According to a 2014 study by Kinvey, 56% of apps take more than 7 months to develop and the average app costs $270,000. 10% of businesses could not even say how long it took or how much it costs to develop a new app, and only a third of apps are developed in under 6 months or for less than $100,000. Other studies have had similar findings. For example, the Global State of Enterprise Mobility 2016 reports that most apps cost more than $100,000 and more than a quarter of all apps cost between $250,000 and $500,000.
Add to these initial costs, various ongoing costs such as support, and the true app development cost emerges. This cost poses a serious challenge to startups and small and medium enterprises (SMEs). This problem is all the more challenging by virtue of the distribution of costs.
App Development Process Beakdown
A 2015 Clutch survey of 12 leading app development businesses deconstructed development costs into its distinct parts, of which there are seven stages of app development: planning, design, features, infrastructure, app administration, testing and deployment.
And some of these can be in turn divided into individual components. For example, the design stage includes wireframing, visual design and user experience. This granular breakdown highlights the relatively even distribution of costs.
No single stage, let alone component of a stage, causes app development to be slow and expensive. Rather, app development includes more than a dozen distinct steps requiring a wide set of skills.
The Problem: The Attention Economy
Competition drives app development to be slow and expensive. We live in a world where hundreds of new apps are published each day. You don't just have to persuade people your product/service is worth their money, but also their time and attention. Moreover, you need to convince people your product/service is more valuable than its peers.
Unconvinced app sellers fight an uphill battle? A quarter of users abandon an app after a single use, and nearly two thirds will abandon within 10 uses. High attrition rates are partly attributed to the cornucopia of choice. There have been over 60,000 (and counting) apps submitted to Apple's App Store this quarter alone, and most will never be downloaded. Apps are expensive because an app that isn't downloaded doesn't exist (practically speaking). This is why you can't take shortcuts. The best apps, the apps that spread, are built by teams of developers and designers and managers. They have to be, because they have to stand out from the crowd.
Gone are the days when apps are made by a developer-designer multitasker in a garage in-between uni classes. Apps are now developed by teams of highly trained and diversely skilled experts. This is because it's important to pay attention to cross-device and resolution compatibility, user experience, quality assurance, Operating System levels and versions, backend integration, and more. Working with a small and/or inexperienced team is high risk because issues in these areas can hamstring even the best app ideas.
The average team is between 3 and 10 people, but teams numbering over 100 are common. This is because, much like building a house, building an app requires a range of skills: coding, design, management, user-experience, etc. This is why app development is so slow and expensive: the cheapest app developers are not the most cost-effective developers.
How To Develop Apps Quicker and Cheaper
There are several ways to "solve" the app development problem. The best way is to be aware of the true cost of app development. Are your expectations realistic? Are your forecasts? Knowing the costs and at what stage in the development process they appear goes a long way towards managing your risks and investments.
WorkingMouse has partially solved the development problem with our Codebots platform. Codebots is an ecosystem of code-writing bots working in partnership with developers and designers and other bots to accelerate the app creation process. On average, Codebots writes 92.68% of our partner's software.
The bots can't do everything (yet) but they can accelerate several of the steps discussed above, including the bulk of the slowest and most expensive parts to developing an app. The use of software bots like Codebots supercharges the app development process and reduces costs.