How Much Does It Cost To Build a Web Application From Scratch

Apr 20, 2022·16 min read

How can you build a web app without spending a fortune? In this article, you’ll learn about various approaches to web app development as well as strategies to save money. By the end, you’ll know how to calculate the approximate cost of your own web application.

Contents:

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.

Software 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, it’s impossible to predict how web app development will go for a particular project.

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?

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, watchOS, AndroidTV, and any others. Just know that the total cost of development will be much higher than with other approaches.
  • 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 that has 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 cost of developing a web app 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.

Types of web applications

If you opt for web app development, you should be aware of the different types of web apps you can build. There are three main types to choose from: multi-page applications (MPAs), single-page applications (SPAs), and progressive web apps (PWAs).

Multi-page applications

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. Multi-page is the default choice if you want to build a web app.

Single-page applications

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. Examples of SPAs are Google services (Gmail, Google Calendar) and social media sites (Facebook, Twitter).

Progressive web applications

Often, the terms “web application” and “progressive web application” are 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. Starbucks and Flipboard are two examples of PWAs.

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 have a look at one more factor that impacts development costs: the technology stack.

Choosing web app development? Choose JavaScript.

We’re big fans of JavaScript, and it’s always our top recommendation when choosing the technology stack for a web app. There are multiple reasons for that, with the most crucial being the price.

Developing a web application using JavaScript is affordable because:

  • It’s easy to hire a JavaScript web app development team since JavaScript is the most popular programming language in the world.
  • A full-stack JavaScript developer can handle both frontend and backend development, so there’s no need to hire two separate teams.
  • JavaScript code can be reused later if you decide to develop a separate mobile app.

JavaScript is a one-size-fits-all solution. Whether you’re striving to build an online marketplace or an IoT application, you can do it with a JavaScript framework.

When it comes to frontend development, there are no real alternatives: browsers work with JavaScript only. You can choose between dozens of JavaScript frameworks, but we encourage you to take a closer look at the three top-performing frameworks: Angular, React, and Vue.js.

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 web apps built with Angular in one of our previous articles.

The backend world has more variety to offer.

If you share our passion for JavaScript, choose Node.js or Express.js for your web app’s back end.

If you want a cheap but stable solution, consider a PHP framework like Laravel, Symfony, or Zend.

Does your web application rely on heavy calculations? If it does, the Java-based Spring will meet your needs.

There are also other options including 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.

When it comes to costs, the average salary of a JavaScript developer in the US is lower compared to the average salaries of developers who work in Java, Python, and other popular languages.

All in all, with its availability and cost-effectiveness, JavaScript is an optimal choice for any kind of web development, whether you’re building a multi-page application, single-page application, or progressive web app.

More factors that impact the cost of web app development

The cost of software development depends on a number of factors. We have already discussed the type of web app and the technology stack it’s built on. But to find out the approximate cost to build a web app, you should consider some more factors.

factors influencing web app development cost

Scope of work

The cost of development directly depends on the complexity of the web application you want to build and the services necessary to build it. When developing a web application from scratch, you’ll likely need to go through all stages of the software development lifecycle, which include the following:

  • Discovery phase
    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 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 for your project, and manages a team of web application developers. During the discovery phase, you also get a prototype of your product that ensures your idea can be implemented from a technical standpoint.
  • UI/UX design
    At this stage, a UI/UX designer works on your web app interface, taking into account your requirements, peculiarities of your target audience, and business goals your web app has to achieve.
  • MVP development
    With a working prototype and ready design, it’s time to start working on the product itself. MVP development is when the actual software engineering happens. Backend and frontend developers work together to ensure your classic web app or PWA meets all your business requirements. At the same time, quality assurance engineers check every new feature to make sure your app works as it’s supposed to.
  • Maintenance and support
    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.

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 to your team. To build a web application from scratch, you’ll likely need the following team members:

  • Business analyst
    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.
  • Designer
    There’s no overestimating the importance of an app’s look and feel. Hiring a seasoned UI/UX designer is your guaranteed path to conversions.
  • Quality assurance engineer
    The task of a quality assurance engineer is to test the product and discover bugs before they spoil everything for your users.
  • Software developers
    If you choose JavaScript as your core technology for both the front end and back end, then one strong developer can handle everything. However, you can hire more programmers to solve more complex tasks and reduce your time to market.
  • Project manager
    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 case is unique. Maybe you’re a designer yourself and have already prepared your business plan, so all you need is proper 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.

Hiring option you choose

When it comes to hiring web application developers, you have three options.

hiring options for web development

  1. Hire an in-house web developer or development team (the most expensive option)

Hiring a web developer is probably the first idea that comes to mind. But an in-house developer is expensive, even without considering the costs of hiring, onboarding, and running an office.

And one more thing: When you employ full-time developers, you have to pay them regularly, no matter how much work you need to be done right at the moment.

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.

  1. Work with a freelancer (the cheapest option)

There are dozens of websites that can help you hire a freelancer to build a web application. This is the easiest and cheapest way to find a developer. But unfortunately, it’s not the most reliable.

Freelancers usually work on multiple projects simultaneously. In this case, you aren’t your developer’s only source of income, and your developer won’t be completely devoted to developing a web application for you. Also, freelancers may disappear in the middle of the project, as they are not bound with strict contracts.

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 a freelance developer.

  1. Outsource web application development (the best value for money)

Outsourcing is the life hack of the decade! If web app development services are expensive in your region, you can find a contractor in another country where website development rates are lower. Moreover, outsourcing means partnering with a whole team that can fully develop your app from idea to final product.

With outsourcing, you save a lot on hiring. And you pay only for the actual work done according to your outsourcing company’s hourly rates.

When choosing to delegate web app development to an outsourcing company, you should be aware of the two cooperation models such companies usually offer: IT staff augmentation and product development, also known as custom software development.

IT staff augmentation is a model that you can take advantage of when you have an in-house team but lack several professionals to finish your product on time. When choosing to augment your team, you can hire as many professionals as you need who will work with you as part of your in-house team. In this case, you pay an outsourcing company for the time their professionals work on your project.

If you decide to delegate the whole process of software product development to an outsourcing company, your vendor owns the development process from idea to release while you’re the owner of the intellectual property.

Web app development outsourcing destination

Whatever service you decide to order from an outsourcing company, the cost of development will depend on the outsourcing destination. There are six main software development hubs worldwide that you will likely consider when looking for web application developers: the US and Canada, South America, Western and Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia, and Australia. If we have a look at average hourly rates in these regions, we’ll see the following picture:

Development coswt per hour

Rates can still vary depending on the company you choose in a particular country. If you don’t know which region and which country to choose to build your progressive web app in order to get a high-quality product at a reasonable price, consider Eastern Europe and Ukraine in particular. One of the biggest IT hubs in the region, Ukraine boasts thousands of experienced technical and non-technical specialists who will guide you on your way from idea to software product development and beyond.

Approximate cost of web app development

When considering the cost to build a web app, you should understand that there are multiple types of applications and that costs will vary depending on your app’s type and complexity. Let’s have a look at the most popular types of apps and try to approximately estimate how much their custom development might cost.

Approximate cost of web app development

Note: To calculate the approximate cost of software development, we’ll take $45 as an average hourly rate for software development companies in Eastern Europe, where our company is located.

How much does a SaaS web application cost?

There are a bunch of apps you can build using a SaaS model: ERP systems, project management tools, marketing software, CRM apps, etc. Each app has different functionality that impacts the web application development cost. Let’s consider the functionality of a post scheduling app like Buffer (as an example of SaaS marketing software) to approximately calculate the cost of developing a similar app. The main 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 they must be implemented in an MVP version.
  • Analytics and reporting in marketing software like Buffer help users track 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.

The features we listed above should be implemented in 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, begin with market analysis, and develop the app’s interface and functionality. The cost may vary between $45,000 for an MVP version to $100,000 or more for a full-featured web application.

How much does ERP system development cost?

The complexity of a web-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) app depends on the number of departments that will be using it. This affects the price as well.

An ERP minimum viable product that includes the main modules for effective management of an organization can cost between $45,000 and $90,000. But when it comes to the price of a full-fledged ERP system, there’s virtually no limit. You can count on a price tag of $150,000 and higher for a medium-sized company, but it can actually go far beyond a million dollars if you have to manage an enterprise with thousands of employees, multiple offices across the globe, and dozens of departments.

Speaking about the basics, the core functionality of an ERP web application includes the following modules:

  • Integration with internal programs and third-party services. ERP systems aim to streamline business processes, so they should be connected to different sources of information whose data they need to process.
  • Data analysis is a core feature of an ERP system that allows ERP users to optimize their processes by making data-driven decisions.
  • Reporting is a feature without which data analysis makes no sense. Reporting allows users to visualize analyzed data.
  • A finance and accounting module helps streamline financial processes inside an organization.
  • A human resources module includes functionality to process data concerning company departments, staff, careers, etc.
  • A CRM is an ERP module aimed at helping businesses better understand their customers, track their activity, and analyze it to improve sales.
  • Inventory management helps track products for sale and their way from warehouse to consumers.

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. Here are the features you’ll need to implement in an MVP of a P2P marketplace like Airbnb, eBay, or Uber.

  • User profiles should allow your marketplace users to provide information about themselves and their products/services as well as 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 their 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 1500+ hours working on your project, so the price tag will start at $67,500. However, depending on your requirements, this number can vary. To better understand how much a marketplace MVP might cost you, download our marketplace MVP estimate example.

Want to spend less on web app development? Here are some tips

The cost of development of a web application is difficult to predict, and it can go beyond your expectations. You might wonder how to invest wisely in web app development. There are three approaches you can take.

How to spend less on web app development

Start web application development with a discovery phase

A project discovery phase is one of the first stages of the software development lifecycle (SDLC) that aims at helping you start your project the right way, minimize possible risks during the web development process, and cut down the cost of development where possible. How exactly does a discovery phase help you reduce the cost of web development?

During this phase, which usually lasts from one to four weeks, you get a number of documents that describe the web development process. These documents include but are not limited to a software requirements specification, business model canvas, risk mitigation plan, feature breakdown list, and project cost estimate. With all these documents in hand, you can know what to expect from web app development. Moreover, you’ll be able to check your idea’s viability and technical feasibility and make sure that you won’t waste money on building something that the market doesn’t need.

Taking into account your project requirements, the scope of work, and your desired time to market, you can also decide on your development team structure. The number of specialists involved in your web-based application development directly impacts its cost.

Build an MVP first

While the modern web application development process entails an MVP-first approach, you might be overwhelmed by the desire to implement all the coolest features in your product at once. However, most often, your target audience 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 as well as validate your business idea and make sure you’re moving in the right direction.

Use third-party services

When making a web application from scratch, every single feature matters. So you aim for perfection, spending lots of time on each piece of functionality. But this precision costs you additional weeks of development and a few thousand dollars extra.

To save money, go with third-party services you can add to your app straightaway or slightly customize 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. There’s no need to reinvent something that’s already been done perfectly, right?

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 costs.

Conclusion

Many factors affect the price of a web app, and 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. It’s better to ask for a detailed estimate.

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.

Don’t hesitate to ask for a detailed estimate when it comes to web app development. This small step may save you much time, much money, and many nerves.

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