Web app development: costs & processes





Web app development is now a key aspect of modern business.


Innumerable case studies show that web apps help businesses work more efficiently and achieve their objectives much faster. So it’s no surprise that almost all forward-thinking businesses are trying to develop intuitive web apps to enhance their existing processes.


Commenting on the rise of the web app, Raj Aggarwal, CEO of Localytics said:


The rich and interactive experiences we have come to expect on mobile apps have created new standards and expectations for all digital media including the web. The result is websites are evolving to become more app-like in their rich functionality.


This is all well and good, but how much does it cost to actually build a web app?


Although it may frustrate many, the only genuine answer to the question above is: it depends.


Even Google will offer little help on this one. Yes, you’ll find plenty of app cost calculators out there. But once you start developing your app, you’ll quickly find the numbers don’t match up.


Asking better questions


For web app development, cost estimation isn’t straightforward. Asking “how much will this web app cost?” is equivalent to asking “how long is a piece of string”. The question itself is so imprecise it’s basically meaningless. To answer it accurately, we need a lot more information.


Price is relative to the apps functionality, features, and where you’re going to develop it. It also depends on when you see the process being “finished”. Some think they’ll cross the finish line when the app has been built and deployed. But what about maintenance? Or adding new features after going live?


So before charging full steam ahead into the development phase, you need to sit back and do some planning. It’s vital you think things through carefully before you start. This is especially true if it’s your first time building a web app.


Mapping out the whole process from start to finish is only realistic way to ensure the project is successfully completed within budget. The more detail you can give to the developer / development team, the better your chances of getting an accurate quote.


Before exploring how to better estimate costs, let’s first look at what a web app actually is for the sake of clarity.


What exactly is a web app?


A web application is any computer program that performs a specific function by using a web browser as its client. The application can be as simple as a contact form on a website or as complex as a real-time multiplayer mobile game.


The word “client” refers to the client-server environment that’s used to run the app. The “client” is the application used to enter the information, and the ‘server’ is the application used to store the information.


Accurate cost estimation for web apps


More goes into a web app than raw code. When calculating costs you have to consider things like quality assurance (QA) testing, application architecture (like how many cloud services you’ll use), and overall product management.


You also have to think about other non-technical aspects of product development that will impact final costs. For example, you’ll need someone to assess the viability of the idea, market the product, and engage in budget planning.


Once your idea is deemed viable, you can get things moving. Although it may seem like a mountain to climb, the trick is to break the process down into more simple and manageable tasks.


Making it manageable 


After you figure out all the features you’d like to include in the app, you should consolidate them in a single document. With everything down on paper, you can then perform a complexity analysis of each task before classifying it. Next, you can list all of the development demanded by each task (logic, UI, testing, etc.).


You also need to prepare yourself for the unknown. This is especially true if it’s an idea that no one has tried to build before. Whenever this is the case, there’s a real possibility that you will face some obstacles down the road (so it’s a good idea to set aside some time and money).


When you’ve got the task mapped out to the best of your ability, it’s time to bring it to a developer who has worked on a similar project before. Their experience can help them make better estimations by using time-tracking as a reference.


At this point, it’s also a good idea to apply the three-point estimation technique to help increase the accuracy of cost and time estimates.


How many people do you need to develop a web app?


The size of web application development teams can vary depending on the complexity of the project. The bigger the task at hand, the bigger the team that will be required to complete it successfully.


At its most basic, web application development teams usually look like this:


  • Project Manager (to bridge the gap between tech and non-tech teams)
  • Product Owner
  • Back-end Developer
  • Front-end Developer (UI/UX)
  • Graphic Designer
  • Quality Assurance Tester
  • System Administrator


The final cost of web development will depend on the calibre of tech talent you choose to hire. For example, you will undoubtedly pay more for a senior developer and that will increase your development costs, but their experience may save you a considerable amount of time.


Usually, a blended approach works. A couple of senior team members are typically capable of creating a successful digital project with the help of other more junior developers.


Although it’s tempting, as a rule, it’s always best to avoid the cheapest option. You get what you pay for in web app development. Very cheap offshoring companies tend to work with mass produced templates and do not follow high ethical standards. There are definitely great offshoring companies out there, you just need to be very careful who you partner with.


Sourcing the right talent


Working with an IT recruitment agency can save you a lot of time, money and hassle. A specialist agency can help you build an experienced web app development team in just a few days. Freelance experts can be brought in to see the project through from start to finish.


IT consulting is not as expensive as many think. For instance, at first glance, contractor day rates may look completely unaffordable. However, operating on a flexible payment model means you aren’t bound into any long-term contracts. This makes it easy to stick to your allocated budget.


To learn for about web app development or to get help finding the right the right talent, reach out to one of our in-house experts.