What to expect: typical costs for building a new app

Money floating around a phone

Embarking on the app creation journey is exciting, but it’s essential to be aware of the costs involved. From design to development and ongoing maintenance, let’s break down the typical budgets for app creation.

How much does app design really cost?

Design sets the tone for your app, and its cost can vary based on experience and expertise.

Newer freelancers in design might charge in the lower thousands of dollars. It’s an affordable route, but experience often correlates with quality.

And the design industry has matured in recent years. Those well-versed in product design will likely start with some level of consulting, or “discovery,” to better understand your project and lead you to your desired outcome.

Investing upwards of $10,000 means you’re not just paying for design. You’re securing reliable project management, adherence to launch dates, and solid expertise. Remember Picasso’s words when asked about charging a significant sum for a quick sketch: “It took me a lifetime to learn how to draw that.” At Skydea, we start from around $30,000 for a full design scope of zero to prototype.

How much does app development cost?

Turning your design into a functional app is the next step.

For simpler apps, costs can range from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on features and functionality.

More complex apps might start around $30,000 and rise based on the project’s intricacy. Development typically incurs higher costs than design and often takes longer, unless you’re launching a fairly basic MVP.

Ongoing costs: What should I anticipate?

Before you begin app development, you should see how ongoing costs are structured. We’ve seen things like $30k/month when left unchecked. That’s fine if you’re making $100k revenue/month, but if it’s zero… yikes.

  • Maintenance and Updates: Apps are usually not one-and-done. Annually, you might spend 15-20% of the original development cost to keep your app updated.
  • Hosting: Hosting fees are quite variable. The more image or video-heavy your app, the higher the costs. Apps hosting large files should brace for substantial expenses.
  • Customer Service: As your app grows, so will user inquiries. Budgeting for customer service is crucial unless you plan to manage all inquiries personally. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, you can expect some unfavorable reviews on app stores.
  • Licensing: Apple charges $99/year, while Google Play requires a one-time $25 fee.

Any other expenses I should know about?

A few more to keep in mind:

  • Analytics Tools: While Google Analytics is free, investing in advanced tools can offer deeper insights into user behavior.
  • Marketing: This encompasses advertisement costs, including platforms like Google Ads, in-app ads, and Meta ads. If you’re outsourcing social media management, factor that into your budget too.
  • Website: Should your app have a website? Probably. Even if it’s built with something as simple as Wix or Webflow, your app should have some online presence. Also note that, if you’re building for iOS, you may need a working website for your company in order to even register for the App Store.

Creating an app involves various costs, from design to post-launch management. Being informed helps in budgeting effectively and ensuring your app’s success in the competitive market.

Skydea is an English-speaking Tokyo design agency.

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