Want An App Cost Calculator?

By gswardman September 3, 2018

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app cost calculator? I’d love to be able to create this tool for people so they could come and magically crunch in some numbers like x + y + z = the cost of your application.

Sadly, there’s not. At least if there is a tool out there, you shouldn’t reliably trust it. Getting a quote from a freelancer, or development team on how to build your app isn’t as simple as inputting a few numbers or images into a calculator. There are some key items you can work on to help get a reliable development quote on your next software project or application.

I speak to dozens of people that want websites, SaaS applications, mobile apps, membership services, ICO’s started or worked on everyday. I can tell you first hand that the requests for quotes or proposals range widely from nothing but an idea to a full wireframes and design user interface. Of course, the better thought out your application or service is the better, but more detail isn’t always more helpful.

In an effort to help you narrow down the most useful information to provide your development team let’s go down through this 7 point checklist to get the best information to quote your development project.

1. The Core Pain You’re Solving For Your Customers

A journey into the software development world, is like any other in life. You should start with why you are about to go down this potentially perilous or profitable path. From experience the first and foremost important question to answer for your developers and more importantly yourself.

What is the core pain I’m solving, and whom am I solving it for?

I extensively break down this question in another post where I pre-sold thousands of dollars in a potential application to the crypto currency market before I even coded a single line for the application.

Five Whys Image

Some other examples of this might be.

My app will get music teachers and after school programs reviews for their online websites, in order to boost their reputation and get more students. This is actually the core pain that my SaaS, WaveReview solves getting online reviews, and does it well.

Another might be – My application will provide a portfolio tracker so that crypto-currency traders and investors will know at a single glance what their total holdings are across any amount of wallets, exchanges or investment types. This was a service we detailed in a previous post. If you’re interested in how we built our prototype, you can follow up on that.

7 step workout process

My application will provide a 7 minute workout to be sold on the App Store and Google Play for busy people to get a workout that is easy to change and sends daily reminders. This is a great application that I happily pay $9 a month.

In these examples, you see that there is a pain; bad reviews, not knowing total portfolio balance, needing a short workout when I’m not feeling motivated nor creative.

There is also a customer; music teachers, crypto investors, busy people that want a short workout.

So, step 1 in our app cost calculator is – what is your core pain? And can it be summarised in a single sentence?

2. How many pages will you need to include in your application?

While you may think that your app is only one page, that’s likely not the case. Even an application as seemingly simple as dropbox that supplies files stored online has many pages. There’s a login page, there’s a configuration page, a settings page, a profile page, an invite other users page, the home page, and on and on.

The same goes for any mobile application. When you are changing from one source of information to another, you are changing between pages that need to be developed inside your application. Each page, has a cost to develop and so if that page isn’t expressly contributing to solving your core pain, you should consider eliminating that page. Why? because less pages will help bring down the costs of your application.

In the software world, there’s a concept known as a minimum viable product (MVP). This is the most slimmed down version of your application to make sure you’re solving the core pain for your customers or potential users. To give an example of my SaaS, WaveReview, when we created our MVP we were doing reports manually behind the scenes, and didn’t even have a way to bill our customers. I was sending manual invoices via Paypal. But, I was also able to get my app developed in 6 weeks while solving my core pain.

When considering your pages, you should be trying to make things as simple as possible. Do you really need a full blown reporting page just yet? Could you slash that nice-to-have bonus page you were thinking about? Here’s a simple example of a hand drawn sketch that I made while trying to work out the screens for my crypto trading portfolio tracker.


Chances are you can, and you should so you can get to the more important process of validating your software.

If you’re following along with me, Step 2 of input in your app cost calculator is the list of pages. I usually try and start with somewhere in the 3-6 page range if you can.

3. Key User Stories, or functions of your application

User stories are basically individual tasks, functions or features that your application will be doing to help solve your core pain. They should be thought out in advance before you speak with your development team so they can understand what they’ll be needing to quote.

Using the 3 applications above, a user story for WaveReview might be:

As a user, I want to send my customer a short survey 3 days after their lesson. (This is solving our real world pain of getting reviews for music teachers by determining if I should be asking that person for a review or approaching them offline to squelch a potential negative experience from getting online and killing my reputation).

Or for my other app example.

As a user I want to send a text to my cell phone when a certain crypto currency reaches a certain gain or % loss over a certain period of time.

** Keep in mind that the below image is just a detailed mockup that I made to show my development team a user story. From this, they could glance and in a few seconds determine more closely the approximate cost to develop this user story. This is a lot better than me saying – I want to create an application that tracks total crypto holdings, and when certain coins have an x% gain or loss send an alert.

Active Alert user screenshort

Another example could be: As a user, I want to be able to select the level of fitness that I believe I can handle for my next workout.

By going through your individual user stories as thoroughly as you can you’ll be putting more thought into your application, and more deeply considering what you should be doing to solve as your core pain. We break down the user story process in more detail in our Onestop Slingshot prototyping process.

Step 3 – develop out your user stories.

4. Is your app going to be Offline or Online?

Ahh, aren’t all applications online? It may seem like this is something that’s obvious but actually applications that live on your device, like a calculator on an iPhone, or your camera on your android device, or even your excel spreadsheet on your MS workstation. These applications all can work offline, so the code needs to either cache information, or be downloaded and run on your local machine, or device.

Will your device need to work offline? If it does, how will it handle situations that may arise when your user isn’t online?

If your application does need to be offline to solve your core pain, do you intend to have it live on your customers device (native application)? Keep in mind when you have a native application, that means an entirely new set of specific code that needs to be written just for that device type, iPhone IOS, or android. Each time you make an update to your web application, you’ll need to do this separately to iPhone and Android. This raises the cost of course. The simplest applications are online, and live on the cloud and can be connected through any type of device from a single repository code base. I recommend that you start with this if keeping your costs down is an important factor to your project reaching MVP status.

ios-android - windows Logo

Moving along our app cost calculator, Step 4, enter in your online or offline input so we can move closer to considering your costs to develop.

5. Do you have a prototype or design in mind?

Huh, what does this even mean?

Well, for our clients, we nearly always recommend they have some type of prototype mockup designed so that they can more accurately see what the final outcome of their application may look like. You can imagine the power that having a fully designed, and clickable depiction of your application made up before having spent thousands of dollars or euros to actually make your app. In developer speak, this is known as a wireframe and they can come in varying degrees of completion and complexity. There are also several great applications (,, Powerpoint, Keynote are just a few) that can help with this.

If you’re at a loss on how to do this, you can always write us at our email, or setup a quick 15 minute discovery call so that we can help you out with this process. We understand this can be daunting, and if you don’t know where to turn, we can help.

If you want to see a more detailed post on how to do this yourself, you can always visit our detailed instructions on how to do this yourself following our Onestop Slingshot prototype process on the previous post.

Having a mockup made of your application is likely the single most useful piece of information you can supply to a potential developer. If you stick with the guidelines already laid out in our app cost calculator thus far, you can go through the user stories, create a simple mockup of a 5 page app and the chances of your developers understanding what they’re looking at can be ascertained in minutes. Much more so that by having you spending 45 minutes trying to explain it in a conversation or written instructions.

Below is an example of the mockup I made for my development estimate. If you want to take this a step further, you can even make this as a clickable PDF online, and show it to your investors, or future potential customers to see if they like it. I even pre-sold thousands of dollars in my app, and it didn’t exist yet!

browser window with graph reports

Step 5 in our app cost calculator is a biggie. Design a User Interface, prototype or user interface for your application.

6. How long do you want to take during development?

Yes, we understand you need this done right away, but the chances are that finding your development team, the right one, could take you longer than you expect. It’s no easy feat finding the right development team for your precious software project. The good news is you’ve already had the incredible good fortune to be on this site, where we can help direct your project into exponentially greater chances of success with our software entrepreneurs and guides.

As previously discussed, a very simple way to think of your MVP is that it’s very doable to create an MVP in 2 months. That’s 60 days. So if you consider pricing your developers by the month, or simply multiplying their hourly rates into 8 hour days, 5 days a week, 4 weeks per month. You should have a rough calculation to know that your MVP will likely be in the $9,000 to $16,000 range. Depending entirely on how much you are willing to slash on your feature list to build the most slimmed down version of your dream application possible.

If you’re in the enviable position of having a bloated expense account waiting to pull the trigger for the development of your software application there are faster ways of doing this. For example, if you already have a list of must have features because your management team has already allocated a budget, you can still consider your application as an MVP. Make the application live in two months, but be concurrently developing on a mirrored site or instance so that you can quickly and easily launch these subsequent versions without having your users wait for all of the added features.

The advantages of doing this are many, but to start, your users can be solving their core pain in two months, rather than 6 months, while your users perhaps needlessly wait to launch with features they do not want or need. By having your application live, you can get immediate feedback from your users and discover other features that they want more than the ones you’re currently developing.

This ends up saving you money, and more importantly time. A resource so valuable, you can’t ever get it back.

MVP graph

Step 6 in our app cost calculator is — what’s your timeline?

7. What about after your launch?

Yes, we are coming to an end now of having a much better idea on what your application is going to cost. That is, if you went through these steps in detail. But the reality of software is that it’s rare that applications are just launched and then not needed to be touched afterwards. Yes, the development can slow down, but speaking as a software owner myself, I can tell you that there are very few months over the span of the last 7 years where I’ve not had to do some type of development.

A consideration for your application should then be, is the technology that I’m selecting going to be easy to find other developers?

website development technologies logos

For example, I just had a project manager approach me for some very specific skill sets – Java Struts, Hibernate, Tension Flow, and Machine Learning skills. This combination of skills has proved to be very challenging to find even after him looking for 2 months, and me scouring hundreds of developers in our network. Yes, I found them, but that’s through my extensive networks of developers and decades of experience, imagine trying to use yours? Not trying to scare you, just mentioning this as a consideration to at least keep in mind when speaking with your development team.

Freelancers are also notorious for disappearing when the money stops flowing from your project. Sure, they can be great, answering within 5 minutes every single question at the outset of a project. But that’s because they’re likely between projects, heating bills are due, and they need your job. But once your project is done, they need to be moving on quickly to another project. If you have a bug that needs to be fixed or a few changes that need to be made to your application, you want to be sure that freelancer is on some type of contract so that he answers you. Or, you should have him document very concisely and clearly what they are doing as they code. Documentation therefore is also a critical component of the development process.

Step 7 – Yay! We made it through our cost calculating but let’s not forget our application has a life after launch. Keep this in mind at the outset, and your software project will have that much of a greater chance of not dying and ending up in the software graveyard.

The fact that you’re on this site reading this post should give you comfort that there are reliable resources online that can help your software application on its way to achieving the kind of success you desire. There’s no reason you can’t create the next dropbox, or even the next 7 minute workout application. All of these applications start with a single core pain, and if you’ve found a pain that needs solving, that’s a critical component that can’t be overlooked. I encourage you to take that step forward.

Again, please reach out to us if you have any questions at all about your software application, or any steps in our app cost calculator. You can email us, or give us a call for a free software quote estimate. This is what we do all day long, every day and we are well versed in all technologies, application types, software types and can handle wordpress, membership plugins, native applications and even smart contracts like Ethereum, Hyper Ledger and EOS.

Get A FREE Quote For Your Software Or Mobile Application

*** There are zero risks or commitments and you’ll only gain more knowledge by talking to one of our seasoned software entrepreneurs that have been where you are, and are successful in their own right at developing software applications, just like yours.