Mobile applications grew 50% from 2019 to 2020, and 2021 looks like another growth year, with mobile installations increasing by 31% in the first quarter. Financial applications were the most installed applications, followed by gaming; however, eCommerce apps are gaining momentum. Although they had an install increase of only 6%, eCommerce had a session increase of nearly 50%, indicating more frequent use of the app once it’s installed. These are just some of the reasons that the mobile application market reached $112 billion in 2020.
If your business has an older mobile app, you may need to upgrade to add newer features. If you’re looking at your first mobile app, you’ll need to consider features, functionality, and cost. For many companies, the development costs for a mobile app result in sticker shock. However, the costs are not out of line. There’s more to developing an application than companies realize.
As your organization looks at budgeting for a mobile application, here are some things we think you should keep in mind.
Platforms and Purpose
Before investing in a mobile app, what is its purpose? Are you opening up another communication channel? Do you want to increase sales? Can the purpose be addressed through a website?
Web applications are less costly to develop because the web infrastructure takes care of the presentation. Developers do not have to code separate applications based on the browser or device being used. Mobile apps do not have a standardized infrastructure to start from.
Most businesses realize that an app needs to be written for the iOS and Android operating systems. What they are not aware of is the need for backward compatibility. Not everyone has the latest smartphone; in fact, the length of time consumers keep their smartphones has increased from less than two years to almost three. That means a mobile app may need to support multiple versions of iOS and Android smartphones. Organizations will need to decide how far back they want to go with their applications when looking at budgets.
Determining functionality means looking at three aspects of a mobile application.
- User Interface
The choices in each area dictate the cost associated with the development. For example, an app that requires stellar graphics will take longer to develop and have more complexity than a timer app that only displays numbers.
Most apps store data of some sort. If it’s a gaming app, individual progress is stored on a server or the cloud, so players can pick up where they left off. As a result, the application may need to manage data acquisition, storage, and maintenance, which adds to the cost. Data management can increase the time and money to deliver an app.
Banking applications are an example of highly integrated mobile apps. Financial institutions maintain separate systems for consumer and investment banking. When customers want to view all their accounts, the application has to get the information from two systems and present it uniformly. The process of getting data from the banking systems is an example of integration. In many cases, the interface or API is different for each source of information which increases the cost of the application.
Applications require maintenance. They are not a one-and-done solution. Technology changes. New phones or tablets are always being released. That means the software that runs on the devices may need to change.
Something as simple as Amazon changing how it accepts data into its cloud services can require adjusting a mobile app. Companies may want to add functionality or fine-tune the interface after its launch, which requires developers’ ongoing support. Maintenance costs should be part of any application budget.
The process of designing and developing software is complex and can be costly if organizations do not understand how it works. Businesses are often frustrated at how long it takes to deliver a solution and surprised at the cost, but building an application is like building a house. More goes into the process than the homeowner realizes.
Let’s imagine that you want to build a home. The first step is to hire an architect to design it. How much the design costs depends on how much you contribute to the process. If you have sketches, the architect can start with those and return with a design close to your vision. If your contribution is — I want to build a house — it will take longer to decide on a design.
Building software works the same. For clients that come in with “I want to build an app,” the design process is longer. For example, an app needs a login page that requires a username and password. A client has a screen layout that shows the look and feel of the app. It outlines what navigation is allowed from the login screen, defines the password requirements, and how usernames are created. With that level of information, the developers will produce a minimum viable product (MVP) that can be refined through use cases. Without the details, the client and developer must work through the login page design, which takes time and costs more.
As development progresses, clients review layouts, features, and functionality. Invariably, clients find something to add or change. These changes in the scope can be expensive, depending on when they occur in the development process. In the home building example, changing the location of a window is a minor change when the frame is going up. It’s a totally different project if it’s done after the drywall is in place.
The same holds true in app development. The earlier in the process a change is requested, the less impact it has on the project’s scope. That’s the value of the MVP. Letting end users evaluate the product provides invaluable input that can be incorporated into the design at a more cost-effective price.
Deploying a mobile app has its own set of costs. There are cloud storage fees, plus it costs to have an app on Google Play and the App Store. If the app includes in-app purchases, a 15% to 30% charge may be assessed. Before starting on an app development project, be sure to check the deployment costs to include in a budget.
Building a budget means looking at the following:
At Entrance, we help clients develop realistic budgets for their software development projects. Together, we deliver quality applications no matter the project size. If your organization is interested in deploying a mobile app, contact us.