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The Cost Of Custom Application Development

January 7, 2019
4 min read

It’s an all-too-common myth that custom application development is too expensive for most companies’ budget. There are custom development options available to meet every price point, from making a few simple tweaks to projects that last multiple years.

However, the cost of a custom software project can vary greatly, depending on both the project itself and the partner whom you choose to work with. Below, we’ll discuss some of the most important factors that influence the price of a custom development project, as well as how you can work towards getting an accurate estimate.

The Factors That Impact A Custom Software Project’s Cost

1. Size and complexity

Typically, the more screens or pages that are involved in a software application, the more expensive it will be. In addition, software that is more logically complex will require more time in development and more QA and testing staff to make sure that it works correctly and is free of errors.

2. Development time

Depending on the project, the time spent in development will be by far the biggest expense. Time spent building features that end customers don’t actually find valuable and having to throw them out is the biggest and most common destroyer of return-on-investment.

3. Integration with external software

Software development firms are often asked to perform custom integrations with off-the-shelf applications such as Salesforce or accounting software like Xero. Integrating with external software can introduce many unknown variables into the equation, and might cause the project’s cost to increase depending on the complexity.

4. Migration of existing data

If you’re already using an off-the-shelf software application, then you likely want to migrate the data in that application into your custom software once the project is complete. Figuring out the translation rules, writing the migration scripts, and performing tests and adjustments can all increase the costs of the project.

5. Building

Building the right things in the wrong order can be a costly mistake. The structure of a team’s development process will be key throughout the project. Developing the most important features first will help you generate revenue sooner, increasing return-on-investment.

6. Complexity of user experience

As the complexity of the user experience increases, so too will the costs. In particular, user interface considerations such as transitions and custom animations may ramp up the price of development.

7. Hardware requirements

IoT (Internet of Things) projects may involve both hardware and software development. This will require working with a firm with depth and experience in multiple skill sets and can greatly increase the project’s complexity and cost.

8. Tech stack

What tech stack is needed to build the project? Certain programming languages, platforms, and frameworks are more in-demand than others. If you’re building a mobile application, will you require native apps for both iOS and Android?

9. Creative design

Custom development may involve not only software, but also designs and artwork as part of the final package. Adding creative design to the project will likely increase the cost and timeline.

How To Get An Accurate Estimate

Getting an accurate estimate for an entire custom development project is very difficult. What’s more, estimates almost always change (and should change) at regular intervals throughout the build.

Your chosen development partner should update their time and cost estimates on a weekly basis and communicate them to you. Estimates should be made based on the time and complexity spent developing current features, and using them to reassess the overall project. Making accurate estimates is much easier partway through the project, when the team has established a comfortable “working velocity.”

Above all, don’t expect to receive accurate estimates from non-technical salespeople about the cost and complexity of a development project. If possible, speak to people who’d manage the process of building the software, like the product manager who’d be responsible for your project.

In addition, senior engineers will typically provide better estimates than team members with less experience. They understand the typical roadblocks you may encounter during a project and the time they need to work through these issues.

The Numbers: How Much Does Custom Development Cost?

Because the cost of a project depends on the factors listed above (and more), it’s difficult to give a standard range or estimate without knowing more about your exact situation. A simple mobile or web application with only a few features could cost $30,000 when built from scratch, but larger software products will require ongoing product development well past the initial “minimum viable product” and may require many millions or even billions of dollars worth of development (think Facebook, Google, Uber, etc.)

Smaller software projects with a handful of features may take between 6 to 12 weeks and cost a few hundred thousand dollars. On the other hand, a high-end large application with lots of user types and permissions may cost 10 or 20 times as much. Also, note that building both a web and mobile application will cost more than one or the other, since they will have to be developed separately.

In many cases, the “sweet spot” would be to build something that can be executed and deployed in a few months with all the most important features, so that you can start generating revenue. Such a project might cost between $100,000 and $250,000, depending on the specifics.

Final Thoughts

Although the costs of custom software development may vary widely, nearly every business can find a development partner and an option that works for them. If you’re considering custom software, speak with a knowledgeable, experienced partner such as Very who can assess your situation and provide an estimate of the required budget and timeline. Click here to get in touch with us today.