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Why App Development Quotes Vary from Different Companies

Why App Development Quotes Vary from Different Companies

If you’ve been asking around and talking to companies to get an app development quote or estimate you might have noticed that app development prices vary depending on who you ask. Why does one company say $20,000 and another $100,000+?

There is often good reason for this wide variance in app development prices. I’ll explain.

Prices for app development will vary depending on factors such as where the work is actually being done (ex. India vs USA), whether the work is being done by app-specific developers, and how much detail they have about the project.

Let’s take a deeper dive into this with 7 reasons app development quotes vary so much.

1. Offshore vs Local Teams

Some app development companies have their entire team in the United States, others have a project manager in the United States and the rest of the team overseas, and others offshore everything except their US-based sales reps.

Where the development team is located might not make a difference to you so long as you have a local point of contact…but it may be impacting the price estimates you receive. Sometimes companies that offshore all or part of their work pass on the cost of labor savings to their customers. Sometimes they don’t. If they do, you may notice lower prices from companies that work with offshore teams.

2. Incomplete Project Specs

If two onshore companies give dramatically different estimates there’s a good chance they aren’t estimating the same thing. This is going to be more likely in the early stages of talking to agencies, before they know the full scope of what you need.

The reality is, until you engage a company in a detailed discovery process, they have only a vague idea of what you need (and want) and will apply some guesswork. Yes, even if they’ve done projects that sound similar to yours and they base their estimate on those projects.

3. Talent

Experienced app-focused developers aren’t the easiest to come by. They also get paid higher salaries because of their specialized expertise. There are lots of web development companies and marketing agencies that love to get their hands on an app development project…but have little experience developing native mobile apps.

It may seem like a good developer can easily switch to different programming languages. And yes, once you know one language it’s easier to learn others. But that is really simplifying what it takes to bring a great app to life!

Building an app requires an understanding of more than just a programming language. Both iOS and Android have specific nuances, software development kits, design standards, etc. that a skilled developer and designer needs to stay on top of. And then there are all the App Store Guidelines that must be adhered to, lest your app wind up rejected or banned by Apple.

Developing your business-critical native iOS and Android apps is not for the faint of heart, or a developer in learning mode.

4. Agency Model

If the price estimates you receive for app development vary widely, another answer is that you might not be comparing apples to apples with respect to the types of companies you’ve been talking to.

You’ll have agencies that run leaner with smaller teams, less overhead and lower hourly rates, and agencies that have a large executive team, multiple layers of management and time spent flying teams around the country to visit their clients in person.

The style of service you receive will be different (not necessarily better or worse, depending on your preferences) and so will the price points.

5. Custom Design versus a Template

The look of an app can vary greatly. Some are beautiful and consistent with Apple or Google design styles. Others are generic, and look more like a website.

Is the company you’re talking to basing their estimate off a generic app design template they use across multiple projects, or will your app have a custom design? Is their designer very familiar with designing for apps? This will impact the cost. You might not care. If you do, be sure you know what you’re getting.

(At Big Fish you get a custom-designed and branded app, done by an experienced app designer.)

6. Custom Development versus Pre-Built

On rare occasions we talk to a company that has been unknowingly getting quotes from app vendors that are selling a license to their pre-built software, rather than custom-developed software.

There is no comparison between the cost of custom designed and developed software built to your exact specifications, and the cost of packaged software.

If you receive a rock bottom quote compared to others, check in with that company again and ensure that you’re receiving custom software. While you’re at it, ask if you’ll receive a copy of the source code when it’s done.

That said, if your needs are generic and your budget is too low for custom development, a pre-built mobile app might actually be a better fit anyway. Better to know upfront.

7. Single Developer versus an Agency

OK, this one should be a given. There will be little comparison between estimates you receive from a single freelance developer and estimates from an agency team. The agency team will include the full scope of what’s needed, such as design, project management and quality control. There will also be no comparison in the amount of time you’ll spend managing the project.

If you’ve not been involved in a custom software development project in the past all these “extra people” may seem unnecessary…if you have been involved in a software development project you know how critically important these roles are to quality, schedule, managing your budget and saving you a lot of lost sleep and frustration.

Final Note

In addition to helping explain why app development prices vary so much, these factors are also just good to know when you’re looking for an app development company. There are lots of reasons why prices vary, we’re confident you’re now better informed and armed with new questions to ask.

At Big Fish we specialize in developing custom mobile apps. If you have an upcoming project please reach out and request a call with our team. We’d be happy to discuss and answer some of your questions around pricing.

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Sara @ Big Fish

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara MacQueen is the Founder and President of Big Fish - we turn revolutionary ideas into reality through custom software design and development. Sara was named one of "25 Mobile Women to Watch" and has been interviewed by local and national media for her expertise in mobile technology and business. When she's not working, Sara enjoys hiking and cooking meals from scratch with ingredients found at farmers markets.

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