With smartphones becoming an element of everyday life, app development is a significant opportunity worth taking advantage of. If app development is something that you feel is an important part of your brand’s journey, then you’re in the right place.

After all, an app can deliver huge tangible value to a brand. When done well, it drives user engagement and increases customer loyalty. 

In this article, we will be discussing app development costs in Australia, alongside providing some valuable insights on design, team selection, important features and hidden maintenance costs that you can expect to encounter so that you can get it right the first time.

  • A basic app would be something like a simple calculator or a measuring tool. Rudimentary apps like this sit in the $40,000 to $80,000 price range.
  • A standard app like a fast food ordering app or a day planner / calendar app would range from $80,000 to $150,000.
  • A complex app could be an e-commerce store or a social media platform could cost from $250,000 upwards.

As with any new venture, you will likely encounter many unexpected challenges along the way, with mistakes to be made. However, this is all part of the journey, and there are only benefits to be had by taking the bold step towards developing your own app.

The degree of planning that you put in and the level of expertise that is put into the execution will greatly influence the success and sustainability of your app development project. 

It is important, however, that your expectations be measured, as the app development journey is not an easy one. That said, the risk-reward ratio makes it well worth the effort!

Let’s take a look at some of the factors that you need to take into account when comparing the cost versus the benefits.

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App Development Cost Fundamentals

When approaching an app development project, what kind of upfront knowledge of the costs should you have?

Unexpected app development costs should be planned for, particularly because, with new ventures, there are always some things that cannot be foreseen. 

However, these additional costs shouldn’t break your budget if you have spent enough time researching and planning from the beginning. 

Here are some of the costs that you need to populate your budget spreadsheet with:

App Design

The visuals and functionality, also known as the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX), are the foundation on which your app’s success is built. In essence, you need to ensure that you build an app that not only looks good but is also a pleasure to use. 

While this might sound simple, it can be deceptively complex, which is why UI and UX app designers often charge a pretty penny for their work. This takes experience, know-how, and a significant degree of insight to get right.

Development Hours

Do you know how much the development hours are going to cost? This is a difficult question to answer, as it can vary significantly depending on the complexities of the project involved.

While it is challenging to specify an exact figure for the final cost during the preparation stages, it is important to note that apps typically involve several stages, such as progression, augmentation, and reworking.

All of these should be accounted for, as they have a material impact on the development hours and can significantly add to the cost.

While the hourly rates can vary depending on the developers you have chosen to work with, you can expect to pay an hourly rate of around A$150 to A$200 on average in Australia. We’ll discuss this more a little later on in this article.

To give you an idea of how many hours it takes to develop an app, a complex app like Uber would take 1,200-1,500 working hours to develop, while simpler apps can take as little as 300 to 600 working hours.

The Role Of UI Design

It is important to note that UI designers are not graphic designers. They have far more expertise than that. UI designers work on making sure that your app is intuitively easy to use and that users can comfortably navigate it.

This involves the look and feel of the app, incorporating visual elements of the interface, such as buttons, icons, colour schemes, typography, and other graphical elements. The role of UI designers is to create aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly interfaces.

UI designers need to understand the psychological impact of their designs on the user, how intuitive the design is, and how effective the design is at forwarding not only the intended functionality of the app but how well it represents the brand. 

What is a good approach to setting your design budget, then? It might involve designers giving input at this stage. They can warn you about whether your vision is a hugely expensive one or if there are cost-effective alternatives.

As you might reasonably expect, the more complex you want the design to be, the more the UI design costs will increase. Plan the “need-to-have” versus “nice-to-have” UI factors, as this will help your budget.

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The Role Of UX Design

A UX designer’s job is, by definition, more comprehensive since it covers the full user experience and interaction with a product. It involves understanding users’ needs, behaviours and motivations to enhance the overall experience. 

How can you measure the difference between good UX and bad UX? It can be measured by looking at your conversion rates. Nothing sends a potential customer scurrying away faster than a pain-in-the-neck app that is difficult and frustrating to use.

UX fundamentals involve mapping each step that needs to be taken in your app. A good way to curb UX development costs is to invest your personal time, or that of friends and colleagues, to map and debate the UX design before handing it over to professional UX developers to refine.

This is better than spending money on professional UX development upfront and then scrapping it to start over because something isn’t working for you.

Look at cost-saving design systems that are already in existence, such as Google’s Material Design guidelines. You can use Google’s good-looking, robust components to shave off costs.

Development Team Costs

Development costs are further affected by whether you opt for in-house or outsourced expertise. 

In-house teams are easier to control and are dedicated to your app as a priority. However, they can result in much higher long-term costs if you do a true HR cost analysis. 

On the other hand, if the app is not a core part of your business or is a once-off project, it might make more sense to outsource your development to a specialised app development agency.

Outsourcing might look more expensive in the short term, but it is seldom more expensive than the full HR cost impact associated with in-house teams. Also, outsourcing means that you will have instant access to a greater talent pool and more experience. 

Each approach has its pros and cons, which need to be carefully weighed before embarking on your project. This Harvard Business Review article contains a helpful debate on this.

Basic vs Advanced

As budgets go, basic app design is always going to fare better. However, you need to carefully weigh up the cost versus the value that it affords your users.

As a rule of thumb, it is always good to go in with a more basic expectation and not waste time dreaming up fancy bells and whistles. You can always improve your app later, when the core functionality has been developed.

  • Basic functionalities: Must-have things like your user login, a search function and a click-to-call widget.
  • Complex functionalities: Nice-to-have features such as third-party integrations, live GPS tracking, and in-app purchases.

Complex functionalities might seem like a good investment initially, but you should research these features objectively to identify if they’ll provide a real return on investment before including them in your app.

An important thing to note is that your app doesn’t need to be 100% unique. There are numerous pre-built components that you can use to expedite the process and reduce development costs.  

If you are building a house, you don’t have to design the bricks that are being used in the design of the house. After all, a brick is a brick. This same logic applies to app development.

Look for pre-existing tools or components. This can help you quickly slash your development budget and bug-fix costs.

Mobile App Developer

Hidden Costs

The phrase “hidden costs” is every asset owner’s nightmare. However, did you know that, with careful planning and research, most of these so-called “hidden costs” won’t be hidden at all? That’s why our earlier point on taking time to assess costs upfront needs to be reiterated.

For example, maintenance, repair and update costs should not come as a surprise. Whether it’s an app or an office, your asset will need maintenance, tweaks, repairs, and updates as time goes on. 

Due to the complexity and organic nature of apps and live IT, you should expect and budget for regular bug fixes and security updates, among other things. As bugs are discovered, security breaches occur, and new features are added, system updates will be required by default. 

It’s safe to estimate that you should budget for an additional 15% to 20% of the initial development price for maintenance, updates, repairs, bug fixes, and security updates.

Additional Costs To Consider

In addition to the post-launch “hidden costs” that should be planned for, what are some other costs to factor in as well?

  • Server costs: A correctly set-up server will translate into your app processing functions quicker, providing the user a better experience. This means a good UX score. Check out this server pricing from Amazon AWS to get an idea of what this might cost.
  • Compliance upgrades: A compliance upgrade will cost you money and is unfortunately beyond your control. If regulations change, your software or content needs to change to remain compliant. Therefore, you should consider adding a buffer to your budget for this eventuality.
  • Licencing fees: Licence fees, such as Apple Developer Program Membership Fees, can play a fundamental role in protecting your IP and setting the parameters for how people use your software. 

Licencing fees vary significantly depending on the platforms your app is rolled out on.

Spend time researching the right platform for your app. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be appropriate.

You might be told that it is cheaper to develop an iOS app due to fewer device variations, but with almost 40% of the Australian market using Android, is this the right decision for you?

To make sure you’ve covered every base in your budget, brainstorm with your developers and list every cost possible to avoid any surprises down the line.

Macroeconomic Cost Considerations

Earlier on, we discussed the expected average hourly cost of Australian developers. However, there are some things you should consider in this regard that are worth noting here.

Since different parts of Australia have varying levels of economic activity, you might find different average wages for tech professionals. In Sydney and Melbourne, for example, there is a tech company concentration. This translates into higher hourly rates versus small-town tech professional wages.

Another macroeconomic factor is market trends. As the surge in app development continues to climb, the demand for and cost of developers will also rise. Conversely, as the skills market fills with developers, their wage rate will soften. In essence, basic demand/supply rules apply.

However, consider that app development agencies might compete against each other for your business, leading to better prices for you if you shop around.

When doing so, consider factors such as innovation, speed of delivery, and quality assurance practices. Without those assurances in place, you might find costs soaring owing to emergency project-saving steps that need to be taken. 

Australian Mobile App User

Closing Thoughts

Building an app is like starting a business. You have a vision and expectations that need to be aligned with reality and then moulded into a long-term plan that is both realistic and achievable.

App development costs in Australia are influenced by design choices, feature choices and team selection

Planning for the expenses that we discussed upfront and checking your short-term and long-term expense projections can help you be empowered to make smarter decisions. This can help ensure you hit the sweet spot sooner and more cost-effectively.

As an experienced development agency, we know that app development costs in Australia can run through the roof if not carefully managed and planned for.

We will work with you every step of the way to help your app development remain on track and on budget.

To your success,