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How much does it cost to develop a web application?

Team using computers in an office
(Image credit: Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash)

Before ordering a web application at a developer company, one usually, wants to know how much it will cost. However, it’s impossible to name the final price without knowing all the details of the project. 

The cost to develop a web application depends on multiple variables, including its complexity, features, and even the developer’s country of residence. In this article, we are going to have a closer look at these key factors, and give you some useful tips on how to minimise the total expenses.

The main variables that influence the cost to develop a web application

No development company will ever name you the total cost of a custom app development without studying all the details. Moreover, the price can change more than once during working, especially when it comes to large and complex projects. Here are some basic things to consider when estimating the cost of your initial idea implementation.

Desired functionality and features

Needless to say, the first thing that developers need to estimate is a potential scope of work. If you want to pay someone to develop a web application from scratch, prepare answers for the following questions:

  • What kind of site do you want? Is it a simple online store, a landing page, a business website, a complex integrated system or something else?
  • Is it a standalone project or is an integration of third-party software required?
  • Do you need a mobile version?
  • What are the other mandatory elements?
  • What is the deadline? Here, you need to keep in mind that writing a clear and correct code is a time-consuming process; don’t expect to get a top-notch site in a couple of weeks

Finally, don’t forget that web development is a very flexible process. It is not impossible to alter the initial plan, integrate some new tools or add new features. This will also influence the final cost.

User interface complexity

If you want to minimise your expenses, you may use a free standard template for the UI of your app. However, if you want your business to be really recognisable and unique, you can’t do without a unique design. Here, again, the end price depends on the overall complexity, features, extra elements, animations, etc. Ideally, the UI must be attractive, flexible, and intuitive, and, at the same time, not cluttered with unnecessary components.

The niche

One must realise that the cost of an online clothes shop and a unique site for a serious medical or engineering company will differ greatly. In the first case, we deal with a popular mass-market project, which is quite easy to do and, therefore, inexpensive. In the second case, we deal with an exclusive resource, which requires close collaboration of developers and experts. Of course, it will be more expensive and time-consuming.

The developer’s country of residence       

The price of the same services can vary greatly depending on where the developer company resides. Thus, the most “expensive” regions are North America (the US, Canada) and Australia. 

Here, you will pay $80 to $250 for just one hour of developer work. In West Europe, including the UK, it costs, on average, $50 to $99 an hour, while Eastern European countries, such as Ukraine, are often ready to offer prices of $20 to $50 an hour. Other things being equal, choosing an offshore company can let you save quite a lot.

Everything starts with an idea. Moreover, sometimes, outlining the idea is the most difficult stage. Even if you know nothing about developer tools and methods, you need to understand clearly, how your project is going to work. Basically, there are two main approaches to forming the initial picture of the project in order to pre-estimate its costs.

Coming up with a unique idea

If you want to develop a custom web app from scratch, you must be prepared to answer multiple questions to let developers see a whole picture of what you want. The approach like “I want my app to be as cool as Uber” doesn’t work here. First, try to describe the end result precisely: what it must be and what it must look like. Second, try to describe possible ways of how to get there. Ideally, make an iconographic model. Provide as many details as possible – by doing so, you save developers’ time and, simultaneously, the project costs.

Replicating or improving an existing idea

An alternative solution is using an existing app or project as a starting point. On the one hand, taking a ready-made idea and adapting it for your needs is easier than developing it from scratch. On the other hand, even minor changes in the functionality and design require major code revision. As a result, it can turn to be as expensive and time-consuming as the original project.

Three levels of web app complexity

There is no single answer to the question about the cost to develop a web application, as it can vary from $3,000 to approximately, $250,000. However, knowing the app type, it is possible to make a rough pre-estimation. Depending on its complexity, a web app can fall into one of the three categories.

Simple apps

These are one-pagers, landing pages, and usual online stores with a standard design and a bare minimum of features. Usually, they require basic interactive forms and little content. A simple website or web app will cost you $3,000 to $15,000, while the development time rarely exceeds one month.

Medium apps

These are primarily small-to-medium business sites (opens in new tab) and ecommerce sites (opens in new tab). They need a lot of interactive elements to be integrated, and the volume of content is pretty large. Their cost can vary from $15,000 to $50,000, and the development time can reach 4 months.

Complex/large-scale apps

This category includes exclusive enterprise websites for large-scale businesses. They can include unique CMSs, a lot of exclusive features, large databases, and tons of content. The development cost can reach (but is not limited to) $250,000, and the average development time is half a year.

How to reduce the cost to develop a web application

It happens that after making preliminary calculations you understand that your project cost exceeds your budget. In this case, you have nothing to do but reconsider your requirements. Here are two ways to reduce app development costs.

Cut off everything beyond the minimal viable product. You’ll get a kind of a trial version to test in real-life conditions. Once you collect some feedback, you will understand more clearly what you need to focus on.

Search for cheaper alternatives. Ask the developers whether they can offer a cheaper way to solve the same tasks. Check how this will affect the total cost of the project and its efficiency.

An alternative solution finding another developer whose services are cheaper. Keep in mind, however, that a higher price is usually associated with higher quality.

Further reading

When it comes to web apps, we've outlined the best photo storage apps (opens in new tab) and the best apps to share files (opens in new tab). We've also discussed how progressive web apps are revolutionising the user experience (opens in new tab); how progressive web apps are disrupting digital strategies (opens in new tab); and five things to consider before you build a progressive web app (opens in new tab).

Vitaly Kuprenko is a technical writer at Cleveroad, software development company located in Europe. His mission is to provide people with interesting material about innovations in the world of IT.