We’ll work to validate your concept, provide insight to your startup process, and get your website up or mobile app to the app store. Email me at joseph@gophilosophie.com and we can go from there!

  • CodeVortex

    You think that NDA is useless whereas email trail isn’t? Many people can spoof emails and it is not even prosecuted in some countries, but forging tangible, signed documents with dates and names on them is considered a felony in every developed modern country. At the very least they are received better in a court of law, should the matter escalate to being handled there.
    Also, copy-cats will try to imitate only apps that bear some serious value proposition. As long as the app is more than a flimsy idea or quirk experiment, the owner or main stakeholders had better ensure:
    1) good legal support
    2) security experts to obfuscate/secure as much as possible the sensitive parts of their app that contains the core of their idea (usually a couple of smart algorithms that derive useful information from heaps of raw data)
    3) capable marketing support for promoting the app and branding it and making sure that it will shine through the various clones that might emerge, if the idea proves to be successful.

  • Eddy

    I believe SOME DEVELOPERS are very GREEDY and very ARROGANT !
    Some of you abuse the client just because some people do not know what it is and how it works to build an application like extra BS extra BS extra BS for the BS to can WORK ,in reality if you know what you do it is very easy (THANKS TO THE REAL DEVELOPERS WHO WRITE CODES AND KEEP THEM FREE TO USE LIKE GITTHUB AND OTHERS)..is like a women have a problem with her car and when she go to the mechanic he star to make that face …pffffffffffffff this is very bad we have to replace the spark plug….just to squeeze more money from her because she is the victim she need the fix and she does not know what is a spark plug..
    Now a person who knows nothing about computers , come , read >> Data stored on a server/database integration, uses a Backend as a Service (BaaS) 150/hour.. he says .. WTF IS THIS ..i think this is very hard task to do and very complicated for an developer if it cost so much money..In realty is pure BS
    But on the other hand if you know how the system work you start rubbing your hands for joy like a little BANKER ..

    Where the hell you live on Kepler

    You developers need to come back down to earth AND STOP ROBING PEOPLE MONEY !
    At the other HAND, people are very stupid to accept this kind of money.What it will happen if people will say NO to your prices inflated..?

    You developers DESERVE MAXIMUM PAYMENT BETWEEN $35 – 45/h AND LET’S NOT FORGOT gitthub, sourceforge…and others WHERE YOU CAN FIND ALMOST EVERYTHING FOR FREE now! and you are still in profit , because some of you have annual expenses like (website , apple, google, servers …but one fee at the end of the year ..so if you work hard 1 day you cover up your cost the others 364 days you work in profit .

    Do
    you know what is the minimum wage in Europe ? 800 euro and people work
    very hard 1 month for that money and you want to tell me that you make
    in 5 hours what others make in 1 months …

    As long there is high demand for apps, the price will grow to higher
    As long people will accept the prices the hunger for the money will continue !
    I do have some brothers Pure Blood Developers for which I do keep my respect to the second life , but for HYENAS i don’t use my effort to X.

    Hey Hyenas life is short and money make your life shorter ! PURE EVIL

    NOW CREDENTIALS !

    English is not my language
    I do not write good English
    I am aware that grammatically my comment IS WRONG

    I do not want to learn!

    Thank you very much Google translate :))

    • http://mariodian.com mariodian

      I spent my whole childhood gathering the knowledge while you were playing with your toy cars. While you were having a nice and carefree life, I was working hard to get where I am now. Please don’t tell me how much I deserve, because you’re not the one that went through years of hard work. Thank you.

  • Williams Cruz Anaka

    I need a mobile app developer ASAP… Mail me at captaincruz@gmail.com if interested

  • anonymous indian

    if you are looking for getting an app really cheap, like for $500 which nobody in your neighbor is quoting. $5000, it should ring an alarm .some jobs are never meant to be completed, it is a waste of time and money There has to be something sneaky for ultra low bid. Before going for the lowest bid , ask yourself some questions.

    I won’t go into details. do some research , write your specifications , look for devil ( in details ) in bids . or just ask any industry expert about his opinions. you never get an honest opinion from a salesman. If your specifications are in 20-100 lines, your chance of success is barely 20%.

    If you are selecting someone just because his software or website looks excellent,
    congratulations. you just picked up a 16 year old college student who will give you a nice software that will be gasping for air when load goes by 10 concurrent live user.

    It is like ordering a BMW online without mentioning model , make , condition ,used , new .

    If you are in statistics, 60% of all the software made so far haven’t seen the light of the day. With a proper study and planning all buyers received what they wanted in time and budget .

    I am a consultant & freelancer from last 15 years, owned a software company and know everything about projects & project management .
    I will be very happy to post answers to your comments here , just to make the world a better place for everybody.

    There is lot to share , but it is very subjective and hard to write it all here .
    Feel free to reply . it is ray777bAtgmail