The Hidden Costs of Building an App

While working as a freelance a web developer, I often get approached about building a “simple” app like “X”.

“Oh, it’ll just be a simple app like Facebook, where my community members can chat…”

“I’m thinking it will be a basic app like Uber, but for dog walking…”

“What if it’s a simple app like SWEAT for delivering my workouts to my followers?”


Converting wireframes to “Hi-Fi” designs

Building the App

  • User Authentication — Log-in, Create Account etc.
  • Content Management — “How do I edit this content in the future without involving a developer?”
  • Analytics — How do I know what’s happening in my app?
  • Notifications — How and when do I send notifications to my users?
  • Billing — How do I charge for access? How do subscriptions work? What about refunds and preventing fraud?
  • Delivery to App Stores — How does this app get onto the App Stores? Is it both iOS & Android? What about web? How do I make updates once it’s on the App Stores?
  • Support — What level of support do I provide for my users? What if things break? How do my users reach me?
  • Content Creation — How do I create content for my app? Is it user generated? How do I monitor & enforce fair use? Is it my own content? How will I create the content?
  • Additional Features — What happens when I want to add a new feature? Will I need to involve my developer?

the average price of a simple app is between $38,000 to $91,000. A medium complexity app cost is between $55,550 and $131,000 and a complex app may cost from $91,550 to $211,000.

Hidden Cost 1: User Authentication

  • Forgot Password
    This is essential for user authentication. But, it requires you to send emails from your server, often using 3rd party services like SendGrid or AWS.
  • Onboarding
    Often, you’ll want to capture additional information from a user when they sign up or show the functionality your app provides in a few screens. This process is called onboarding, and is typically customised to your app.
  • Social Sign In
    What if you want users to sign in with Facebook? Google? Twitter? All of these need to be integrated into your authentication flow.
  • Security
    On top of functionality, you want to ensure you are storing user information securely which includes setting up SSL Certificates, and ensuring you are encrypting passwords and other sensitive information.

Hidden Cost 2: Content Management

Hidden Cost 3: Analytics

“What do my users often do after X?”

“How does this page convert vs that one?”

“How many times was X performed compared to last week?”

Hidden Cost 4: Billing

Hidden Cost 5: Delivery to App Stores

Hidden Cost 6: Support

Hidden Cost 7: Content Creation

Hidden Cost 8: Additional Features

In Summary

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