If you are considering employing an app development company here in the UK to build a mobile app, the process may seem daunting. To understand the actual cost involved to develop an app in the UK, it is also essential to understand every stage of the development process.
Read this simple to understand, UK focused guide, which explains how much time and money is needed to use an app developer to build a mobile application.
We have provided a useful FAQ section at the end of this guide that further focuses on cost-related questions about app development.
The UK has a reputation for having excellent app development companies. Quality app developers mean higher costs and the UK is third only behind the USA and Australia in hourly rates. With 8,000, agencies it in-fact boasts a fifth of all Europe’s App developers with half of the agencies based in London and the South East. US developers also have offices in the UK.
The hourly rate and the total development time together make up the total cost of an app development project. In the UK, the size of a development company often correlates to the chargeable hourly rate, and now, in 2020, the average prices for mobile app development are as follows:
The cost to build an app using a UK developer starts from £10,000 for a basic app. For a complex app, development typically begins at £75,000 and depending on the complexity of the features; the cost can rise significantly to a million pounds and above.
The development time typically ranges from three to nine months, but sometimes this is longer for a project with sophisticated additional features.
One question comes to mind. On what does this marked price difference in the development of mobile apps depend? It is essential to understand each step of the app development process.
There are five stages in the development of a mobile application. They are scope, design, development, test + deployment and maintenance. Each stage has an associated cost.
The scoping or “discovery” stage is crucial in making sure both the client and developer both concur on the scope of the project before building a mobile application. It helps reduce future disputes arising from different levels of expectation.
This phase allows the developer to:
The discovery stage is when you will first come across the agile sprint method.
The agile sprint model is a framework that allows for a consistent product workflow from the developer to the client throughout a project. Sprints help build out precise components to test with real people with feedback leading to informed decisions about the end-user. Sprints typically last two weeks, and the scoping stage will have one.
According to a Clutch survey of app developers, the average cost of the discovery stage is less than £4,000 according to 50% of 68 developers in the study. A further 20% of those surveyed said the scoping step was between £4,000 and £8,000. For our analysis, survey prices are converted into pounds, as this is a UK focused guide.
Many UK developers will only give a quote for an app development project after the completion of scoping. They believe this is the most accurate way to provide the app developer costs for a project once they understand what is involved.
A project quote will typically be in two forms:
Scoping phase time: Up to 4 weeks
Before coding begins in the development phase, it is crucial to understand how the app will look and work. It is done in the design phase using an easy to understand process from the user journey right through to the visual design.
The user journey, wireframing and clickable prototype creation are the stages that create the user experience (UX) design.
Creating the visual design is the last stage of the design process and incorporates user interface (UI) and motion design.
When you engage a mobile app developer, you need to be very clear on the choice of app. The cost of developing a mobile solution is directly related to the app creation process.
The creation and deployment of an app can be done on both a native mobile platform like IOS or Android as well as a web browser.
A web app is not an application as such. It is a website designed to function and look like a native app. It is browser operated and typically written using HTML code. Like accessing any web page, you navigate to a specific URL which gives the option to install the app on the screen home page. A web application needs internet connectivity.
With installation directly on a smartphone, a native app works in many cases without an internet connection. Installed through an app store, like Google Play, native apps are specific for one platform, like IOS or Android.
Targeting both Android and IOS means separate applications need to be built. By using the smartphone processor, they are fast and can also access hardware, incorporate gestures and use a phone’s notification system.
Part native and part web app, hybrid apps also sit in a store like Google Play’s Android app store. They also use HTML rendered in a web browser. The difference is the web browser embeds in the app.
A hybrid app is a wrapper for a web page. It allows companies to get onto an app store and permits cross-platform development. Reusing the same HTML code on different operating systems reduces costs.
In pure cost terms, web apps are cheaper to develop than native mobile apps. Native apps need to be made for numerous operating systems (like IOS and android) adding additional steps to the development process. Web applications are built a little more closely to a website and require less time and cost, but look very similar to a mobile app.
App Type Cost Level Time to Develop
Native Low/Medium 90+ Days
Web Low/Medium 30 to 60 Days
Hybrid Low/Medium 30 to 60 Days
There are any number of features that can build on to an app. The complexity and number of these features have a significant impact on developer costs.
Basic features which include user logins, push notifications and reviews and ratings cost less. Higher cost features include web portals, native integration and payment systems.
Design phase time: 6 to 12 weeks
App Feature Complexity Cost GBP £
Web Portal High Up to £20,000
Native Integration High Up to £20,000
Ratings and Reviews Low Up to £10,000
Push Notifications Low Up to £10,000
The result of the design phase is wireframes, clickable prototypes and UI designs used by development teams to start the development process. The mobile app development process includes:
The Alpha Phase, where just the core functionality of the app develops, but without testing. In this phase, the app can barely function and has a lot of bugs and glitches that need fixing.
The Beta Phase involves incorporating all the major features and functions of the app and making it go through a round of light testing. Even though most of the bugs resolve, a few remain. However, after this stage, the app can be selectively released to a few external users for testing purposes.
Design and User Experience (UX) Updates
Such updates typically result from user feedback. They could include user requests to add new buttons or perhaps updating the apps’ design to keep up with market trends.
Development phase time: 6 to 12 weeks
Thorough testing is critical to the quality of mobile apps. An in-depth testing stage ensures users face minimal issues such as glitches or lags. After building an app, testing determines if it's ready to be launched. Before deployment, testing falls under five key areas:
Clutch surveyed 102 mobile app agencies to set out the cost of the test and deployment phase. The prices are less than £3,000 at the low end to more than £17,000. A breakdown of results is in the table below.
Testing and deployment phase time: 2 weeks
Test and Deployment Costs in GBP £ % Application Developers Surveyed
< 4,000 32%
4,000 – 8,000 31%
8,000 – 12,000 14%
12,000 – 20,000 12%
> 20,000 11%
A necessary cost of the development process is the ongoing maintenance of your mobile application post-launch. Even if there is no ambition to scale up or add new features, app maintenance is essential.
An app developer will need to continually ensure that an app is always up to date and compatible with upgrades on the underlying operating system. For example, for IOS and Android Apps, this will mean keeping on top of regular release updates.
System maintenance for apps is no different to the support of other software. Maintenance work is carried out every three months on average and is essential work.
For networks to performs efficiently, servers need to be continuously updated. Reviewing a server’s performance and investigating for security threats is an ongoing requirement.
Expect to pay between 10% and 20% per year for app maintenance costs of the original price of the development.
Factors affecting the cost of your app maintenance include:
Ahead of engaging an app developer, it is essential to read up on the app development process and understand the associated costs. Analyse case studies, watch videos, read tutorials and speak to experts!
The app development process is complex and potentially confusing. You are more likely to maximise your investment with a developer if you are knowledgeable.
It brings into question the debate of whether to outsource or employ an app developer locally within the UK.
What you should consider is your company’s level of involvement around how to develop an app. Employing a UK Developer if you run a UK company means face to face meetings and greater accountability for the developer to meet deadlines.
The main argument for employing an online developer based in another jurisdiction usually comes down to cost. If your company is happy to provide a brief with little involvement and doesn’t want to pay app developers UK prices, then outsourcing is a consideration.
The Pros of employing a UK based developer:
The cons of employing a locally based developer:
Consider the size of the app development company. A starting point is to consider its development cost to see if the company is a good fit for your business.
As an hourly rate, small developers charge £50 to £100, medium, £100 to £150 and large, upwards of £150. How does your project match up to the size of the company and their hourly rate? Consider the following:
Depending on the size of the project at hand, the following team members may participate to varying degrees
Depending on the complexity of the project, an application can take from three to nine months to build out.
Every phase of the development process takes varying time to complete. The lengthiest parts of the project tend to be the following:
Ensure that your developer gives a clear indication of which phases of the project will take the most amount of time so that you do not have any disappointment further down the line.