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How Much Does Software Development Cost?

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What Is An Accurate Software Development Cost Estimate (When Outsourcing Your App Development Needs To An Indian Firm)?

Considering the economics of Silicon Valley (California, US), the average software development cost for a custom app/custom software project falls in the ballpark range of $50,000 to $300,000, depending on the scale, complexity, and scope of the project. However, you can expect to foot a much smaller bill, in the range of $25,000 to $100,000, when opting for the same development standards and making just one tiny change – by outsourcing your software development cost to the Indian IT ecosystem.

However, the actual development bill for your project depends on a multitude of factors and their combined result as mapped by the necessary man-hours. A hybrid or progressive web-app, for example, does not require extensive amounts of coding hours for preparing both Android and iOS apps. In such scenarios, your expected billable man-hours can go down to one-third of your original projections.

On the other hand, if your app is the kind that cannot afford to be platform agnostic (for example, heavy user-interaction based apps or service delivery models that require a high degree of runtime autonomy, precision in physical location tracking, and real-time data usage), then you may not have the luxury of commissioning a PWA (progressive web app).

You might then need to hire more than one firm or contract developer, to work simultaneously on all your platform-specific needs. You may need to hire a web developer for the backend programming and underlying architecture, an iOS developer to make a version of your app that will run on iPhones and Apple devices, and an Android developer who will develop and maintain a version of your app on the Google Play store.

In this second scenario, additional costs apply to app-hosting and user development fees towards Apple and Google. However, these costs are usually in the negligible range of $25 to $100 a year.

The last tier of costing, which is usually not very divergent as you navigate through different providers, is hosting. Indian web hosts such as BlueHost and GoDaddy are the usual go-to points for developers who work on static web apps or non-user-intensive web apps. However, if your app needs a greater degree of personalized user activity (like Uber, Tinder, or Maps), then you will most likely need to invest in a pay-as-you-go, elastic tier cloud-based host. Many Indian companies today have tie-ups with cloud service providers such as Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, or Kubernetes Cloud to provide an optimum and all-inclusive software development cost.

Before we dive deeper into the various aspects and customizations applicable while calculating your software development cost, we can suffice to say that at this stage the average dollar value of building your next app in India will fall in the range of $10,000 to $50,000 (all-inclusive), at least when you’re starting. These numbers are also backed by an aggregation of open estimations, quotations, and developmental data available across community platforms such as Quora, Facebook, StackOverflow, Hashnode, and more.

Factors That Impact Your Software Development Cost
Broadly speaking, we can narrow down a few key (and objective) factors that really affect your software development cost in a big way. If you can maintain this objectivity in terms of numbers, you’re far more likely to stay within budget when planning your next app development project.

Scale/Scope/Size Of Application
In the simplest terms possible, the concept of ‘scale,’ ‘scope’ or ‘size’ of the web application that you intend to outsource is dependent almost entirely on the number of pages (rather, unique pages) that will need to be designed & developed for your app to go live. This is a good and trackable metric for both contractors and clients to be clear about. If you can arrive at this number with a decent amount of accuracy, you’ll find it easy to estimate your net software development cost.

To understand how the number of “pages” in an app affects the total software development cost, therefore we need to define a classification of the “scope” of the app corresponding to its size.

  • Apps that need 10 to 25 unique pages (or screens) are called Small Apps.
  • Apps that need 25 to 40 unique pages (or screens) are called Medium Apps.
  • Apps that need 40 to 50 unique pages (or screens) or more are called Large Apps.

When opting for app development in each of the following categories (depending on the location of your contractor/outsourced development partner) the costs will vary as below:
A. Net Software Development Cost For Small Apps In The US/UK/Europe: $50K to $75K
B. Net Software Development Cost For Small Apps In India: $10K to $25K
C. Net Software Development Cost For Medium Apps In The US/UK/Europe: $75K to $200K
D. Net Software Development Cost For Medium Apps In India: $25K to $50K
E. Net Software Development Cost For Large Apps In The US/UK/Europe: $250K+
F. Net Software Development Cost For Large Apps In India: $50K to $100K

Complexity Of The Underlying Algorithm
The internet is not a democracy, and no two apps are created equal. Apart from the size and scope and the number of screens, and based on the audience category and intended utilization of your application, the app may need varying degrees of intelligence in terms of the algorithm that powers it. Applications that require an intensive amount of data processing, or intelligent data gathering, will most definitely require more complex algorithms, thereby increasing the overall software development cost considerably.

Use And Evolution Of New Web Platforms And Development Interfaces
Different development complexities require specialized development platforms, such as Python, node.JS, and Handlebars, to name a few. The continuously evolving tech development ecosystem also ensures that there’s always something new to offer, with better speed, uptime, and security.

Usually, when such fast-paced advancements become the new industry standard, the software development cost estimates for that application category tend to go absolutely haywire before settling down to a “new normal” once again. Unlike the other two factors discussed here, this type of evolution may actually work in favor of the client. As trends would indicate, this type of paradigm shift usually brings down the average software development cost.

A prime example of this type of disparity affecting the trends for dynamic content management systems (DCMS) can be retrospectively seen when studying the impact that two of the web’s most popular CMS platforms have had on the internet so far. When the internet was still considered home to Web 1.0, most websites (and thereby, web applications) tended to serve static content pages that needed to be updated manually by a coder at the backend. This meant more man-hours, more human resources, more power, more technological infrastructure, more recurring spending, and a very high overall software development cost.

And then, with the creation of the “Really Simple Syndication” (RSS) protocol by the late internet prodigy Aaron Swartz, the internet discovered blogging, and soon after, we moved on to the luxury of content management systems.

WordPress, which started as an open-source PHP-based blogging platform, eventually became the number one web platform globally because of the easy customization and extensive degree of customization that it offered. Most web applications, whether single-serve consumer-facing portals or complex structures with user databases and personalization aspects, such as social networks or eCommerce portals, found it easy to leverage the simplicity in database management that PHP offered, combined with WordPress’ seemingly endless library of web plugins.

Since most of the technological maintenance part of the development process now shifted to a centralized team (the one employed at WordPress), the actual scope of development work got reduced. Software development firms and contractors individually started charging relatively lower tariffs, because they needed to build on top of the existing WordPress layer. Most developers at this point were either reliant to WordPress “Page Builders” or Plugins to deliver any amount of customization that clients from around the world needed, and the simple supply-demand economics of it created a new “normal” for software development costs.

The dynamic content management and development interfaces saw history repeating itself a few years after the launch of WordPress, when a parallel platform named Ghost.org, running on node.JS and Handlebars, came up with a faster and more secure dynamic CMS system and found quick adoption by top enterprise firms such as Apple, media platforms such as The Times Blog, as well as US administrative units such as NASA. This adoption quickly propelled Ghost.org CMS systems as a preferred platform for web publishing and ended up raising the overall software development cost for media-tech companies.

Such occurrences, especially in terms of the flux created by different technology and hosting service providers, can often affect your project’s total software development cost either way.

The post-COVID economic climate and its effects on the average software development cost in India

In the wake of the recent global economic crisis that followed the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of jobs were lost. The future of many software development engineers was at stake due to massive layoffs within enterprise environments. Other than those previously employed at tech firms, many contractual software developers from the subcontinent also started selling “clone” app scripts in lieu of robust products built from scratch, mostly to make a quick buck. In fact, some Indian companies have started providing cloned development tariffs starting as low as $500 to $1000 for the development of simple app interfaces that act as white-labeled copies of popular apps that contain similar features.

Many developers claim to offer Uber clones, Tinder clones, Facebook clones, and the works to attract clients who can be easily swayed by the promise of lower development costs. And while this phenomenon has led to the availability of newer, low-cost app development avenues, it is strongly advisable to vet any contract developer before you outsource your app requirements to them. Some of the major disadvantages and the most common blind-sided errors that clients can commit while paying for a “clone” development service is to inaccurately predict how these interfaces will interact with a different set of users in a different geography/different economy as compared to the original app from which it has been cloned.

Examples of popular failures that have met the public eye include a bed-and-breakfast social networking application backed by a real estate developer in India, an absolute clone of the popular vacation rentals website Airbnb. This cloned app was called “Hey BNB,” to leverage some of the existing brand loyalty. However, it is interesting to note that despite the presence of a generous marketing budget, the clone product failed to perform well in the market, mainly due to its technical bugs. Cloned application development often carries with it a sincere risk of inviting unforeseen bugs in the code.

In fact, it is imperative to find and engage with software development firms that have a credible history of delivering projects on time to their past clientele. It is always important to look for testimonials, reviews, and references before signing up with a web development agency.

And lastly, while it is easy to invite “instant” quotations from developers all around the world today, it is very important that you do not base your decision to either go with or not go with a specific developer based on their proposed software development cost alone. You must consider their past work, their timeline credentials, and their platform expertise to make a truly informed and evolved choice.