How To Reduce Average App Development Cost (Before You Even Start)

Table of Contents

App development has always been expensive

Look for estimates on average app development costs in 2023 and you’ll find prices as high as $30,000 for a basic app.

For complex projects, prepare to pay in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Trust us though, you don’t want super low-cost app development. 

There’s always a middle ground.

Not too hot, not too cold – somewhere in the Goldilocks zone is where you want to be.

finding the middle ground between cost and quality of your app development
Just nice.

Between the right tools, the right people, and the right mindset, you can save thousands of dollars off your project.

Here’s one of our top mobile app development tips to reduce total expenditure: Cost savings begins even before Day 1!

Plan well if you want to reduce software development costs

App development can be split into three main stages:

  • Pre-development, 
  • Development, and
  • Post-development

At every stage, you can reduce costs. prevent wastage, and offset expenses.

One of the best things you can do to ensure efficient development and post development is to get your act together during pre-development.

It sets the stage and lays the foundation for many things to come.

The better you plan, the less you spend.

On one end, you have simple steps that offer minimal savings.

On the other hand, you have steps that will test your patience but offer great savings in the long run.

Good thing app development is all about the long run.

We’re not here to tell you what to do, only to share what you can do and what you stand to gain. 

We’ll share three levels of planning for the pre-development stage of app development.

We’ll start easy and get progressively harder – and potential savings will go up too.

You decide what commitment level you’re comfortable with.

See this?

image of fist describing that nothing hurts more than spending unnecessarily

That’s what every Upstacker looks like when we plan a new project for a client. 

We’re as tight-fisted as can be when budgeting – nothing hurts more than spending unnecessarily.

If you’re similarly stingy – pardon us, we meant frugal – then see you at the end.

Let’s get into it with level one of planning.

Level 1: CLEARLY define scope and requirements

If you think this sounds obvious, then go ahead and skip to level 2.

Also, please accept a warm virtual hug of appreciation from us.

Every week our founder Adrian gets 5 – 10 emails from founders who clearly haven’t done any homework.

email example of founders asking how much will it cost to build their app
The perfect start to every Monday.

And Upstack Studio is a smaller app development agency, so imagine the spam a bigger outfit gets.

If you were planning on sending out an email to a developer asking for a quotation, hit the brakes real quick and do some homework.

Before asking how much time and money will be needed to build your app, put together a scope of the requirements for your product to the best of your ability.

Your scope and requirements should include the following:

  1. Purpose and Objectives – what problem is your app meant to solve
  2. Target Audience – understand their demographics, preferences, and needs. 
  3. User Experience (UX): what are app-defining actions that users MUST be able to do?
  4. Core Features – what features are necessary to enable those crucial actions?
  5. Platforms and Devices: – depending on your users’ habits and the type of app, do you need to be on Android and iOS? Do you need to be on mobile and web? And let’s not forget tablets, even though they’re slowly going extinct.

We’ve got a free app brief template for anyone interested.

Download this FREE editable template now to craft your perfect App Brief! Let us know where should we send it through the form below.

With these scoped out, you’re ready to window shop for a suitable no code app builder for a non tech founder.

You must have seen questions like these on Reddit, Quora, and other forums: 

“What app builder should I use to build an XYZ app?”

Forum members are always eager to suggest solutions.

If you know the features your app needs, folks can eliminate/highlight certain choices. 

Or if you want to save even more, let’s clench that fist tighter with level two of planning.

Level 2: Consult experienced founders/developers

Check out this clip from Alex Hormozi on the value of paying for experienced mentorship: 

Alex is a self-made multimillionaire entrepreneur, and he understands the value of combining two of the most valuable things humans have: The ambition of youth and the wisdom of experience.

Hmmm, that kind of sounds like a recipe for eternal minimum wage. 

To be clear, we’re referring to high quality feedback here.

image of master yoda encouraging readers to join the product roadmapping workshop
“Go to the product roadmapping workshop, you must.” 

Can’t argue with Master Yoda.

Take your list of scope and requirements to someone with technical knowledge, or real-life experience – preferably both.

You’re not looking to hire them, just to hear their thoughts on how to best approach this.

Thing is, people who can give quality feedback typically have less time to give quality feedback.

So how do you get the attention of someone with value?

You offer universal value: buy their attention with enough money.

It’s called offering to pay for a consultation.

You’re paying for people who can look at a list of scope and requirements and immediately point out:

  1. Flaws in target audience understanding
  2. Discrepancies between core UX and features
  3. Current trends in platform and device usage based on app
  4. Upcoming changes in tech you should account for
  5. Accurate average app development costs
  6. Maintenance and post-launch support costs
  7. Timeframe concerns, and ultimately
  8. The fastest way to can reach MVP and beyond depending on priorities

Worst (or best) of all, they can just tell you if your idea is (in their opinion) bound to fail

You are free to move on and save months to years of spinning your wheels.

Or you could dedicate the rest of your life to this idea just to prove them wrong.

They just don’t get it, man

We’ll show them, we’ll show them all!

Sorry, we think this has unearthed some past trauma. 

Point is, you get actionable advice tailored to you – your app, your situation, your constraints, everything.

Armed with this, you can definitely start going no code; it’s just a matter of learning the platform (which was always an unavoidable roadblock). 

Once you know how to use it, you’ll know how to use it to build what you need. 

Same thing with hiring an app developer. You’ll know what you get with custom app development that you won’t get with no code, you’ll know fair market rates, and you can decide if it’s worth the significantly higher costs.

A founder with Level 2 preparation will save significantly more money and time than Level 1, full stop.

Most will be satisfied with this. 

Oh – you’re not?

Think you’re as tight-fisted as Adrian?

You do? 

Truly, we are kindred spirits in our stinginess – alright then, see you in level 3.

Level 3: Hire (trustworthy) offshore developers

The number one factor that affects the cost of app development is labor.

The number one factor that affects the cost of labor is location.

Hire labor (wisely) from a cheaper location and enjoy the best cost-savings on custom app development you ever will.

Notice we said wisely.

“Avoid Fiverr scammers, you must.”

Man, Yoda sure is coming in clutch with wisdom bombs today. 

Of course, there are some reasons why offshoring is just not possible, for instance:

  • Your project has proprietary software or IP that cannot leave your country.
  • Your project requires specific cultural sensitivity – outsiders just wouldn’t get it.
  • Tu no hablas Ingles

Other than that, global economic realities mean there is probably a region of the world where the average app development cost is significantly lower.

Here’s a table showing average hourly rates of app developers across the world.

LocationHourly Rate (USD)
North America: United States, Canada$38- $63
Eastern Europe: Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria $20 – $50
Western Europe: Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium$25 – $60
Latin America: Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Columbia, Peru$30-$50
Africa: Morocco, Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa$20-$40
Asia: India, China, Philippines$18- $40

There’s a 20$ difference between the lowest and highest hourly rates.

Say a project will take 1000 hours.

That’s $18,000 vs $38,000. 

You could build an app AND send your kids to college. 

Yes, other factors like seniority will affect the rate.

But senior app developers from the States will always cost more than equally experienced developers in India.

At least until they inevitably migrate to the States.

It’s more initial planning for you because you should be choosy when hiring locally, but when hiring remotely, you need to be CHOOSY.

In our example above, the potential reward is saving $20,000.

The risk: losing $18,000 to a bad or dishonest developer and paying $38,000 to a local agency on top of that anyway.

Still, saving $20,000 is something we would seriously advise looking into – which is why we made an entire guide on managing offshore developers as a non-technical founder.

We cover how to 

  • evaluate a developer’s ability to handle remote projects
  • establish and enforce expectations 
  • negotiate payments in a way that no honest and competent person would ever decline

Really, it’s about accepting that you don’t want to hire teams that need managing, rather, you want to find teams that can manage themselves.

Oh, and some overlap in time zones would be nice too.

All of which you’ll find covered in the guide – read it, internalize it, and then unleash your full stingy potential. 

Wasting money is easy – saving it takes effort.

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • One of the best ways to save costs throughout your app project is to plan properly during pre-development.
  • The bare minimum level of planning should involve doing preliminary requirements gathering for your app.
  • If you are serious about having a roadblock-free app development journey, pay for a consultation with an experienced founder or developer to evaluate your plans.
  • To truly save on custom app development costs, nothing compares to hiring a capable offshore team.
  • If you’d like us to evaluate your plans, join our product roadmapping workshop

Hey there stranger, thanks for reading all the way to the end. Consider joining our mailing list for a one-stop resource on how to develop an app with no experience and become a well-rounded founder. Get a nifty list of questions to ask app developers when you sign up!

Download this template now so you know exactly what to ask App Development Agencies! Let us know where should we send it through the form below.

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