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How much does a Mobile Application cost (in real terms)?

This is THE question at the heart of the purchasing decision when it comes to turning a great idea into a serious mobile product. To help you make the right decision, we make a special effort to explain the issues involved (native vs. hybrid Mobile Apps, etc.) and to make costs transparent.

There are many articles on this subject, but every time the answers are incomplete or disappointing. Why is this?

Well, it's like fashion or cars. Between H&M and Hermès, between an Renault 5 and a Tesla, there's a wide range of choices depending on available budgets, quality, desired technicality and the urgency of the project.

Similarly, agencies specializing in the design and development of mobile applications are positioned differently in terms of quality/price, services offered for different client profiles and industries.

Choosing your Mobile designer and developer

To choose your developer, let's talk clearly about your options:

- Freelancers working "remotely", who charge very little, and who, during the course of the project, will make you lose your senses in the iterations: unreliable, and in the end, a quality that leaves much to be desired in both design and IT architecture.

- Big agencies that impress you with their sales force, their long list of big clients, and their "bling bling" website. They make a good living from outsourcing and spend a lot on marketing. This is ideal if you have a large budget and a project in specific fields such as banking and financial services that require sector-specific knowledge. But these agencies are rarely innovative, nor willing to go the extra mile on design and technical features.

- Niche agencies that have built their reputation by specializing in design and technological engineering. These are agencies, like Symantra, that work for all types of organizations (SMEs, NGOs, public institutions), specializing in the field of mobility and app-like solutions (native iOS, Android applications, etc.). We create value for our customers with a polished design, and a very robust, tailor-made architecture, based on the latest technologies on the market.

It's essential to understand the components involved in your project in order to fully appreciate the cost of your app and negotiate effectively.

Understanding which components are involved in your project is essential if you want to achieve your business objectives and negotiate effectively.

The 10 dimensions that influence the price of an app

1. The platform on which your app will run

Costs can vary depending on the platform (Android, iOS). Some developers have stronger skills in one or the other. The wisest way to avoid losing money is to start on one platform, test the agency, then launch on the other.

2. Ideation & Exploration

PlayStore and AppStore are graveyards of "zombie" applications: almost 85% of apps are never discovered by users. That's why it's important to validate your app's concept before investing in design and development. The ideation stage helps avoid financial blunders. This stage varies according to the complexity of the project, the objective to be achieved and your timetable. This workshop is optional, of course, if you've already done your market research and are open to risk.

3. Scoping

Once your business objectives are well defined, and the choice of solution is clear, you need to transform your solution into a technical specification document: the specification document. This document describes the project's functional scope, dependencies, technical specifications and basic wireframes. This step may seem difficult if you're not a technical expert. Which means that this service varies according to the complexity of your specifications. If you already have a partner for the ideation and exploration stage, you shouldn't have to pay extra. If your budget is limited, you can write the specs yourself.

4. App design

This is what makes the difference between a good app and a bad one. Many users complain about Appstore and Google Play store. You've heard it before: "Ah, bad hybrid!", "Such an ugly app!", "3 clicks and I still haven't found the info I was looking for", "the app crashes every other time"....

A great app starts with a great logo, a pleasant onboarding experience, clear call-to-actions, etc. In short, a superior, fast, fluid user experience (geeks call it UX). And here, the more elegant the app, the more it can cost. Extraordinary aesthetics (wow!), that's hours of a designer's work. An ordinary design, a copy-and-paste app, requires fewer hours of work, and therefore costs less. The cost also varies according to the number of screens, special effects and complex features (AR, gamification, m-shop, NFC...), degree of accessibility (audio description, sign language....).

In our experience, the hourly volume of the Design stage usually represents a third of a total workload to create the mobile solution.

5. Custom or platform development

Tailor-made development allows us to imagine a unique application in terms of User Interface and functionalities, for a product that's well adapted to your needs. The cost of this "haute couture" development is generally very high compared to development from a generic platform ("copy-paste-modulate"), which can leave a taste of déjà-vu. If, however, you want to create an ordinary app, and where owning the source code is not essential to you, then development from a generic platform enables you to reduce the cost of the investment.

6. Functionality

This is the variable with the greatest impact on overall cost. The more complex and numerous the functionalities, the more it will cost. There are simple functionalities such as camera use, geolocation, push notifications, integration with social networks, multilingual content, .... And more complex features like mobile payment, augmented reality, NFC/beacons, interactive games...

7. Infrastructure & Framework

Basically, it's about data storage, personal data protection (remember GDPR?), data encryption and API integration, user management.... Typing lines of code isn't too complicated. But that's just the tip of the iceberg...

The art of coding is to build a robust architecture, which requires developers with years of experience. So there's more to an application than its functionality and price.

Why is development quality so important?

Because Google Playstore has changed its app ranking algorithms, and now only lists mobile apps with the best performance, fewest crashes, greatest stability, ......

The number of installations or good ratings is no longer enough to judge the quality of an app and ensure its visibility. If your app crashes and drains your smartphone battery, it will fall into Play Store limbo, even if it's popular, thanks to the new algorithms.

Our proof: 4+ out of 5. This is the rating of all our mobile applications on Play Store and App Store. It's a rare achievement in the Belgian mobile app market. Seriously.

8. Test campaigns

The success of an app obviously depends on the genius of the idea. But the best ideas and the most beautiful designs can hit the wall because the experience, from the user's point of view, is of inferior quality from the very first seconds: crashes on start-up, disgusting hybrid design, slowness, one login/password too many ....

Half of all apps are deleted within minutes of being downloaded, at best. At worst, the user will vent his frustration on your Appstore/Playstore account. So, testing is an essential step in resolving as many bugs as possible and optimizing performance.

The cost will vary according to the complexity of the application; but it's not unreasonable to spend 20% of the total amount on testing.

9. Deployment + ASO

The cost of server-side deployment is recurring and depends on the supplier (AWS, OVH...).

10. App maintenance

After the app has been launched, you'll still need to run updates, fix problems, track statistics... Think about knowledge transfer and retrieving useful documents... All these tasks have an additional cost and can vary according to the number of active users on the app.

Do you have a serious app project?

We're talking about professional-quality development, respecting best practices in mobile development such as Apple and Android guidelines, for example.

Do you need to give your app a facelift/re-design and strengthen/boost the technical side?

Need to transform your web/web app into a high-performance mobile app?


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