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Mobile App / Web Application Development Planning Process, Project Functional Requirements and Cost

Below is our process, as a web application and mobile app developer, for evaluating the scope and cost of a web application / mobile app design and development project. (Please note that we did not include the business and marketing process of a project, because that is a different process and our focus is on the design and development aspect of a project).

This phase is an important part of any application development. Unfortunately, In most of today’s application projects, since the project owner is not informed, there is little effort put in on this phase of the project.

Below are some of the typical outcomes of not having this phase done correctly:

  • The development team can end up building the application based on their interpretation of the project requirements if they are not outlined clearly from the start. If the client changes the direction of the project requirements during development, or explains that they meant to have described it differently, can create a cost and time increase, because it is much more time-consuming to refactor the code to accommodate the revised project requirements, compared to building it correctly from the ground up.
  • The project owner ends up with code and/or design that does not meet his/her project requirements and after spending hundreds of hours and investing thousands of dollars, the project owner may end up having to throw away the project code and start over.
  • If there is a way to refactor the code to meet the correct project requirements, the code may be buggy, less maintainable and more tedious to work on.

How do I create a project detailed description?

Creating a project detailed description is similar to creating a feature list or project requirements, but with a much more well-thought-out process.

In many cases, it is a time consuming process. It entails thinking thorough all of the features that are required to build an application and also having good knowledge and experience in building applications to better select effective strategies and the best technology for the project.

For example, if your application is going to be a membership and subscription based application, you will need to thoroughly think through how you are going to charge your members. For example, are you going to provide a 30 days free trial? Are you going to have a setup fee? Are you going to have different subscription types and a free membership option? What are the details and access levels of each of the membership types?

So, you will need to write a detailed description on how you want your application membership and subscription to work.

Additionally, you will need to have good knowledge of different subscription-based payment gateway companies and how they differ when it comes to reliability, security features and cost.

The above is just one feature item that will require hours of research or possibly using services from a company like Comentum to provide you consultation, and help you with creating your project detailed description and technology selection.

How many hours will this process typically take, and how much will it cost?

The cost to develop a detailed description depends on the size of a project and how many hours of consultation that you require.

When I work with a client with a medium size web application, the client usually requires me to provide at least 10 hours of consulting at the start and planning stage of the project.

When I work on a project detailed description for a project and evaluate the project cost, I usually end up spending about 25 hours. I have years of experience working on hundreds of projects, so I’m a bit quicker with creating the project detailed description. On larger size projects, I usually spend 50+ hours on this phase.

I receive calls daily from prospective clients who are not familiar with the amount of work that goes into this phase and they often assume that this phase should be quick and complementary. Unfortunately because of the amount of hours that are required to create the project detailed description, and accurately assess and quote a project, it is not possible for any business to provide the services for this phase complementary.

In general you would decide how many hours you would require for this phase. If you are knowledgeable in this industry, then you may not need any consulting.

Comentum provides consulting and help with creating the project detailed description and you can purchase our consulting services at our hourly rate.

Please let us know if you would like to purchase prepaid consultation hours for your project.

How much does a typical web application cost?

We also created the below chart to provide you information on the average cost of a web application project, so if your budget does not fit our proposed cost, you would not need to spend additional time or money for this phase of the project.

In the application development industry, "you get what you pay for” usually holds true; some companies develop an application using inexperienced, offshore programmers, or take shortcuts in order to cut the cost, or use “out-of-the-box”, "one-size-fits-all” CMS software and try to customize it, which in the end, you may end up with buggy, unusable code that is very tedious to maintain.

The advantages of our application development is that we have experience building custom applications; we have an in-house team that has years of experience in building web applications and we have quality assurance procedures in place, in order to deliver a quality product.

MVP: Minimum Viable Product
Ball-park Cost Breakdown for Web Application Development Project (Not Mobile App)
Project Small MVP Small Enterprise Medium MVP Medium Enterprise Large MVP Large Enterprise
Discovery and Wireframing $1,500 $2,500 $3,000 $4,000 $5,000 $8,000
Public Website / Marketing $3,000 $4,000 $6,000 $8,000 $8,000 $10,000
Web Application Interface Design and HTML and CSS Production (Responsive) $3,000 $5,000 $6,000 $8,000 $8,500 $11,000
Web Application Development / Programming $9,000 $12,500 $27,000 $38,000 $60,000 $90,000
Application Administration N/A $7,500 $8,500 $15,000 $10,000 $20,000
Quality Assurance and Refinements $2,000 $3,500 $4,000 $7,000 $7,000 $10,000
Deployment and Cloud $1,000 $1,000 $1,000 $2,000 $1,000 $3,000
Total $19,500 $36,000 $55,500 $82,000 $99,500 $152,000

How much does a typical mobile app cost?

The below chart applies to a mobile app development project. There are different development platforms for building mobile apps and that can greatly affect the project cost.

The phrase: “You get what you pay” does greatly apply to building mobile apps. That is why you can find so many apps on the app store with a one-star rating; this is because the app is not built correctly, it is not user friendly and it crashes.

Also, there are so many devices and resolutions on mobile apps, so it will take a substantial amount of hours to do quality assurance work on app projects to make sure it operates correctly and looks good on all devices and resolutions.

Also, it is important to know that building mobile apps are not like building web applications – they are much more complex and time consuming to develop. Especially, building apps that are refined and professionally developed will require a substantial amount of hours.

MVP: Minimum Viable Product
Ball-park Cost Breakdown for Native App Development: Android & iPhone
Project Small MVP Small Enterprise Medium MVP Medium Enterprise Large MVP Large Enterprise
Discovery and Wireframing $1,500 $2,500 $2,500 $3,500 $5,000 $9,000
App Screen Designs $2,000 $3,000 $3,500 $5,000 $5,000 $9,000
iOS native development $9,000 $11,000 $37,000 $45,000 $60,000 $90,000
Android native development $9,000 $11,000 $37,000 $45,000 $60,000 $90,000
Back-end Programing, Database and APIs $5,000 $7,000 $9,000 $10,000 $12,000 $12,000
Application Administration N/A $7,500 $9,000 $15,000 $10,000 $20,000
Quality Assurance and Refinements iOS $2,000 $2,500 $5,000 $6,500 $7,000 $9,000
Quality Assurance and Refinements Android $2,000 $2,500 $5,000 $6,500 $7,000 $9,000
Deployment and Cloud $1,500 $2,000 $2,000 $3,000 $2,000 $3,000
Total (One Platform) $21,000 $35,500 $68,000 $81,000 $101,000 $152,000
Total (Android and iPhone) $32,000 $49,000 $110,000 $125,500 $168,000 $251,000

The above ball park estimates are based on building your project using the native programming language of each operating system, for your application.

Below is the ball-park cost based on building your app using hybrid app development:

MVP: Minimum Viable Product
Ball-park Cost Breakdown for Hybrid App Development: Android & iPhone
Project Small MVP Small Enterprise Medium MVP Medium Enterprise Large MVP Large Enterprise
Discovery and Wireframing $1,500 $2,500 $2,500 $3,500 $5,000 $7,500
App Screen Designs $2,000 $3,000 $3,500 $6,000 $5,000 $9,000
Hybrid App Development using PhoneGap technology $10,000 $12,000 $38,000 $45,000 $65,000 $100,000
Back-end Programing, Database and APIs $5,000 $7,000 $9,000 $10,000 $12,000 $12,000
Application Administration N/A $7,500 $9,000 $15,000 $10,000 $20,000
Quality Assurance and Refinements $2,000 $4,000 $5,000 $7,000 $9,000 $11,000
Deployment and Cloud $1,500 $2,500 $2,000 $3,000 $2,000 $3,000
Total (Android & iPhone) $22,000 $38,500 $69,000 $89,500 $108,000 $162,500

How do I guarantee that my project development is completed successfully?

There are a lot of factors that go into successfully completing a project development. Below are a few factors to consider:

  1. Put in a lot of effort into creating and thoroughly reviewing your project’s detailed description to make sure that you have covered every feature of your application and have selected the effective strategies and right technology for your project.
  2. Make sure that your application is accurately quoted based on your requirements. If the cost is too good to be true, you are more likely not going to receive an application that is going to be maintainable, scalable and successful.
  3. Make sure that you work with an experienced design and development team that can successfully build you a quality, maintainable, scalable and secure application.
  4. Working with a development company that takes project management seriously is really important. Although project management is not usually discussed in evaluating and assessing a project, it is important to have an experienced project manager managing your project and to make sure that the correct information is relayed between you and your project development team. This is because designers and developers are not good project managers and communicators. They may not communicate important aspects of the project with you. They may make decisions that are not suitable for your project and you may end up with wrong features. Some companies use programmers that are also the project managers, in those cases, you are more likely not able to successfully complete your development project to your satisfaction unless the programmer happens to be a good communicator and project manager.
  5. Spend as much time as possible and be involved as much as you can with the development company's project manager to make sure that development continues on a correct path and is based on your project’s requirements.

How do I start out my project on a right foundation?

If you would like to start your project on a right foundation with Comentum's Discovery services, please let us know and we will contact you to start the discovery process.

Research for this article was completed April 25, 2016; information may change.

Bernard Kohan

Bernard Kohan is a mobile app and web application development and technology analyst expert. He is available to discuss any issues or questions you have about web development and the best choices for your company or project.

Bernard can be reached at

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