How to Create a Budget for Your Mobile App Development Project
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When businesses first consider large-scale investments like mobile app development, the cost is often one of the most important deciding factors in whether a project will get the proverbial “green light.” However, like many large-scale investments, mobile app development is highly customizable and thus there is no one size fits all when it comes to cost. It all depends on what you want your app to offer and do.


Often, when businesses are sourcing vendors for an app development project, a budget is required to receive accurate vendor bids. As with any other business, two key factors impact the cost of mobile app development: the material costs (function and features) and the cost of labor. With apps, the cost of features is determined by the platform and objective, what the users can do with the app, and the level of UI.   


The cost of labor at this stage is based on your chosen development company’s claims of talented developers and designers, including the number of professionals needed to complete your project by the requested timeline. The more features you want, the more resources and talent will be needed.


So how do you create that budget? Furthermore, if you have limited funds, how can you still ensure you can deliver a positive mobile experience to your customers? This post will explore what factors are critical to developing a budget, understanding where you can cut costs, and how to do it effectively so that you don’t jeopardize your success.  


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Considerations for developing a budget for mobile app development:

Know what you want to build

Before you create a budget for your potential app, it is important to decide on its feature set, your timelines for the project, and the services you require. The best way to go about doing this is to set clear goals. 


Below is a checklist of questions that will help you establish clearly defined goals:

  • Who is your target audience? Who is going to use your app?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Why should your customers download and use your app? What is the unique selling proposition of your mobile app?
  • What problem are you solving with your mobile app?
  • What particular function should your mobile app perform?
  • What results are you trying to achieve, both immediately (probably after a week) and after 3-6 months?


From that checklist, you should gain the following insights:

  • A target audience and your competitors surveyed
  • A list of must-have features/functionalities for your app
  • A concrete monetization strategy
  • Design and discovery?

Allot additional funds to cover unexpected expenses

Developer hours generally cost more than the designer and QA hours. Before you set out a budget it is important to understand the hours that will go into each stage of development. Keeping aside a budget for development, deployment, publishing, integration, testing, and quality control is the best practice to get an exact idea of your budget. Keeping a little margin over the exact figures is always a smart choice.


Also, keep in mind that while the fixed price model some development companies offer seems reasonable, it doesn’t leave much room for modifications unless you agree to pay extra to make those modifications. 

Functions and feature selection

Each function or feature that is added to your app will ultimately affect the end cost. Having a minimal amount of features while still achieving great functionality for your users will help you stick to your planned budget. It’s important to prioritize each feature you want based on user needs. For example, an app like Netflix, including a live-streaming feature is necessary for a video platform. Although it’s an expensive feature to include, it is imperative to the functionality for its users. gateway integrations require a lot of coding and money, but ditching this feature doesn’t make any sense if you’re planning to build an e-commerce app. For these reasons we recommend you seek expertise and guidance from development and designer teams to understand the resources and cost of each feature in detail.

Pick a platform

With iOS and Android owning 97 percent of the global mobile market share, the ideal approach to mobile app development is to build and launch for both platforms. However that’s not always possible – constraints like time, budget, and resources can prevent you from developing for both OSs at once. Instead, you may want to consider launching on one platform first and then introduce a second platform at a later date.


When setting out a budget for your mobile app development project, companies in this position need to collect target audience research data to learn which platform the majority of your customers use. Once you know this data, you can easily decide which platform to pursue first. 


There is nothing inherent to either iOS or Android development that makes one more expensive than the other. However keep in mind if you are aiming to cover a large number of devices and OS versions, apps will require more time and resources, and thus incur higher costs. If the scope is more aligned with supporting an equal number of devices and OS versions on iOS and Android, the cost of development will be similar.


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Plan for the future

The process of developing an app does not end once the product is delivered. An app is often delivered in multiple stages, including prototypes, alpha, and beta launches, and all of this also impacts the end cost. Even more importantly; however, is to remember that your app will need continued maintenance, improvements, and upgrades as new technologies become available, business goals change, and user needs evolve. When developing a budget for your project it is a good idea to get estimates on how much maintenance and upgrades will cost so you can work them into your budget.

Consider building an MVP version first 

If the main features of your mobile app cost more than your ideal budget, don’t rush into building a complete, full-blown app from the beginning. Start with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).This allows you to gather valuable user feedback from early adopters, validate your idea with actual users, analyze audience demand, and then pitch investors to get funding to build the full-fledged app.


Simply put, it allows you to avoid spending a lot of money at the beginning, which may not bring a measurable ROI. Therefore, start with truncated functionality (an app with 1-3 key features) and test your mobile app in the real market before investing more money in full-feature development.


To learn more about prioritizing features for an MVP click here.

How design thinking can help you create a budget

Clearbridge Mobile offers design thinking sessions that are designed to help you define product goals and business outcomes, prioritize product features, and determine what to include in your Minimum Viable Product. These sessions set the framework for mobile app development, giving you key product features, user journeys, wireframes, mockups, and a clickable app prototype. More importantly; however, these sessions provide you with the insights necessary to develop and plan an accurate budget. As mentioned in the considerations above, knowing your audience, what features you need, and what platforms you want to be on are all factors in budget planning, and having the answers to these questions are critical. 


To learn more about the deliverables that come from our design thinking sessions click here.

Final Thoughts

While there are many more considerations included in creating a budget than the ones listed above, these considerations are often the ones that have the greatest effect on your total end cost. Once you’ve arrived at an agreeable budget, remember to keep tabs on overall spending and on specific details of where the budget is going. As your project progresses it is always a good idea to continually review your budget to ensure funds are being used accordingly, and ultimately ensure you receive a functioning app on time and budget.


Keep Reading:

Managing Mobile App Development Costs: 3 Essential Considerations

Managing Mobile App Development Costs: Other Costs to Consider


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