9 ways to reduce the cost of mobile app development

25 April 2024

Do you already know how much you’ll pay for your app? Well, we know ways to cut down that price tag! Get ready, because in this article you’ll find hacks on how to reduce the cost of mobile app development.

To figure out where you can save money, you need to understand the app development process and what factors contribute to its cost: you pay for analysis, design, layout, programming, and testing. Our tips mostly focus on the analysis and preparation process for development and have a strategic nature in most cases.

1. Minimize risks by detailing the technical specification (TS)

When you approach a development team with a raw idea that includes only a few features of the future app but not all, the developer will estimate the cost based on their understanding of the product (which may not match yours), including risks because at this stage it is unclear how everything will ultimately work. And this amount may be higher than expected.

The better the task is described and the fewer questions about its logic it raises, the closer the estimate will be to the truth.

Of course, it would be best to provide a Technical Specification. But even if there isn’t one, give the developers as much information as possible:

  • What is the goal of creating the application?
  • Why would users install it?
  • On which devices will it work?
  • What functionality should it have?
  • What will distinguish you from competing applications?
  • How will the application be monetized?
  • Brand book and design requirements, etc.

There is an opinion that it is easier and more profitable to order the TS separately from some studio and then go to the development team with it. On the one hand, this makes it easier to conduct mini-tenders, but contractors still have to conduct a detailed analysis and check the TS for logic and clarity. Based on the analysis, the Contractor may suggest other implementation options.

2. Create an MVP and test the hypothesis

MVP (minimum viable product) is a working prototype of a product used to test demand before full-scale development. The main goal of MVP is to validate the idea of the program with minimal costs. Among the well-known applications that started as MVPs are Foursquare, Uber, Snapchat.

It’s better to spend a certain amount and understand that a specific idea or “feature” doesn’t work than to spend 10 times that amount and come to the same conclusions.

Launch the application with 1-2 or 5 core functions; you can refine and expand the rest later, once you are confident in the core product.

3. Choose one platform for development

By selecting both platforms — Android and iOS — for development, you are not creating one application for two platforms, but rather two separate applications with different code and design, albeit very similar to each other. Therefore, by excluding one platform, you save significant costs.

Analyze your target audience: what devices they use, their purchasing power, and behavioral characteristics. Based on this, choose the platform.

Developing a single cross-platform application that works on all devices will be even cheaper. For some tasks, this is the best option, but consulting with a specialist is necessary here: sometimes the application’s functionality requires native development.

4. Determine the target devices and versions

Having chosen the platform, you can go even further by specifying the versions of operating systems on which the application will run. For example, for Android, no lower than version five, and for iOS, no lower than version ten. This will reduce the number of hours spent on development, testing, and system support.

While not significant, it will still reduce the cost of developing the application for iOS and Android.

5. Choose the orientation

Portrait or landscape orientation depends on the type of application. For example, Instagram only uses portrait format, as landscape orientation is not required for its functionality.

The presence of a particular orientation also depends on the type of device: smartphone or tablet. For instance, the Sberbank application only supports landscape orientation on tablets.

Users are accustomed to portrait orientation, and often the application can do without landscape orientation. This can save costs: there’s no need to design a separate layout, write additional code, and again, there’s no need for extensive testing on different devices.

6. Hire a team experienced in developing similar applications

Such a team already has an understanding of the pitfalls to avoid, where challenges may arise, and how to simplify the development process. This helps prevent additional risks from being factored into the cost.

An additional benefit is that the team likely has established processes and prior work, which can expedite development.

7. Outsource development to regional teams

It is a great misconception to believe that all the best and top-tier specialists are located in major cities – where salaries are higher and projects are more prestigious. However, the prices there are also quite high.

Many talented professionals work in the regions, especially those affiliated with specialized institutes. Try to find such teams. While the average cost of mobile app development with these teams may be higher compared to local rates, it’s often significantly lower than in major cities.

The main challenge is finding such a team.

8. Continue the project with the same developer

If there’s no objective reason to change the developer (you’re satisfied with the quality, their working principles, etc.), don’t do it. A new team will need more time to study the project and its code to understand how everything works. Even if they initially offer a lower price, it may ultimately increase due to the time spent on familiarizing themselves with all the details. Additionally, there’s a risk of errors due to missed details.

9. Not to create a mobile application

Wouldn’t it be better to make a web application?

To develop a fully-fledged mobile application, you need to create apps for Android, iOS, and often a web component, including APIs and possibly an admin panel. This requires three different sets of developers, three design variations, and three different testing programs.

For web application development, one design is sufficient, along with testing of a single application and one type of development. Additionally, incorporating a mobile version ensures usability on mobile devices.

This method may not be suitable for everyone. The main task of applications is to complement the services that cannot be implemented through a website: geolocation, camera functionality, push notifications. Applications are also necessary if a visitor regularly uses the website – for newspapers, banks, government services, property management companies, and so on. However, if a client’s visit to the website is one-time, there’s no point in developing an application.

In addition to these pieces of advice, here’s another bonus one: don’t be stingy. Saving money and optimizing costs is certainly good, but don’t overdo it. A good product always comes with a price.

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