7 Steps to an Accurate Mobile App Development Cost Estimate
✓ Discover the ins and outs of estimating app development cost. ✓ Find out how we prepare offers for our clients. ✓ Learn 7 concrete steps and see what your role will be in the process.
Table of contents
App estimate process – introduction
When you come to a software house with an app idea, you’re probably wondering:
- How will the team estimate the time and budget needed to develop my product?
- What can I expect in the offer tailored for me?
- Will they assist me in addressing my concerns and questions?
- What comes next?
Here, you’ll find answers to these questions.
We provide you with a detailed look at the mobile app development cost estimate. Continue reading to learn the step-by-step process of app cost estimation and offer preparation.
Nothing here is random
We’ve developed this process over 12+ years. Our experts focus on thoroughly understanding your assumptions, vision, and plan. They ask you questions and share their expertise to build a product that achieves success on the market.
You’re encouraged to be involved in every stage of the process. You’ll understand the reasons behind each decision. No surprises or hidden information. See for yourself.
Now, let’s move on to the 7 steps of offer preparation and app cost estimation for you:
1. You contact us
When you contact us by email, our Business Developer will exchange basic information with you. You’ll receive essential materials about Droids On Roids (app development company), and we’ll schedule a Discovery Call.
2. Discovery Call with a Business Developer
This is your first meeting with a Business Developer from Droids On Roids, where you’ll get to know each other.
Let’s see the agenda of Discovery Call which is an important step while talking about mobile app development cost breakdown.
I. Discussing your Product Vision
At the beginning, you tell us about your Product Vision.
Product Vision is the ultimate reason for creating your app. In other words, it’s the big picture of your product’s purpose and goals.
It defines the long-term direction and desired impact of your app.
Example: Change the eating habits in the population.
Vision serves as a guiding light in the product development process, helping teams to make informed decisions, and ensuring everyone is working towards the same goals.
Additionally, a well-defined vision fosters better prioritization throughout the software development process.
Another important step in planning your app development budget is creating a Product Strategy.
II. Refining your Product Strategy
Product Strategy is about imagining the future of your product: What offering will it become? Who will it benefit? How will it create value?
It’s a high-level plan that helps bring your Vision to life.
More specifically, the product strategy should clarify:
- what product you want to create and what makes it unique
- who it’s for
- why people would want to purchase and use it
- its business goals
- why it’s a valuable investment for your company.(1)
Keep in mind that your strategy isn’t set in stone.
As your product develops and evolves, so should your strategy. As a guideline, make sure to review and update it at least once every three months.
There are 3 key elements of an effective strategy:
a) Market and needs
In this part, we define your target users (“market”) and their needs.
- Market describes the target users of your app; the people who are likely to use it.
- Needs represent the main problem the product addresses or the main benefit it provides.
b) Key features – differentiators
Secondly, we discuss your app’s key features being differentiators. We mean those aspects of your product that:
- are essential for solving the main problem or providing the primary benefit,
- set your product apart from competitors.
Avoid turning this into a small product backlog or wishlist.
Instead, focus on 3 – 5 crucial elements that make users prefer your product over others.
For example, the first iPhone offered mobile internet, an iPod-like music player, and a touchscreen, while Google Chrome prioritized speed, security, and simplicity.
c) Business goals
We set your business goals.
The business goals outline the advantages your product will bring to your company.
Will it produce income, support the sales of another product or service, reduce cost, or enhance your brand’s value?
Understanding your business goals allows you to choose the appropriate product metrics and measure your product’s performance.
Roman Pichler describes an example that illustrates business goals well:
Take the iPhone and the Google Chrome browser mentioned earlier. While the iPhone currently generates the largest portion of Apple’s revenue at the time of writing, the Chrome browser does not earn any money for Google.
But it allows the company to control the way people access the Internet and it has reduced Google’s dependency on third-party browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Edge. Both are important business benefits.(2)
III. Formulating 1-sentence Vision, Business Goal, and Product Goal
Once we’ve thoroughly discussed your Product Vision and Product Strategy, we’ve got a pretty clear idea of what your app’s all about.
Now, we formulate these 3 elements as individual statements:
- Product Vision
- Business Goal
- Product Goal
You already know what is Product Vision and Business Goal.
What is Product Goal?
Product Goal is also a very important element. We refer to it throughout the app development process. It consists of two elements:
- User Element
This refers to how the product meets user needs, why users will use the app, what will motivate them to use it, and what they will gain from it.
- Business Element
This indicates what your business will achieve in the initial stage when we release the first version of your app.
The best way to start crafting a good Product Goal is to use the following template:
The best way to start crafting a good Product Goal is to use the following template:
[USER ELEMENT ]
Help users to [describe the benefit / problem solved / need addressed]
by doing so, [describe the benefit to your business]
It’s worth clarifying that the primary Business Goal we defined earlier is quite broad. To achieve it, several iterations of the product may be necessary.
However, each product iteration should have its own smaller Business Goal – a small step that brings us closer to accomplishing the main Business Goal.
Let’s see an example:
This concludes the Discovery Call. We’ve established your Product Vision, Product Strategy, Business Goal, and Product Goal. Here’s a brief summary of this part:
3. Solution Architects iterate the elements established during the Discovery Call
The Solution Architect Team (SAT) receives the following from Business Developers:
- Summary of the Discovery Call,
- any documents you’ve shared with us.
Before we delve into this stage of the app estimation process, let’s first introduce who Solution Architects are.
Who are Solution Architects and what is their role in mobile app development process?
Solution Architects are experts whose role is to thoroughly understand your needs, so we can build a product that achieves success in the market. In other words, they suggest best practices and strategies to deliver top-notch, customized solutions that meet your expectations.
In the context of mobile app design & development, Solution Architects are responsible for:
- Understanding business and user requirements
- Designing system architecture
- Integration with other systems (existing systems, external services, or platforms)
- Recommending technologies and tools (based on functional and technical requirements; eg. suggesting cross-platform tool like Flutter or native app development)
- Collaborating with the development team (ensuring the team is aware of project goals, architectural and technical guidelines)
- Quality control and risk assessment (evaluating potential risks related to technology and architecture, and monitoring the quality of development work)
I. Creating a MIRO board for your project
We are creating a special board on MIRO, where information about your project will be collected and updated from now on. In a clear and pictorial way, you can see what has already been worked out and what is planned.
You are on the same page all the time.
II. Analyzing the collected materials
At this stage, SAT analyzes the materials you delivered and the Discovery Call summary. Architects iterate the vision, business, and product goal. If needed, they prepare suggestions for changes.
III. Catching areas that need clarification
In this phase, Solution Architects create User Story Map and Flowchart based on the documentation. This allows them to identify areas in the collected materials that need to be clarified.
a) First version of User Story Map
A User Story Map is a visual representation of the user experience in your product, based on your specific business requirements.
It helps us to plan and prioritize features by breaking down the user’s journey into smaller, manageable parts called “user stories.” These stories describe specific tasks or goals that a user wants to achieve while using the app.
This approach allows the development team to understand how the app’s features fit together, ensuring a smooth and intuitive user experience.
At this stage, User Story Map may still have many gaps. And that’s a very good thing! Because this way, SAT can see what is still missing.
Any ambiguity that appears in the User Story Map turns into a question for you and goes to the list of questions we will ask you during the Q&A Session on the next call.
b) First version of Flowchart
A Flowchart is a visual diagram that represents the logical flow and structure of an application. It uses various symbols and shapes to illustrate the sequence of steps, decisions, and processes that the user will encounter while interacting with the app.
Flowcharts help us to:
- understand the app’s functionality and user interactions more clearly
- identify potential issues,
- streamline the user experience,
- ensure that all necessary features are included in the design.
By visually mapping out the app’s structure and user flow, a Flowchart enables the development team to communicate more effectively, reducing the chance of misunderstandings or missed requirements.
This ultimately leads to a more efficient development process and a well-structured and user-friendly final product.
As with the User Story Map, Flowchart may still miss some information. We identify areas that require clarification and discuss them during the Q&A session.
VI. Determining Product Metrics
What’s more, SAT prepares a Product Metrics proposal – the quantitative measurements used to assess the performance, user engagement, and overall success of the app.
These metrics help developers and Product Owner make data-driven decisions.
Common product metrics for mobile apps are:
- Active users
- Retention rate
- Churn rate
- Session length
- Screen flow
- Conversion rate
- App store ratings and reviews
After these 3 steps, Solution Architects Team is ready to meet with you.
Let’s move on to the next important step in the mobile app development cost estimation process.
4. Call with Solution Architects Team
You meet with the SAT on a call. The meeting agenda consists of 3 main points:
I. You briefly present your project
The team already has knowledge about your product from previous stages, so there’s no need to dive into details. It’s up to you to decide what you’d like to discuss during this introduction.
II. Fine-tuning product vision, metrics, and its business goals
If the Solution Architects have any suggestions for changes or want to expand on the previously established visions and goals, they present them at this stage.
Any revisions to these elements are introduced after mutual agreement.
III. Q&A session
The team will ask you a series of questions to gain a deep understanding of your product and later prepare its development Roadmap.
The questions they ask you:
- are available to you before the meeting on the MIRO board, so you can prepare in advance,
- arise from creating a User Story Map and Flowchart for your app, which we described above.
Here you have an example:
In summary, during this call, the team gathers essential, detailed information from you. This will enable them to prepare an offer and an estimate of the mobile app development cost.
5. Offer preparation + cost estimation
In this step, Solution Architects, along with developers, create a solution for you and then provide an estimate for that solution.
I. SAT completes the User Story Map and Flowchart
First, based on your answers that we got during the Q&A session, we fill in the gaps in the User Story Map and Flowchart (remember, you have access to them on MIRO all the time).
By working together during the call and having a deep understanding of your goals, we can structure your product’s scope to efficiently deliver what matters most to you as swiftly as possible.
II. SAT estimates the cost of development with developers
Solution Architects, together with developers, get started on estimating the cost of the project.
First, developers review all the documentation. Often, they also participate in the earlier steps of the process, ensuring they are on the same page from the beginning.
For estimation, the team uses a User Story Map.
This process involves several steps:
- Breaking down user stories. Developers break down each user story into smaller, more manageable tasks.
- Estimating effort. For each task, devs estimate the effort required to complete it. This can be done in terms of time (e.g., hours or days) or using story points, which represent the complexity of a task relative to others.
- Summing up the tasks and comparing the effort needed to complete each User Story. If necessary, we make adjustments accordingly.
- Referring to our previous projects where we have already provided similar user stories (e.g., a particular form of login to the app). All this is to make the estimation as precise as possible.
- Roadmap simulation. Creating a timeline for your app development in the Roadmap is possible because developers have previously estimated individual User Stories.
This step is so important that we dedicate a separate section to it. You can find it below.
III. SAT creates a Roadmap simulation
At this stage, Solution Architects create a Roadmap simulation for your project.
A Roadmap is a strategic planning document. It’s like a big-picture plan that shows the main goals, key features, and timeline for creating the app.
What is it for? Roadmap serves as a handy guide for everyone working on the project. It helps the team stay focused on the project’s goals and priorities while providing a transparent overview of the development progress.
Remember, that Roadmap is a living document that should be reviewed and updated regularly throughout the app development process. It evolves during development and this is natural.
How we achieve the Product Goal written on the Roadmap is likely to change as both the client and our team gain more knowledge over time.
Let’s move on to the next step of the app cost estimation process.
IV. Business Analyst prepares a table with development costs
Based on a well-prepared Roadmap, we will provide you with a clear cost estimate for developing your app, presented in an easy-to-read table.
Any hidden costs?
With us, never! We include the pricing for everything needed to deliver the product we agreed upon.
This means that if you want a complex product that includes both the backend and design, we will price those services for you. In this case, we’ll involve our designer and backend developer in the app development price estimation process to ensure accuracy.
What about app maintenance costs?
If you plan to maintain your app after the release of its first version, we can estimate the cost of this service as well.
As you can see, our offer is customized to meet the needs of individual clients, with certain fixed elements that can be enriched with additional components.
6. Offer Presentation Call
Our Business Developer and Solution Architects Team present you with a tailored offer.
- We’ll summarize all the key details from our previous discussions, including your vision and goals.
- Next, we’ll review the Roadmap together in detail, providing you with an estimate of the time required for each task.
- We’ll also share our expertise and advice, especially if you’ve requested any suggestions for solutions.
- Lastly, we’ll provide you with a cost estimate and explain where the costs come from. We’ll also answer any questions you may have.
7. Your decision
If you decide to work with us, Business Developer will complete all the formalities with you.
Meanwhile, we will select the optimal team and tools needed to develop your product. You will be engaged throughout the entire mobile app development process.
When you’re considering the offers you receive from various app development companies, keep this in mind:
- Mobile app development price: Ensure the pricing is reasonable and within your budget, but also consider the quality and scope of the work offered.
- Team expertise and experience: Assess the development team’s skills, background, and past projects to ensure they can deliver the desired results.
- Communication and collaboration: Evaluate the software house’s communication processes, project management tools, and their approach to teamwork.
- Post-launch support and maintenance: Confirm if the software house provides ongoing support, bug fixes, and app updates after the initial development phase.
- Technology stack: Make sure the software house has experience with the desired technologies and platforms for your app, ensuring compatibility and performance.
- Timeline and project management: Check if the software house can deliver the project within the required timeframe and has a proven track record of meeting deadlines.
- Portfolio and references: Review the software house’s previous work and reach out to past clients to gain insights into their work quality and overall experience.
Mobile app development cost estimate – wrap up
We outlined the steps for estimating the mobile app development cost. Let’s sum up how it looks at Droids On Roids (see more about us).
The process begins with a Discovery Call to gain insight into the app’s business needs, functional requirements, and technical specifications. Then, the Solution Architects evaluate your documentation and materials created during the Discovery Call.
In the next step, SAT meets with you to fine-tune your product vision, metrics, and business goals. Together, you fill in any gaps in the requirements
Then, we estimate your app development cost based on all that has been determined in previous stages.
Finally, the Business Analyst prepares a table with development costs, and the team presents a tailored offer to you.
This comprehensive process ensures a transparent and accurate mobile app development cost estimate. App development companies have their own estimation processes. We shared ours so you have full transparency.
In conclusion, the mobile app development process requires careful planning and consideration, especially when it comes to estimating app development costs.
A few takeaways
- By choosing a qualified development team and thoroughly defining project requirements, you can ensure a more accurate and reliable app development price estimate.
- Outsourcing the project to a reliable offshore development company may help in achieving a more competitive app development price without compromising on quality.
- When choosing a development company, you should not solely focus on the lowest app development price, but also consider the development team’s experience, expertise, and proven track record to ensure a high-quality end product.
- It is essential to maintain clear communication with your development team to avoid any unexpected changes in the app development price during the project’s lifecycle.