At SFCD, we receive many inquiries from potential clients regarding the costs of developing an application. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer as the costs vary greatly — from $20,000 to $200,000 — depending on the type of application and features requested. Developing and designing an app is no small endeavor, but if done correctly and with the right attention to details, you could have a great product that lands in the palms of millions of users.
The following are key components that go into building a “simple” app:
Strategy and Concept
Let’s say a client approaches us about developing a note-taking application for iOS, arguably one of the “simplest” kinds of app. We might spend two days on strategy, discussing the client’s goals and researching competitors to establish the minimum viable product (MVP) — a product in its most basic form that includes the “best hits” of features. We then test and validate the app by providing prototypes to users, allowing us to see how they interact with the designs. Afterwards, we revise our features based on the feedback.
Once we have a strategy and concept in place, the app moves into pre-production, where our user experience (UX), design and engineering teams work together to define the overall plan and product foundation for the application.
User Experience and Design
The UX team defines how the app will work, detailing its various features and exploring different scenarios in how one might use the app. They consider things like:
- How will you visualize the notes?
- How will you add, edit and delete notes?
- How will you search for content?
Each scenario can take several days to define and optimize, and are accompanied by user flows and wireframes. The team also decides on the key screens needed to illustrate the flows while considering how a user will complete a task within the app through intuitive interfaces.
Simultaneously, the design team begins to establish a visual style guide comprised of colors, fonts, graphics and an app icon. Many rough ideas are sketched out, and then the best are sent to the client for review.
The engineering team then advises on technical feasibilities and limitations. The final stage in pre-production allows them to plan out the project structure, likely one to two days for the simple Notes app, giving particular care to ensure that maintenance and updates to the application can be handled effectively.
With a strategy in place, the project then moves into the production phase. The design team applies visual elements to the screens based off of the wireframes — detailing the states of all of the interactive elements (such as calls to action, animations, transitions, etc.) while accounting for screen size, resolution and other device-specific constraints. Preparing these assets for the developers can take an additional few days of work. For our simple Notes app example, the total design time would be around five days.
Development and Quality Assurance
Organization is the key to delivering projects in a timely and cost-efficient manner, and our team uses a variety of tools to help them automate processes and create a solid product to maximize efficiency. For a simple Notes application, development would take about 10 days, with additional time dedicated to quality assurance. As app builds are produced, various teams rigorously review the product, a process that can take another three days for this app example, but which is absolutely essential to creating a polished piece of software and eliminating bugs and inconsistencies before they reach the market.
When the client is happy with the end product, we prepare it for submission to the app store. We take special care in creating copy for the app description and selecting the appropriate screenshots that clearly explain the application’s functionality to the user. This final step of submitting the product to the app store can take another one to two days.
The time and costs associated with developing an app greatly varies — even seemingly simple features require a significant amount of work. Working with a partner is a creative collaboration between the agency and the client that combines preparation, strategy and flexibility. Through proper mindfulness of the details, you could create a great product that reaches a worldwide audience, making the possibilities for app ideas endless.
A version of this article originally appeared on SCFD.com.
Anton Zykin is the CEO and co-founder of SFCD, a digital product agency in New York and San Francisco that creates world-class mobile and web apps.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.