How Much Does It Cost To Build An App?

The question every developer has been asked

At Lightning Kite we have a variety of developers: front-end, back-end, iOS, and Android developers. Each of us are different in our programming skill set. However, one thing that we all have in common is that we have been asked the following question:

“How much does it cost to build an app/website?"

The following conversation is not 100% accurate (only about 99.9%):

My Friend: “How are things going?”
Me: “Things are going well. How are you doing?”
My Friend: “Good, man. How are your kids?”
Me: “Growing like weeds…”
My Friend: “So, say I wanted to build an app, how much would that cost?”
Me: “Oh… Well, it really depends. What things are you wanting it to do?”
My Friend: “I mean, relatively simple. I want something like Facebook. How much would that be?”
Me: “Hahaha... Awkward silence... Oh, you are serious. Facebook is a really big app. I would estimate somewhere in the millions of dollars. You would probably need a team of at least 20 people.”
My Friend: “What!?! I have a neighbor friend that can build me one for $300.”

At this point in the conversation a few thoughts go through my head:
1. Your neighbor friend might have installed a Wordpress instance and called himself a developer.
2. A Facebook clone for only $300? Sounds like a deal only Donald Trump can make.
3. You probably think your neighbor is ripping you off. $300 is more than you want to spend on a Facebook clone.
4. Note to self, if this guy wants to hire me... RUN!

Me: “That's great! You should probably have him do it. I am excited to see it. When will he be done?”
My Friend: "He told me he could have it done in a couple weeks."
Me: "Wow, this guy must be amazing! Let's meet up again in a couple weeks when it's finished."

Me: "Hey! How are things? Did you get your Facebook clone finished?"
My Friend: "No, I paid him $300 and he said it is going to take more time. So he asked for another $300!! Can you believe that?!"
Me: "You're kidding! The nerve! Who does this guy think he is? $600 for a Facebook clone is outrageous!"

So, what is the answer to the infamous question? Well... it depends. It depends on what you want your app to do. In order to get a decent estimate, there are a few questions that need to be answered. For example:

1. Does your app need to support both iOS and Android?
2. Will the app need to connect to your website?
3. Does your app need to connect with other third party services (i.e. Dropbox or Amazon)?
4. Will your app need user types?
5. What do your users need to be able to do?

These are just a few of the questions that need to be answered. There are so many details that need to be considered to build an app that looks great and functions properly. The more details you already have worked out, the more accurate your bid on cost will be. To give you a better idea of what preliminary details should be worked out, we created our App Refinement Tool. Have an idea? Click here to test how much you really know about your own idea.

In reality, building an app and or website can be rather expensive. Building apps and websites is somewhat of a manual process. Most apps and websites are unique. Some may do the same function, but how they look, how they are built, who your target users are, and what language they are built in can vary in a variety of combinations. Services such as Squarespace or Wix are great for simple sites, but not great for something custom. Just remember, you get what you pay for.