One of the most frequent questions that I receive is “How much does a Web Application cost?”, or even “What’s a ballpark cost for building a web app?”.
This is an entirely reasonable question, but despite how much I’d love to be able to provide a quick answer, it is a tough one without having a deep understanding of the project.
It’s a bit like asking, “How long is a piece of string?” – ultimately, the cost depends on what your requirements and expectations are and who you favour working with.
In this article, I am going to explain what are the factors that weigh on the costs, the essential elements to look out for when making a decision on who to hire for your job and lastly some actual prices.
Why are web applications so valuable?
There is no doubt about it: websites and applications provide very lucrative business opportunities.
The disruptive potential of website services and Software as a Service (SaaS) allows for the supply of complete new services, innovative business ideas and to cover unexplored market niches.
The benefits of these applications are not limited to new business models but include traditional businesses. In fact, for a company to survive the digital competition, applications are a must – from cafes to lawyers, even small and midsize companies are embracing apps.
Some of the benefits that applications can provide to traditional businesses include the following:
- Web applications can help reduce costs and increase revenue, making processes more efficient.
- Dramatically increase productivity, up to 40% according to research
- Overcome technical challenges through innovation, using emerging technologies
- Increase conversions by pushing users down the conversion funnel
- Increase customer engagement
A custom application means a custom price
A custom application designed specifically for your requirements is going to cost more than alternatives such as those provided by site builders, (e.g. WordPress, CMS or survey builders), but it’s also going to provide the best Return on Investment (ROI) if meticulously planning is made.
If you are a startup and at this stage, your priority is to try your idea with an MVP, by all means, ready-made solutions can be a great way to get you started and keep you within budget.
Some developers might offer packages or set costs right away, but it’s better to stay alert with what sounds too good, too cheap or unreal.
The right level of customisation to call for depends on your technical requirements: the granularity of your business idea and to which degree you want to have it transferred in the application.
Quality App development
If you think good software development is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad software development.
A good web application only makes sense if it is measurable. To make the success measurable, you need to lay down what metrics you are trying to achieve keeping in mind that it’s not only about “getting it done”, but “how it’s done” can be just as important.
What makes up the cost of software development is not only what can be seen on the surface, but rather, what rests “under the hood” that makes an application work.
Several ingredients might be ignored in a project, and you would still end up having a working finished product. You might save some money to start with, but in the long run, an app that has not been built up to high standards will inevitably end up costing you much more than what you have saved initially.
Some of the elements that should be taken into consideration when hiring a developer for a project include the following:
|Ensures that the project’s architecture is fit for purpose and allows to scale up
|Coding with modern technologies
|Future proofs applications taking advantage of emerging technologies
|Employing modular and Clean Code
|Eases maintenance, provides interoperability and keeps project independent of developer code
|Automated software testing
|Provides high quality, performance and stronger security
|Allows fast iterations and eases frequency of software releases
Project Factors that affect prices
The cost of a professional application is a question that cannot be quickly answered as every project has different needs; however, the best way to approach this question is to draw up a customised quote for each project.
To give an estimate, usually, an indication of the specifications of the project is required, but other provisions would need to be analysed such as the following:
- Business logic (nature, complexity, scale)
- Sketching and concepts
- Amount and complexity of any algorithms
- Technologies to employ
- Expected user/data volume
- Operating with legacy projects
- Production environment
- Security requirements
Freelancer vs Digital Agency
Another critical decision which inevitably has an impact on the price is who you hire for the job.
In most cases I advise staying off bargain freelancer platforms: the competition is fierce, rates look incredibly cheap, but more often than not you will end up hiring someone who would haste through your scope, and you end up having a buggy application made of untouchable spaghetti code.
Taking Marketplace Freelancers option off the table leaves the choice mainly between professional Freelancers and Digital Agencies.
Building a relationship with a professional Freelance Web Developer allows to have more direct communication with the person responsible of the development of the project, often you will have a more significant benefit of having the flexibility of the developer and more frequent iterations.
A Digital Agency comes with more overhead, as managers, creative directors and multiple developers might be involved in the project, but also the added benefit of being able to cover a plethora of expertise and services.
Ballpark timescales and prices
Here is a list of approximate price ranges for various project sizes. Please keep in mind that these are only ballpark figures.
It might include forms, API or other means of data exchange, and some basic data processing.
Development timescale: between a few days to a week.
Marketplace Freelancer: £100 – £500
Beginner Freelancer: £500 – £1,500
Experienced Freelancer: £1,000 – £2,000
Digital Agency: £1,500 – £3,000
It might include forms, API and other means of data exchange, user access, some data processing, including persisting to databases.
Development timescale: between a week to a few weeks.
Marketplace Freelancer: £500 – £1,000
Beginner Freelancer: £1,500 – £3,000
Experienced Freelancer: £2,000 – £5,000
Digital Agency: £3,000 – £10,000
It might bear a wealth of functionality and integrations, APIs, user access, user hierarchy, data analysis, data visualisation, complex operations and algorithms.
Development timescale: between a few weeks to several months.
Marketplace Freelancer: £1,000 – £3,000
Beginner Freelancer: £3,000 – £10,000
Experienced Freelancer: £5,000 – £50,000+
Digital Agency: £10,000 – £100,000+
Apps can bring tremendous opportunities, reduce business costs and provide new sources of revenue.
Investing the right amount in your project to start with will end up being cheaper than going for the wrong option – remember to not only think about the visible end result but also think about what’s under the hood.
Choose the right solution depending on your technical requirements, the granularity of your business idea, level of customisation, quality required and for your budget level.
So get in touch now and let’s discuss your project. I will be more than happy to provide you with an initial ballpark estimate and, when all specifications are defined, an accurate price and timescale quote.