Apps are expensive, and unless you find a way to reduce your app development cost, you could be spending thousands more than you need to.
To build a small app that can scale to a few thousand users, the development will cost somewhere around $10,000.
For some, even that’s too steep a price tag, so it may be worth exploring how to reduce that cost.
Of course, saving money shouldn’t be a priority when building an app.
If you forego key features just because you can’t afford them, you run the risk of distributing a useless app that no one will download. By keeping a few cost-effective tips in mind when building your app, you can save yourself some money and (hopefully) time.
Know What Your App Will Do
Paring down your idea to its essential parts may seem like an obvious first step, but you’d be surprised by how many people get into developing apps with dreams of going big time. Take some time to understand exactly what it is you plan to build, then stick to lean features that support that framework—nothing more.
Without exception, every single detail of your app requires time from a developer, and that means more hours billed to your project. By ruling out all those pie-in-the-sky features before meeting with your team, you can streamline your app and make the building process that much cheaper.
Minimize Features Wherever Possible
The best apps offer one or two powerful features and a little more. You don’t need to build an entire suite of high-performance tools in your first go. Instead, think of the most unique features you offer and limit development to those.
Not only will this save you money, but it will also help you build a more targeted app that people are likely to use.
A skilled team of developers will have experience with other apps similar to yours. They can help you deliver the best possible version of your app. The better you understand your unique selling proposition as it relates to your app, the more successful you’ll be able to market it and help it catch on.
Integrate Apps that Already Exist
There’s a lot of pressure on a developer who has to invent brand new technology, especially if they’re expected to stay budget conscious throughout the process.
Plus, there’s a likelihood that the technology already exists somewhere else and can be integrated using an API. This saves you time and money, plus it creates a better product.
APIs are strings of code created by the developers of one app so that those functions can be shared across other apps. Whenever you use an app that asks you for your location, for example, that is an API communicating with your phone so that the app can help you better.
So, if you need your app to perform a more complex function and don’t want to pay for it, find an app that already does it, then use its API.
Sacrifice a Little Bit of Customization
If at all possible, stick to a template when building your app. The less customized your program can be, the easier and faster it is to develop. Building a program from scratch always costs more, so giving your developer a clear map to follow makes the project easier for both of you.
Using a template doesn’t mean your app has to be boring.
In fact, there are some incredible app templates you can explore to generate ideas and have your project meet your expectations.
There’s No Substitute for Planning
The biggest waste of time and money in app development is making a developer plan out the most basic parts of what an app will do and whom it will serve. This is not their job, and whether or not they can help is beside the point—you’re paying top dollar consultation fees to someone who doesn’t specialize in that field.
So if you want to reduce your app development cost, you need to plan strategically on the outset.
Early on in your app development stage, you need to take a look at your business plan and marketing data to find out exactly who uses your product.
Then, using reputable market research from a company like eMarketer or ContactBabel, you can look into trends that appeal to your demographic (or, to save money, you can do your own research).
Once you know how your target market will use your app, draw a user flow that utilizes the data you learned earlier.
Draw a stick figure person and point them toward their goal (such as “view account info”), then map out each function that is required to get them there. If there are multiple functions on your app, draw multiple user flows.
Because these are the tasks that take the most time. Once you’ve planned out how your app works, building it is a breeze (assuming you’re not inventing new technology). By planning these flows out yourself, you will have a better idea of what to include in your app, helping you better explain your ideas to your developer.
Draw Mockups of Your App
Now that you know how users will navigate their way around the app, the next thing to do is give it shape. One way to do this is to draw it out by hand, laying out how each screen should look. Another approach is to use a wireframe template that makes space for each feature on your app.
A wireframe is a great way to save money on your app because it gives your developer a no-nonsense understanding of what you’re trying to build. They can see what you want because you already created a prototype.
Once you have an idea of how your app should look, run it by your developer for feedback. You could even consider hiring a freelance UX/UI designer for a couple of hours to look over your plans and give you feedback.
Again, the less time your developer has to spend inventing a plan for your app and making changes, the less money you’ll have to spend on their services.
Should You Work with a Freelance Developer?
Working with a reputable app design studio is the best way reduce your app development costs. They can help you plan it out and market it once it is ready for launch. The downside, unfortunately, is that working with a studio costs more.
Some find a way around this by working with freelancers, and sometimes those freelancers aren’t even located in the U.S.
Is it worth it?
If you have a clear understanding of your project and who you need to include on your team, you have the most important aspects figured out. But do you have the ambition to answer calls at all hours of the night when your freelancer is hard at work?
Are you prepared to extend launch deadlines to ensure your software is bug-free? Do you know who to call if you can’t solve a problem?
Apps access your users’ personal data, so prioritizing information security is important if you want to avoid lawsuits. While you can save money working with freelancers, you will also have to assume more of the risk that comes from building your own software.
By simply planning out your app as well as you can, you will save money even if you decide to work with a studio.
Envision the Future
Something else worth taking into account is scalability. As your app’s user base grows bigger and bigger, you may need to invest in more server space and, accordingly, a larger framework for all the new traffic. Early on, this may not seem like much of an issue, but failing to plan for it in the early stages of your app could lead to costly problems down the road.
Consider working with an app developer who understands integrating your software across different platforms, making it easy to keep your client base growing without having to overhaul your app.
Responsive Web Design is another excellent way to save money as your business grows. By designing your app to work well on all devices, you won’t have to spend as much extra time coding for iOS and Android separately. Plus, your app will work the same no matter who uses it.
Apps should be simple. Your website can be everything you want, but apps should be fast and easy to navigate. By planning a simple design with easy navigation, you can bring fleshed out ideas to a developer so they can spend less time imagining and more time building.
If nothing else, ask a developer what you can do to save money. If you have a design studio in mind that you’d like to use, ask them how to get an app up and running for as little money as possible.
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