I need to answer the question which is screaming in most people’s heads when they want to build an app:

Roughly, how much will an app cost to build?

As you’d expect the answer is ‘it depends’, but I’ll give you a very simple answer that pretty much covers it.

As much as a kitchen.

If you pause on that for a moment the next question is:

What type of kitchen?

Domestic or commercial, big or small? For a domestic kitchen you could have a tiny flat that needs the simplest and most basic units. You could get that for a few thousand. A fancy kitchen in a big modern house with designer elements will be 5 digits. For commercial kitchens you can go from a mobile food van right up to a kitchen in a hotel. For both the cost isn’t only building it but running it. For the hotel that will be 6 to 7 figures to build and almost as much per year to operate.

What are the app equivalents to these types of kitchens?

The simplest are little standalone utility apps. They do one simple thing well and rarely need any backend servers. Like a metronome app or weight tracker.

There is cross-over in scale between the fancy domestic kitchen and a mobile food van. For apps this would be the fancier ones that are more feature rich or need back-end servers. The first prototype of WhatsApp was in this category as would be simple games.

The big expensive ones are those that are the front for an entire corporation. The mature WhatsApp, Netflix, and any of the Google Apps will be in this category. When I was working on the M&S app I estimated that the app development team cost £1m a year in salaries and overheads. That was just the app development, a lot more was spent on the teams that managed the shared infrastructure between the web site and the apps.

That is the rough cost of going all the way and getting an app out. There are other big questions:

  • Do I need an app for my business? If so, what?
  • Can I know that an app will work for my business before committing that much money?
  • How do I minimise the time, money and risk of making an app?

Those questions are my speciality. Grab my app development guide or read my other posts for my take on these questions.