Q: “How much does an app cost?” A: “About as much as a car.”
Custom designed icon above by Alex Lakas, Creative Director @ DarwinApps
How much does an app cost? It costs about as much as a car does, it just depends on what you want.
“I just want an app and I want it to work” = 1994 Honda Civic = $1-5K.
You just want a simple app. Nothing fancy, and you don’t really care who works on it. You can probably find a freelancer locally (hint: College students, trust the CS/engineering degrees first) or someone off odesk to do this for you. It won’t be anything amazing, but if you’re careful enough in finding someone and managing the process, you can get a few screens done on one platform, and in an app store (or on the web), and maybe even test if you can solve a problem effectively with said app.
[With enough searching, an old Honda Civic will get you from point A to point B]
“I want something that works well on one platform” = 2007 BMW 335i = $20-25K.
You want something solid that’ll work web/ mobile web / iOS / Android. Just one of those. It doesn’t need to be the most beautiful thing in the world, but you need it to be solid through one medium. It’s realistic to pay 20K+ for something like this.
[A used 335i will serve you well as a quick, luxury car in good weather.]
“I want something that works on anything” = Audi Q7 = $50-75K.
You want a solid app that’ll work on web/ mobile web / iOS / Android. You want to cover all of your bases, but you don’t need to be awesome in one specific concentration.
[The Audi Q7 will fit 8, is fast enough (S-line at least), comfortable, and luxurious.]
“I want this to be the best […]” = Lamborghini Aventador = $400K+
You think your idea (better read: problem solver) will be the next big thing. You have the money (or investors) to back that up. This category is for someone coming to make the next instagram / fb / quora / tumblr / whatever. You want to be the best in one specific medium, and the tweaking, specificity, and time necessary to think through / design / build / test / iterate can easily get you into the 100s of thousands. Hours behind deep detail dives and and iterations can quickly sky-rocket prices.
[King of the castle, king of the castle]
Tips for not getting screwed (at an “app dealer”):
Learn to wireframe. It’ll improve communications between your idea and the physical reality of that idea. It’ll help yo think through problems easier. It makes handing off an idea/problem-solver to another party much easier.
Learn the difference between web / mobile web / iOS / Android and what the time behind each of those can take.
Learn what a designer can do and what a developer can do (bonus points: learn about what different devs can cover from the front-end to back-end spectrum).
Look for shops that approach fixing a problem as cutting things out first. That means they can efficiently help you solve X problem with Y dollars instead of trying to up-sell everything you don’t need.
The above are not rules behind pricing / speculating projects. This is simply an analogy to help bridge the tech to non-tech gap of expectations between product and price.
Hope this helps you not get screwed at the dealer next time you’re out app shopping:)
CEO / DarwinApps