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

Jun 18, 2021·11 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 calculate the estimated cost to build the web application of your dreams so you know what kind of budget to allocate.

Why build a web app?

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 isn’t as high as the cost of native apps, but the product also won’t offer top performance. The hybrid approach is perfect for developing an MVP since it enables you to release your app fast and test your concept without significant investment.
  • Web application development
    Web apps 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 other 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.

app cost

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, order management solutions, and logistics management systems — are web apps. The possibilities of web apps are endless.

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, but first, we’ll tell you about the most crucial one: the price.

Developing a web app 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 basically a one-for-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 front-end 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. Follow the link to find out more about each of them.

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.

software engineers salaries in the us

In-house team, freelancers, or outsourcing?

Let’s say you’ve decided to build a web app, know how to do so, and have selected JavaScript as your core technology. What comes next? Where can you find developers?

How you acquire developers will affect the cost of developing your web app, so choose wisely.

There are three ways to get developers.

on-site developers vs outsourcing team vs freelancers

  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 a developer, you have to pay them regularly, no matter how much work you have 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 have several clients. In this case, you aren’t your developer’s only source of income, and your developer won’t be completely devoted to your project. Also, freelancers may disappear in the middle of the project.

If you 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.

Still choosing between freelancers and an outsourcing team?

We’ll consult with you on all the nuances of outsourcing software development.

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There are certain risks of outsourcing as well, but you’ll know how to avoid them after reading our article on offshore software development.

The cost of developing a web application depends on your outsourcing destination. Average website development rates differ greatly even within the same region, and outsourcing abroad may save you a big piece of your budget.

Compare the following hourly rates:

Fixed price vs time and materials

Another decision that affects how much a web app costs is the billing model. Usually, you have to choose between fixed price and time and materials. Even though the fixed price model may look attractive, don’t be lured in without taking the time to look at your options.

App development isn’t a standard process. You can discuss the desired outcome with your technical team, but it’s impossible to predict all the bottlenecks that will arise.

Fixed price is attractive but may neglect many issues.

When planning app development, you’d like to know the exact price for your end product. So you negotiate it with your tech team and the work begins. Suddenly, there’s an issue. You expect your developers to solve it properly, but doing so may take a few days. Since your development partner knows you won’t pay more for fixing the problem, they gloss over it and move on. Several other issues might also arise, but there’s no time to work on them.

A fixed price for a project ties the hands of your development team.

This results in a poor quality web app, unsatisfied customers, and lost opportunities.

The fixed price model is an option for small projects with clearly defined requirements that aren’t likely to change. If you choose the fixed price model, you’ll have to plan development in advance and strictly adhere to the plan.

Time and materials

If the quality of the end product is your highest priority, then you’ll have to pay directly for the time and resources spent to create it. Sometimes, the price tag turns out to be higher than expected, but you can be sure the result is worth it.

Moreover, you’ll experience certain flexibility. With large applications, it’s hard to define all the requirements in advance. Such projects are usually built according to an agile methodology, working in short sprints.

An agile approach enables you to react to market changes in a timely manner.

Got an idea for a killer new feature? With time and materials, your team can start implementing it right in the middle of development. How much you pay depends solely on the amount of time and the materials required to develop your product.

cost to build a web app

Want to spend less on development? Third-party services can help.

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.

Want 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.

So far, we’ve reviewed aspects that affect the cost of your web app and some strategies to reduce the price tag. Now, let’s take a look at some actual numbers.

How to calculate the cost of web app development yourself

The only way to find out the exact cost of your app is to request an estimate from an app development company. However, we believe you can roughly estimate the cost yourself. Here’s how.

Define who will be on your team

First, think carefully about how many specialists should be on your team. If you build a web application from scratch, you 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, etc. 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 need to explain the importance of an app’s look and feel. Hiring a powerful 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
    It’s usually enough to have one designer, one business analyst, and one quality assurance engineer. If you choose JavaScript as your core technology for both the front end and back end, then one strong developer can handle everything. Otherwise, you’ll need more than one developer. And the more technologies are involved, the more developers you’ll need.
  • Marketing manager
    Attracting customers to a new project is difficult. You can try to find your own way or work with a marketing manager who already knows the industry.
  • Copywriter
    Your need for a copywriter will depend on the type of app you’re creating. If it’s based around content, it’s best to outsource content creation to a wordsmith with a relevant background.
  • Project manager
    The project manager brings the team together. The main aim 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.

The work of these professionals costs different amounts. Here’s what you can expect:

specialists and their salaries

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. Of course, the costs may vary.

Approximate cost of web app development

Here are a few examples of potential costs for developing different types of web applications. For each type of product, we offer an approximate price for a low-cost solution and a full-featured web app.

  • For a low-cost solution, we assume that only developers and a QA engineer are involved.
  • For a full-featured web app, we calculate the price of a custom web application developed with a full team comprising a business analyst, designer, quality assurance engineer, project manager, and developers.

How much does a landing page cost?

Let’s start with a simple landing page, which is usually used as an MVP. You can launch a landing page describing your planned service and collect sign-ups while your web platform is in development.

Low-cost solution: from $2,000

Full-featured web app: from $10,000

How much does a SaaS web application cost?

The cost of developing a SaaS app is hard to estimate, as it completely depends on the app’s functionality.

When you want to move your traditional on-premises software to a software as a service (SaaS) business model, there’s not much work to be done. You already have the design and app logic and just need to adjust them to the new approach. You also have your customer base. In this case, transferring to a SaaS model may cost $8,000 and up.

If you’re building a SaaS product from scratch, the numbers will be higher. 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 $35,000 for a SaaS MVP and $100,000 or more for a full-featured application.

How much does an 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 (MVP) that covers the basic needs of one department can cost between $15,000 and $50,000.

But when it comes to the price of an ERP system, there’s virtually no limit. You can count on a price tag of $80,000 to $150,000 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.

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.

A marketplace web app will cost you between $25,000 for an MVP (design included) and $50,000 for an app like Etsy.

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.

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

Want an exact estimate for your web application?

Send us the details of your project and we’ll have your estimate ready shortly!

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