How Much Does Custom Software Cost?

The Real Cost of Developing Custom Software

An increasing number of businesses are reaching out to third-party developers for the creation of custom software and mobile apps. Custom software is a great way to reduce material and time costs in the long run, but the upfront costs can vary greatly. In this article, we will break software into three price ranges, and lay out what to expect from each.

First, we should start with some definitions. A “screen” in this context is defined as a unique page that the user can interact with. Generally, each link, navigation, or button click constitutes a new screen. Integrations are links between existing software or hardware and the new application. This can include everything from a payment system to an API to linking your app to a specialized Bluetooth device.

Small Apps (<$20k)

Apps developed for $20,000 or less are rather limited, generally consisting of 15 or fewer total screens, with little or no integrations. The software functionality is also limited to a few simple features. Apps developed at this price range may include apps used by small businesses to convey simple information, such as locations, special offers, etc. Anything that involves a user login is generally beyond the scope of this price range.

Medium Sized Apps ($20k-$50k)

$20,000-50,000 generally expands the scope of the project to 15-30 screens. At this range, basic integrations become viable, as do user logins. Projects at this range may include basic internal business tools or user-facing apps with small potential userbases. We have a few education clients in this price range that are conveying information used for learning or running experiments with small user groups. The higher price also generally allows for a longer design phase, with more attention paid to the look and feel of the app.

Enterprise Apps ($50k+)

$50,000+ will generally get you 30+ screens, as well as several complex integrations. Software at this range generally has a long design phase that involves user research and forming user personas, as well as a lengthy QA phase to hammer out

all of the possible bugs. Enterprise Software almost always falls into this range and usually features both a web app as well as a mobile app that interact with each other. Additionally, consumer-facing apps expecting to scale to thousands of users generally lie in this range.

Ongoing Costs

Software costs generally extend past the initial development cost to include server bills, general maintenance, and the addition of new features over time. Maintenance to keep the software up to date and secure generally costs 10-20% of the initial project budget per year. Server costs start at $100-$800 per month for simple software with limited users, while enterprise software can cost $1000-$5000 per month depending on complexity and number of users.