- A web app development cost can vary significantly depending on each case's specifics. To build a basic web app with simple functionality, you may need to invest from $20,000, while the price of complex apps can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- To calculate the cost of custom web app development, you need to consider various factors: chosen web app type, technology stack, team size, cooperation model, and app requirements.
- The web development process includes many stages, from project discovery to designing, actual development, testing, and deployment. Make sure to calculate costs for all stages to get an accurate estimate for your app development.
If you came here for a precise figure, you won't find one. Sorry! Moreover, if someone is ready to immediately tell you the exact cost of your web application, run away.
Web app development doesn't work like this. Development companies don't have a price list with costs for each type of app. We create custom solutions, which means we approach each project differently. Without a substantial amount of information, we can't predict how development will go for your project. But what we can do is explain to you how we assess the development cost and what affects it.
This article gives you detailed insights into how web application development works and which factors affect the development cost. After reading it, you'll be able to estimate the cost to build the type of web application you require so you know what kind of budget to allocate.
Why build a web application?
You definitely know that there are apps you can run on any operational platform, apps available only on specific devices (for example, iOS devices), and apps you access via a browser. The reason for this is companies' different approaches to developing their apps. If you've decided to create an application for your business, you can choose from three development approaches:
- Native app development
If you strive for the best app performance, develop a native app for each platform: iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, and others. Just know that the total cost of development will be much higher than with other approaches as you build a separate app for each platform.
- Hybrid app development
You can build a hybrid app once and then adapt it to every platform. The cost of a hybrid app for multiple platforms isn't as high as the cost of native apps, but a hybrid product also won't offer top performance. The hybrid approach is perfect for developing an MVP since it enables you to release your app to a wide audience fast and test your concept without a significant investment.
- Web application development
Web-based applications are a silver bullet. They can run on any device with a built-in browser, be it a smartphone or a smart fridge. With the development of wearables and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the power of web apps will keep growing. And the best part? The average cost of web application development is much lower than the cost of developing either a native or hybrid app.
At Clockwise Software, we see huge potential for web applications. Moreover, 80% of our current projects — including complex e-commerce apps, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, online marketplaces, data visualization tools, and data analytics tools — are web apps.
Why do we find website application development an ultimate option for most projects? It's all about the balance of cost and quality: you get an app that can run on any platform and show excellent performance, but you don't need to invest in developing separate apps, so the cost of your app stays reasonable and affordable. If you're looking for the same outcomes for your custom app development, building a web app can be your perfect choice. Let's move further and look at different types of web apps, as your choice of web app type can also impact the cost.
Types of web applications
If you opt for custom web app development, you should know the types of web apps you can build. Multi-page applications (MPAs) and single-page applications (SPAs) are two common types you can choose. Let's take a look at their characteristics and differences.
As the name suggests, a multi-page app (MPA) is a web-based application that consists of multiple pages. Different features of an MPA live on different pages, which means that clicking on a button or link initiates a request for a new page to load. Multi-page applications suit the goals of marketplaces, eLearning sites, and other platforms that contain a lot of content. Multi-page applications used to be a default option, but single-page apps are already taking the leading positions.
A single-page application (SPA) consists of just one page. SPAs allow users to quickly navigate the app, as all functionality can be accessed on one page. Clicking a button doesn't refresh the page, which saves both traffic and time. At the same time, search engine optimization of SPAs requires more attention, but there are ways to improve it: you can find some tips in our article on SEO for React apps.
Examples of SPAs are Google services (Gmail, Google Calendar), social media sites (Facebook, Twitter), and many systems businesses use daily, like ERP or CRM.
In what cases does it make more sense to build MPA, and when should you opt for SPA? The choice will depend on your app requirements. Website application development has changed a lot in recent years, and many modern web apps are SPAs, even content-heavy ones. But it doesn't mean you shouldn't consider MPAs as a possible option for your web app idea. We recommend you consult with technical specialists first to make the right decision that will save you time and money while fully meeting your project requirements.
Extra option: Progressive web applications
All web applications are available via browser, which means that they require an internet connection. What should you choose if you need an app that allows users to view content offline? Don't give up on web apps, as they can still provide such an option. How? The answer is progressive web apps.
The terms “web application” and “progressive web apps” are often used interchangeably. However, they are not the same. All PWAs are web applications, but not all web applications are PWAs. Progressive web applications include the characteristics of both web apps and native apps: they work as web apps but also boast features of native apps such as offline accessibility, push notifications, and access to device hardware.
As you can see, each type of application suits different goals, and depending on the type your business needs, the cost of custom web development will differ. But before we move to numbers, let's look at a few more factors that impact development costs.
Web application development process
Developing a web application from scratch is a complex process that includes several stages known as the software product development lifecycle. How each stage goes and how much time and resources it takes will affect the cost of your application. Do you need to go through all of them? How can you reduce costs through software development? To answer these questions, let's look at the stages and define why they're important and what deliverables you'll get after each stage.
Turning your web app idea into a functional app starts with the project discovery. At this stage, you, as a project stakeholder, communicate your expectations about your web application to a business analyst who helps you understand the market, create a brief description of your project, and build a strategy to enter it successfully.
At the same time, you communicate with a project manager who clarifies your project requirements, analyzes risks and prepares a mitigation plan, provides you with time and cost estimates, and manages a team of web application developers.
As a result of project discovery, you get a lot of deliverables that can vary depending on project specifics. For example, you can create a solid business plan for a startup, decide on your web application architecture and requirements, estimate resources, decide on the technology stack and development team (we will describe available options further in this article), and plan all further activities needed to build and launch your app.
During the discovery, you can also create a proof of concept in the form of a feasibility study, a prototype, or a pilot project that ensures it is possible to implement your idea from a technical standpoint. For example, a clickable prototype is interactive and allows you to see what components your app will have and feel how users will navigate through your app. It allows you to assess the convenience and usability of your product, identify flaws before actual development, and adjust app requirements.
The amount of work done during the project discovery will impact your web app development cost. The more deliverables you want to get, the higher the cost will be.
After you form a product vision and prepare all documentation, you can move to the next stage — design. At this stage, a UI/UX designer works on your web app interface, taking into account your requirements, the peculiarities of your target audience, and the business goals your web app has to achieve.
As a deliverable of this stage, you will get the design of your app's interface ready. How does this stage affect web app development costs? The complexity of your app can be different: you may need to create only a few screens for a simple app and way more for a complex app. The more screens your app has, the higher the price of its design.
Also, the design requirements can affect the final cost of your app design. You may want an interface with minimal components and visuals or an app with dynamic elements and a unique style. Your choice will define how much time and effort a UI/UX designer should spend creating your web app interface and, therefore, the cost of this stage.
With a prototype and ready design, it's time to start working on the product itself. The best option is to first build a minimum viable product (MVP). An MVP is a version of a product with only a few basic features that are enough to actually use an app in real life.
Why develop an MVP instead of a full-featured app? While you might be overwhelmed by the desire to implement all the coolest features in your product at once, your target audience usually doesn't need all those features at the very beginning. What they need is an app of a decent quality that solves their problems. Thus, building a minimum viable product is a win-win option that allows you to cut down project costs at the beginning of the development process, validate your business idea with the feedback from early adopters, and make sure you're moving in the right direction.
How does the development process go? Backend and frontend developers work together to ensure your web app meets all your business requirements. What can affect the development process is the chosen technology stack. Let's explore the options for frontend and backend.
React is a lightweight library with core functionality that can be extended according to the needs of each specific project. Another popular choice for building a web app's front end is Angular. You can find out more about this framework and see examples of Angular apps in one of our previous articles.
The backend world has more variety to offer.
You can also consider a PHP framework like Laravel, Symfony, or Zend — a cheap and proven solution. However, these frameworks are fading in popularity.
Does your web application rely on heavy calculations? If it does, Java-based Spring will meet your needs.
Other options include Ruby on Rails and the Python-based Django and Flask. But keep in mind that you'll have to hire a team with knowledge of your chosen backend framework in addition to your JS frontend team.
After developing each piece of functionality, you need to test it. The software testing lifecycle involves many activities that allow you to check how each piece of functionality works individually and together with others, identify and eliminate flaws before deployment, and overall polish your MVP to make sure it meets app requirements set at the beginning and will satisfy users' and business needs.
Testing is not a stage you can neglect or save money on if you want to get a quality web application. It's as crucial as development itself. Thus, it also requires expenses.
Maintenance and further development
Once you launch your MVP, you can get feedback from early adopters to find out if your target audience is happy with the first version and see what you can improve. You can also present your app to investors to raise funds for further development. Still, an MVP is just the first step in making a great product. Until you want your app to live and thrive, you need to work on it: identify issues, plan improvements, and develop and deploy new functionality.
Maintaining and improving your web-based application requires expenses. The cost will depend on how many improvements you want to make, how long you want your app to live, and many other factors. We can only tell you that you don't need to calculate all expenses at once. Take one step at a time, plan your budget and resources for that step, evaluate the result, and plan the next. With reasonable and thoughtful decisions, you can reduce the cost of web application development and make your app bring you a positive ROI.
More factors that impact the cost of web application development
We have already discussed the types of web-based applications and the development process. You also found out how the chosen tech stack can impact the price. But to find out the approximate cost to build a web application, you should consider some more factors.
While describing project discovery, we mentioned that at this stage, you define the scope of work, what specialists you need to develop the desired application, and how you will organize the process. All these decisions have a great impact on your web app development cost. So, let's take a closer look at them.
Scope of work
The cost of web app development directly depends on the complexity of the web application you want to build and the tools necessary to build it. The scope of work mainly depends on the app features you want to include in your app.
At the beginning of software development, a business analyst, in cooperation with stakeholders, defines what functionality your app should have. This information forms app requirements that a business analyst documents in software requirements documentation, user stories, use cases, and other formats.
We don't doubt that every single feature in your app matters. But each piece of functionality costs weeks of development and a few thousand dollars extra. Thus, to build an app with the required functionality and at the same time fit in your budget, you need to make rational decisions and understand how to reduce costs without sacrificing features in your app. We have two recommendations.
First, prioritize features and develop your app in iterations. Invest in building a core functionality first that will be enough to launch an MVP. Then, you can monitor your app's performance and continuously improve it, investing as you go.
Our second recommendation is to go with third-party services. You don't need to waste time and money on developing a piece of functionality from scratch if someone has already done it and it works great. To cover your needs, you can choose from ready-made chat modules, payment processors, map integrations, delivery management systems, and other third-party services. Integrate them into your app straightaway or slightly customize it to match your app's design.
Let's say your web application needs a map. Don't think twice about grabbing the Google Maps API. Do you want to power your app with AI? You can use OpenAI's API to integrate ChatGPT into your app. This approach works with dozens of features that might be on your list. Integrate a ready content management system or a slightly customized chat platform. It will greatly reduce your web app development cost.
Composition of your web app development team
Depending on the scope of work you need to do when developing a web application, you'll need to hire different specialists for your team. To build a web application from scratch, you'll likely need the following team members:
- Business analyst (BA)
A business analyst will help you analyze the market, define your target audience, decide on the core functionality, and so on. Don't neglect the possibility of working with an experienced business analyst, as they will likely prevent you from making strategic mistakes.
- Software designer (SD)
There's no overestimating the importance of an app's look and feel. Hiring a seasoned UI/UX designer helps to improve your web app conversions.
- Quality assurance engineer (QA)
The task of a quality assurance engineer is to test the product and discover bugs before they spoil everything for your users.
- Software engineer (SE)
- Project manager (PM)
The project manager brings the team together. The main goal of a project manager is to coordinate the work of all team members, moderate communication between you (the project stakeholder) and your team, and ensure deadlines are met. In short, a project manager eliminates your headaches and frees your time and resources so you can work on your business strategy.
Every project is unique, and so is the software development team structure for it. Maybe you're a designer yourself and have already prepared your business plan, so all you need is proper web app development and testing. Or maybe you're completely new to the sphere but devoted to creating an awesome web app. In that case, you probably need all of the mentioned professionals on your team. What specialists you need to hire to build an app will directly impact the overall development cost.
Hiring option you choose
When it comes to hiring web application developers, you have three options.
1. Hire an in-house web development team (the most expensive option)
Hiring web developers is probably the first idea that comes to mind. But an in-house team is expensive, even without considering the costs of hiring, onboarding, and running an office.
When you employ full-time developers, you must pay them regularly, no matter how much work you need to be done right at the moment. You can't quickly fire someone or hire new specialists when the scope of work changes. It will take time, leading to missed project deadlines, overtime for your team, and additional expenses.
In-house teams work great for big companies and enterprises where internal communication between departments is essential. But if you're just starting your web application business, this is likely not the best choice for you.
2. Work with a freelancer (the cheapest option)
There are dozens of websites that can help you hire freelancers to build a web application. This is the easiest and cheapest way to find developers. But unfortunately, it's not the most reliable way.
Freelancers often work on multiple projects simultaneously. In this case, you aren't your developers' only source of income, and they won't be completely devoted to developing a web application for you. Also, freelancers may disappear in the middle of the project, as strict contracts don't bind them.
If you choose to work with several freelancers, prepare to be their project manager.
Cooperating with a freelancer is profitable for urgent fixes or simple programming tasks. But it's best not to trust a complex web app to freelance developers.
3. Outsource web application development (the best value for money)
Outsourcing is the life hack of the decade! This cooperation model can be a beneficial option for you to develop a great app within your budget. Let us tell you more so you can consider all the pros and cons of outsourcing software development for your project.
Outsourcing means partnering with a whole team that can fully develop your app from idea to final product. You save a lot on hiring and onboarding, paying only for the actual work done according to your outsourcing company's hourly rates.
Another benefit is web development companies' expertise. You can find a company that has worked on similar projects and knows the nuances of building web apps for your niche. And you don't need to limit yourself to specialists from your region only. Looking for a suitable web development service, you can outsource software development to specialists in Ukraine, Poland, Singapore, the US, Germany, or web development companies from any other country.
Outsourcing services can also be cost-effective for companies with an in-house development team. For example, if you lack a few specialists to develop an app, you can opt for IT staff augmentation and hire those professionals you need as a part of your in-house team. If you want to know more, look at the comparison of staff augmentation vs managed services in one of our previous articles.
Approximate cost of web app development
When considering the cost of custom software development, you should understand what deliverables you expect to get. For example, you may want to conduct a project discovery first. Then, you may want to build a prototype of your app to validate your idea. And only after that, you may want to start actual development and build an MVP. Each stage requires a different amount of time, resources, and money. Take a look at the table below to find out the difference:
|up to 1 month
|PM, BA, SE, SD, QA
|PM, BA, SE, SD, QA
When considering the cost to build a web app, you should understand that there are multiple kinds of applications and that costs will vary depending on your app's kind and complexity. With a $100,000 budget, you can get apps with different functionality, depending on what app you build. How does it work? We want to explain it with two examples: a SaaS post scheduling app and a marketplace. Let's find out what functionality you can build for each app with the same custom web-based application development budget.
How much does a SaaS post scheduling web application cost?
You can build various apps using a SaaS model: ERP systems, project management tools, marketing software, CRM apps, etc. Each app has a different functionality that impacts the web application development cost. Let's consider what functionality you can develop with a $100,000 budget for your post scheduling app like Buffer. The features of such an app include:
- Integration with social networks. Post scheduling apps are based on their connection with social media, and Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn integrations are the most common for such apps.
- Authentication is a feature that almost any app needs. As a post scheduling app works with personal or company profiles on social media platforms, authentication is a must.
- Post planning and scheduling are the core features of apps like Buffer and must be implemented in an MVP version.
- Analytics and reporting in marketing software like Buffer help users track the performance of their campaigns and better plan their marketing efforts.
- Data encryption is one of the core features of web apps like Buffer. Security is a must in such apps for two reasons. First, app users want their data to be safe. Second, app owners don't want to collect and process data they don't need.
With the functionality we listed above, you will get a minimum viable product (MVP) of a Buffer-like app. To build such a SaaS product from scratch, you'll have to hire a whole team and go through all stages of a SaaS product lifecycle, moving from market analysis to app interface and functionality development.
How much does it cost to develop a marketplace web app?
All marketplaces have similar functionality, so the price range is not as wide as for other types of apps. However, there are still a lot of things to consider. What can you build with the budget we mentioned above? It can be an MVP of a peer-to-peer marketplace like Airbnb, eBay, or Uber with the following features:
- User profiles should allow your marketplace users to provide information about themselves and their products/services and update this information if necessary.
- Product listings allow marketplace users to present their products or services for sale.
- The checkout page is where users make a purchase or order a particular service.
- Payment functionality should provide marketplace users with the ability to choose different payment options. Payment services such as Stripe and PayPal can be integrated into a marketplace app.
- Reviews should allow all marketplace users to leave feedback about products/services they order.
- A notification system may include in-app notifications, push notifications, email, or SMS notifications to enhance the user experience for both service providers and consumers.
To build a marketplace with such functionality, web app developers will have to spend 3+ months working on your project. The web application development budget and timeframes will vary if you want to build an app with different functionality. To better understand how much a marketplace MVP might cost you, download our marketplace MVP estimate example.
How much does it cost to build a web app? As you can see, many factors affect the cost of a web app, and it's only possible to calculate a cost by knowing the specifics of your project and your time and budget limits.
While you may want to find the most cost-effective development option, striving to save money may be dangerous. If the app development estimate offered by a vendor is lower than you expected or much different from other candidates' estimates, don't hurry to sign a contract.
Сontractors tend not to include support, bug fixes, project management, and other necessary services in the initial estimate and then attack you with invoices. If this happens, the final price may be much higher than you were ready to pay. So, don't hesitate to ask for a detailed estimate when it comes to web app development. This small step may save you time, money, and nerves.
If you're looking for a web app development service, we would be happy to help you. As a software development company, we have expertise in building web apps of different complexity and for various purposes. Our team can assist you with every step in the development process, creating a product that fully meets your needs.