September 19, 2023

Unveiling the Hidden Costs of Mobile App Development


In the digital age, mobile apps have become an essential tool for businesses and individuals alike. With the potential to connect, engage, and provide innovative solutions, the appeal of creating a mobile app is stronger than ever. In this article, we'll explore the often-overlooked and the sneakily added-in, financial aspects of mobile app development.

1. Project Planning and Research Costs

Before any code is written or the design is finalised, thorough research and planning are essential in order to assess the viability of the app you want to build. This involves market research, identifying the target audience, understanding user preferences, and analysing competitors. This phase can be time-consuming and often requires working with a market research company to get feedback. It's easy to underestimate the time and resources needed for this stage, but a solid foundation is crucial for the app's success.

If your chosen development company is not thorough with this process or doesn’t actively encourage you to complete this stage first, you need to be aware of the extra costs lack of knowledge will tag onto your final bill.

2. App Design and User Experience (UX)

Creating an appealing and user-friendly app design is critical for attracting and retaining users. Design costs go beyond graphics and visuals; they encompass UI/UX design, wireframing, prototyping, and user testing. Working with an experienced design team is vital to ensure the app provides a good experience for the end user. Iterative design processes can often require a lot of time and effort to ensure a seamless and engaging user experience.

This is often the start of added extras. If you weren’t specific in your planning and research phase, you may need amends and re-dos and each extra development hour is an extra cost to you. 

3. Development Time and Talent

The actual development of a mobile app is one of the most significant cost factors. Hiring skilled developers, whether in-house or outsourced, commands competitive salaries. Moreover, different platforms (iOS, Android, cross-platform) require specialised knowledge and skills. Bugs, glitches, and compatibility issues can also arise during development, necessitating additional time and resources to fix. Working with an experienced agency can help make this process simple and give you confidence the development process is in good hands.

Again, having a well-developed plan will help you know what you need and select the right agency to fulfil it. Working with an agency lacking in the specific skills required can make the costs rise as they seek to craft the end product.

4. App Testing and Quality Assurance

The testing phase is a critical aspect of mobile app development that often involves its own set of costs. Comprehensive testing helps identify and rectify errors, security vulnerabilities, and performance issues. This may include manual and automated testing, usability testing, security audits, and compatibility checks across various devices and operating systems. Neglecting this step can lead to negative user experiences and potential financial setbacks down the line. Make sure this stage is included in your package and the price so you don’t get an extra cost added on last minute.

5. Post-Launch Maintenance and Updates

Once your app is live, the journey is far from over. Users expect regular updates, bug fixes, and feature enhancements. The costs associated with maintaining an app can include ongoing development, server hosting, support staff salaries, and potential marketing efforts to promote updates. Ignoring post-launch maintenance can result in a stagnant app that loses its appeal and usefulness.

Try to think about post-launch in the early stages so you can get a plan in place then if something goes wrong you know you have planned support available rather than frantically trying to find help and paying a premium price for it.

6. Marketing and Promotion

Even the most exceptional app won't succeed without effective marketing and promotion. Marketing efforts encompass a range of activities, from creating a website, social media presence, and press releases to paid advertising campaigns and influencer partnerships. Each of these strategies requires financial investment to generate user awareness and drive downloads.

Make sure in your marketing budget you have a price for delivery and creation. If your developer is running Facebook adverts for example, the time they take to set up will be chargeable but also the budget to run the ads. You need to make sure that whatever marketing strategy you agree on you see analytics that you can learn from.

7. App Store Fees and Monetisation Strategy

Distributing your app on platforms like the Apple App Store or Google Play Store involves fees. These fees can be one-time charges, recurring payments, or a percentage of your app's revenue. Additionally, choosing the right monetisation strategy (e.g., freemium, subscription, in-app purchases) can impact your revenue stream and necessitate adjustments to your app's design and functionality.

8. Third-Party Integrations

Lots of the cool things you might want your app to do (messaging, social sign-in, data collection) can all be offered by third-party tools. This means it saves you the time and cost of building them up front, but there will usually be an ongoing monthly fee. It’s important to have a plan for scaling up because as you have more active users, these monthly costs usually also scale up.

Watch out that your developer isn’t reinventing the wheel to give you an additional bill. Is there a third-party integration you could use instead of having a bespoke one?

9. Infrastructure

A lot of people don’t realise the ongoing cost of infrastructure, this is the ‘servers’ that in years gone by would be sat in a cupboard in your office, or a data centre (spoilers, they kind of still are), but these days are part of ‘the cloud’. There are loads of providers out there to choose from, AWS, Microsoft Azure, Digital Ocean and more. It’s important when building to build in a cost-effective manner, but also your product needs to be scalable if you suddenly trend and have an influx of users. The technical lead from your project will be able to talk about the pros and cons of the different ways of building this, but remember, you will most likely have a cost for Databases, and Applications, that are part of your infrastructure.

N.B. It is possible for some smaller apps, that don’t need to support ads, request info back from a server, or store user data to get away without this, but these apps are in the minority.

Developing a mobile app involves far more than just coding and design. The hidden costs that app developers face are multi-faceted and can significantly impact the project's budget and timeline. Adequate planning, budgeting, and a clear understanding of these hidden costs are essential for a successful mobile app venture. While the challenges may be great, the rewards of delivering a valuable app to users and the market can make the journey well worth it. 

If you are worried about costs spiralling, speak to us about Discovery. The Discovery process with Fortnight will help make crucial decisions about your app build and afterwards, we will offer you a guaranteed Fixed Cost for the delivery of an app, upfront. We agree with you on a detailed list of features and what will be included so you can stop worrying about cost overruns.

Unveiling the Hidden Costs of Mobile App Development