Once an entrepreneur comes up with a million-dollar idea to develop a mobile app, they wonder how to make it for $100,000 or less.
The first decision that comes to mind is to find qualified developers with affordable hourly rates.
This is precisely the decision that benefited our client Leon Cassidy from the UK who came to us to build a fitness platform Fitr.Training. Sharing his feedback on Clutch, Leon recalls:
“If I tried to do the whole thing in the U.K., it would no doubt be three or four times the price. It was very cost-effective for me to get something up and running [with Mind Studios].”
Outsourcing a third-party mobile app development team, however, is just one of many possible ways to reduce app development costs.
In this article, we offer you 12 proven tactics for reducing the cost of app development based on our experience.
What determines the price of mobile app development
To reduce the ultimate cost of application development, let’s list the parts that make the whole. Generally, our business development consultants estimate mobile app projects based on the following factors:
- Number of platforms
- Project scope
- Complexity of features
- Team size and developers’ grades
- Technologies to be used
- Backend architecture and third-party integrations
- Security architecture
- Maintenance requirements
Based on these factors, we’ve composed the tips that will help you save money on mobile app development costs.
12 workable ways to reduce the cost of app development
Let’s find out how to cut the development cost for your app while still focusing on quality.
#1. Validate your idea and concept in advance
How can you reduce the cost to develop a mobile app? Start by making sure your idea is viable. In the world of software development, an early mistake means a cheap mistake. That’s why validating your app idea is the main way to reduce the cost of mobile app development.
There are a lot of app idea validation techniques, and all of them are aimed at thoroughly analyzing your target audience, market, and competitors. You can:
- research the market with the help of TAM-SAM-SOM analysis
- take an unbiased look at your product with the help of a SWOT analysis
- find out the opinions of your target users with the help of focus groups
- analyze the potential of your competitors with the Five Forces model
At Mind Studios, we allocate experienced project managers and business analysts to conduct an all-encompassing discovery stage. Their main role is to guide the whole team and select the right tech solutions for developers to implement based on the target audience.
“ I often see how clients looking for a development team pay attention primarily to the developers’ level of expertise. However, many tend to ignore such team members as project managers and business analysts [...] without proper business analysis, you might spend a fortune on a product that your audience doesn’t need in the first place.”
— Dmytro Dobrytskyi, the CEO and co-founder of Mind Studios
#2. Outsource mobile app development
As we’ve previously mentioned, outsourcing app development is a basic way to reduce costs, allowing you to save up to 60% of your development budget.
However, along with the stories of successful outsourcing like our client Leon’s, there are also lots of less positive ones. In pursuit of cost reduction, many entrepreneurs hire outsourcing teams that promise to develop their apps at a conservative $10,000 at the sales stage, which then turns into $70,000 at the development stage, and ultimately swells up to $150,000 at the launch stage.
So you should carefully choose your outsourcing software development partner. That’s why the next step to reduce the cost of mobile app development is to outsource the right way.
#3. Outsource to a company with experience in your niche
Choosing an app development partner who’s well-versed in your niche is the right way to cut the cost of development:
- First, an outsourcing partner who has navigated your waters before will be able to deliver on each development stage faster and more efficiently, providing reliable advice based on previous experience.
- Second, an experienced development team knows how to avoid industry-specific technical pitfalls that may occur during development. For example, the team can promptly define the right programming language, payment gateway, or tool for repelling robot-bot attacks your project requires.
As a result, choosing an outsourcing company with experience in your niche will save the time of the specialists working on your app, thereby reducing app creation costs.
#4. Choose the right type of contract
Outsourcing your app development to a third-party vendor means signing a contract. There are three types of contracts in software development outsourcing, and your choice will influence the final cost:
- Fixed price contract. As the name suggests, with this model, you pay a fixed price to develop your app. This type of contract is suitable for small and medium-sized projects developed according to the Waterfall methodology. If this approach suits your app, you should consider several experienced vendors and work with the company offering the lowest price.
- Time and materials contract. This type of contract doesn’t allow you to agree on a fixed price. Instead, you pay for the actual work done. A time and materials contract is beneficial when it’s difficult to come up with an accurate estimate because of a project’s specifics. For example, legacy system modernization is often done under this type of contract, since it’s impossible to predict what technical surprises a legacy app will reveal.
- Dedicated teams. It’s reasonable to hire a dedicated team if you’re planning a large-scale project that will be developed according to the Agile methodology and you need a fully-fledged team of researchers, programmers, designers, testers, and marketers. This is the most expensive type of contract. However, it allows you to create a top-notch solution while staying flexible at each stage of development.
Analyze your project and choose the most suitable type of contract to reduce mobile app development costs.
#5. Choose progressive web app or cross-platform development if possible
Native apps are the most expensive and highest-end solutions. Sometimes, developing a native app for Android, iOS, or another operating system does make sense. For example, when 90% of your users own either Apple or Android devices and expect a high-end user experience.
However, if the share of Android and iOS users in your audience is nearly equal, you might consider cross-platform development that is able to cut your costs almost twice.
But take note that cross-platform development could not be a one-size-fits-all approach to reducing mobile app development costs. Despite being faster and cheaper in development, cross-platform solutions have a number of deficiencies:
- Limited performance
- Design and functionality constraints
- Third-party tool integration difficulties
- Hosting and data security issues
If these limitations don’t apply to your app idea, then it makes sense to go cross-platform. There are lots of technologies including React Native, Flutter, and Xamarin that allow developers to build cross-platform solutions with user experiences that are very close to those of native apps.
If you choose to develop a native app, you can use all our other tips to reduce the cost of your application.
To help you orient what development method to follow in your particular case, we offer a free 45-minute consultation with our business development expert.
#6. Follow the LEAN methodology at every step
The LEAN methodology was developed by Toyota with the goal of reducing the cost of automobile manufacturing while providing the best possible quality. Its essence is simple: you should test before investing.
In fact, all the advice we provide in this article is based on this methodology. The Business Model Canvas and subsequent minimum viable product (MVP) are its core concepts. An MVP is a kind of demo solution that comes with a basic set of functions that are then tested with the help of your users and improved step by step, taking users’ preferences, opinions, and impressions into account.
As a result, the LEAN approach allows you to pay for the features your users really need without overloading your product with excessive and costly functionality. What’s more, you may follow LEAN principles at each stage of software development, from validating your idea to promoting your launched product.
#7. Choose the Agile methodology
Agile and LEAN approaches to development are the perfect match when it comes to reducing mobile app development costs while staying flexible. According to the Agile approach, your technical team is always ready to adopt changes, taking your wishes and your users’ preferences into account.
However, Agile makes sense only with core LEAN principles in mind. Too much flexibility can be risky for your budget. That’s why each new hypothesis still needs to be validated, and adopting new practices requires careful preliminary research and testing. An article published by Villanova University explains how Agile and LEAN can work together in a healthy way.
#8. Use third-party APIs when possible
Application programming interfaces (APIs) are pieces of code that can be reused by various solutions. A lot of them are free or almost free. The simplest examples of APIs are maps or weather widgets that you can integrate into your app. If your project requires integrating a scheduling solution, you don’t need to build a custom booking appointment calendar from scratch — just use plug-and-play Calendly API.
Facebook or Google SDKs for easy user registration, Stripe or PayPal APIs for seamless in-app payments, or sensational ChatGPT API for next-gen communication — using APIs allows your tech team to save time on developing certain parts of your app, saving you some money.
#9. Be proactive with bug fixes
The earlier a bug is detected, the less it costs to fix it according to NIST. That’s why it makes sense to carefully test each module as you create it. This will help you avoid a situation when a mistake made at the beginning of development will crash the whole system at the final testing stage.
#10. Look for simple but effective design solutions
Complex and extraordinary designs or numerous custom animations will extend the development process, making your app more expensive. Of course, custom design comes with a significant advantage. However, design solutions don’t always have to be complicated.
In the case of design, simplicity is synonymous with efficiency. Yes, to achieve simplicity, you’ll have to spend time looking for the optimal design solution and brainstorming ideas with your team, but the time invested in doing so will save you significant money on executing your design.
#11. Keep your finger on the pulse of the development progress
Different cooperation models, be it fixed price, time and material contract, or a dedicated team, require different levels of participation from the client’s side. However, regardless of the type of contract you’ve chosen, it’s always important to stay on the same page with your developers.
Does it mean being constantly involved in the development process up to micromanaging or you should let your team float freely, requesting only monthly progress reports? The only right answer here is to manage your team in the way you feel is right.
Let the development of your product take its course, but follow its progress. Even experienced developers sometimes make mistakes, and a mistake noticed immediately costs less to fix than a mistake that slips through the cracks. Wise management prevents you from over-budgeting and reduces the total cost of app development.
#12. Automate software testing
Automating any process can provide a better return on investment (ROI) compared to doing the same process manually. Automated software testing is a proven practice you should consider following.
However, keep in mind that this approach makes sense when testing repeated scenarios: for example, in the case of regression testing. High-risk scenarios should be tested manually, and this is an area you shouldn’t try to save on.
What mistakes should startups avoid when cutting the cost of app development?
So far, we’ve analyzed how to reduce the cost to develop a mobile app. However, many companies try to save money by skipping critical steps of product development and considering certain actions unnecessary.
For example, INDX, a platform considered to be like Pinterest but for learning through content curated by a trustful community, after 18 months of development, couldn’t really find its product-market fit. Thomas Cotter, a co-founder, published a LinkedIn post where he announced they decided to shut down the project and return the investment capital.
Our head of the business development department Anton Baryshevskyi supported colleagues and noted that:
“Only 5% of all product innovations succeed. Admitting that your idea belongs to the other 95% after 18 months of active processing is a really tough decision[...] That’s why we at Mind Studios always focus on the discovery and idea validation stages before enrolling in any product design and development. We strive to gather extensive data about the problem, potential users, and the market to make only data-driven decisions on further product development.”
Here are three key aspects of development that require your investment and attention, as they directly impact the quality of the final product, user demand, and overall project success. Following them will help you not pay twice or even three times what you expected:
1. Picking the right company’s DNA
We’ve already mentioned that outsourcing your application development is one of the best ways to reduce the cost of mobile app development. For example, the average hourly rate for software development services in the US is $150, while it’s $25 to $55 in Eastern Europe according to Clutch. If we assume the development time doesn’t change based on the developer’s location, then this can be a fivefold decrease in the final price.
The human factor is important at every stage of application development, from validating an idea to releasing a product to the market. An idea that’s promising for the Chinese market may not stand a chance in the American and European markets. An application created by developers who have a different paradigm of thinking than the target users is also unlikely to be embraced.
The right decision is to find an outsourcing partner whose mentality resonates with that of you and your users. This will help you stay on the same page with your developers and, most importantly, with your future customers.
For this reason, American and Western European companies often outsource to Eastern Europe. Eastern European outsourcing companies offer minimal differences in mentality, a convenient time difference with overlapping working hours, and a significant difference in developers’ rates compared to Western Europe and the USA.
2. Conducting UX research and UAT testing
Following the best practices of the LEAN methodology, user experience (UX) research and user acceptance testing (UAT) are two other ways to save money on mobile app development costs. However, many companies skip this stage of development, labeling it unnecessary and something that increases the cost of a product.
In practice, UX research and UAT testing allow you to validate each of your design ideas and features, making sure your solution will meet user expectations:
- User experience research allows you to reduce the cost of creating an MVP, as it allows you to analyze users’ goals, pain points, mental models, journeys, and overall first impressions.
- User acceptance testing is the last stage of product development. It allows you to reassure yourself that your solution works as planned, that users can use it according to your roadmaps and concepts, and that the entire user experience is seamless. User acceptance testing also allows you to confirm the effectiveness of in-house product testing and insure yourself against the risk of releasing a poorly working solution to the market.
3. QA testing
According to Statista, 20% to 35% of development budgets are spent on quality assurance. This is a significant percentage, which may make you want to cut costs at this stage. However, in reality, testing the quality of your product does not inflate your budget. It actually saves it, because the later you find a bug in your code, the more expensive it is to fix.
Moreover, a poor-quality product is a direct threat to your reputation. 88% of users abandon apps because of bugs according to App Development Magazine. They likely won’t give your app a second chance, and bad reviews unfortunately tend to spread much faster than good reviews.
Competently managing your development budget is part of the success of your application. There are a lot of approaches to reducing the cost of your app, but there are still a lot of processes you should invest in.
At Mind Studios, we know how to balance the cost without sacrificing quality and all the while meeting your users’ expectations. Our project estimates are followed by a comprehensive presentation where we thoroughly discuss each estimated item and provide reliable reasons for the price of each of our services.
Get in touch with us to discuss your app idea and get an initial estimate for your project!