How Much Does It Cost to Develop an App: UK Focused Analysis

Dan Cattermole, Yozobi CEO
Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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.

mobile app development

UK App Development – Pricing Insights

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.

UK hourly rates

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:

  • Small development agencies: £50 - £100 per hour
  • Medium-sized developers: £100 - £150 per hour
  • Large-sized development companies: £150 and above

What is the cost to build an app in the UK?

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.

What is the development time for an app?

The development time typically ranges from three to nine months, but sometimes this is longer for a project with sophisticated additional features.

formula for app development costs

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.

The Costs and Phases of The App Development Journey

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.

an app development team working on a project

The Scoping Phase

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:

  • Specify the client requirements
  • Examine the feasibility of the project including financial constraints
  • Undertake market research of the client’s industry and competitors, including apps
  • Understand how system components will work and how they connect
  • Identify the minimum viable product (MVP)
  • Map out the project timeline broken down into a series of sprints
agile sprint model of working

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.

Scoping Stage Costs and Quotes

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:

  • A Fixed Bid: A fixed bid is a set price and a set timeline. This pricing structure works well for smaller projects or projects with a clearly defined scope
  • Price Range Bid: Based on time and materials, this pricing structure works well for large projects with more ambiguous scopes and employs an hourly rate. Not knowing a set, final cost upfront, can worry some clients.

Scoping phase time: Up to 4 weeks

The Design Phase

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.

mobile app development stages

Cost Considerations – Understanding Types of Apps and Features

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.

Web Apps

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.

Native Apps

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.

native mobile apps

Hybrid Apps

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.

App Type 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

App Features and Costs

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.

mobile app development features

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

Development Phase

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

app development phase

Testing and Deployment Phase

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:

Compatibility Testing

  • App designers need to get as much compatibility out of their apps to contend with the proliferation of devices and software with varying degrees of capability. Examples include devices, web browsers, operating systems and devices.

Functional Testing

  • An app agency will formulate a testing plan. They will list all the essential features and paths that need testing before a release. They will run through the test plan, testing the application to identify any problems. Beta testers may also receive an invitation to report their findings.

Performance Testing

  • It is the measurement of average response times of an app and how long actions and pages take to load for a user. Load tests and stress tests also take place to measure responsiveness. Load tests create virtual users to simulate the expected load of the app. Stress tests involve overwhelming the app while it is in use.

Usability Testing

  • This type of testing gives essential insight into the usability of the interface, user behaviour, and if the app functionality meets user expectations. Testing involves users asked to perform a series of set tasks with the scale of user involvement correlating to the size of the app.

Security Testing

  • The reality is multiple vulnerabilities in the User Interface (UI) can be a result of lousy cryptography selection in the code. For watertight security, it is vital to test the app security at the most basic level.


  • Once thorough development and testing is complete, your app is ready for deployment, essentially making it available to be used by its clients.
mobile app deployment phase

Testing Costs

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%

The App Maintenance Phase

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.

app maintenance costs

What are the essential types of app maintenance?

Updates on Operating Systems

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.

Ongoing system maintenance

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.

Server updates and maintenance

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.

Ongoing Security

The app needs protection from cyber threats. Your app developer will periodically check for security bugs. With the advent of GDPR, ongoing tasks will also include ensuring the app’s privacy policy is compliant with any new rules on data protection.

mobile app maintenance

App Maintenance Costs

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:

  • The codebase that the app sits on
  • Whether the app is hybrid or native
  • The complexity of the features

The Importance of Research

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.

FAQs About UK App Development Costs and Processes

As a UK Business, why use a UK App Developer?

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.

outsourced or local app development

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:

  • Face to face meetings
  • Straightforward communication channels
  • Deep involvement in the project
  • The same time-zone
  • A higher degree of reliability than an online hire

The cons of employing a locally based developer:

  • Typically higher hourly rates
  • Looking overseas gives access to a broader talent pool
app development client meeting

In 2020, how much does it cost to build an app: UK Developer Considerations?

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:

  • Can the company meet your requirements?
  • Can the project be completed within your budget?
  • Can the mobile application be completed within your deadline?
  • What is their minimum project size?
  • Have they already developed an application in your industry or sector?
  • How long will it take them to develop apps?
  • Can you afford the development cost?

What are the different roles within a team of mobile app developers?

Depending on the size of the project at hand, the following team members may participate to varying degrees

  • The Project Manager: Responsible for preventing misconduct and miscommunication in the project team as well as meeting the deadlines.
  • The Developer: The writer of the code within the app, ensuring integration with data sources as well as fixing glitches
  • The Back-end developer: Responsible for making sure the app, server and database all communicate correctly together and the application works properly
  • The Designer: In charge of how the application interface lays out and the user experience. Also responsible for various optimisation tasks
  • The Tester: A vital job making sure all parts of the application work, responsible for design and code quality and that the completed product meets all the project requirements

How long does it take to complete a mobile application?

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:

  • Scoping: Up to 4 weeks
  • Design: 6 to 12 weeks
  • Development: 6 to 12 weeks
  • Testing and deployment: 2 weeks

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.

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