Got a big idea for an app or a software product and looking at the costs of getting it developed? You’re at the right place. If you’ve already started looking around you would have noticed the huge disparity between what you’re quoted for the same project by different developers. Often the disparity is so wide that you wonder: are they even quoting for the same thing?

Well that depends – are you building a prototype or an MVP? This is a separate blog post in itself, but we will give you the TL;DR version: freelancers are likely give you prototypes when you expect a MVP.

Saved by the brief? Not quite

But, then again if you give the developers a quick brief of your idea (via a call or a one-pager) they surely must be quoting for the same thing right? Not at all. Over our 14 years of experience in building digital products we have rarely got a client brief so comprehensive that we could give a quote with zero assumptions. Most briefs are far too open ended and leave lots of room for the developer to interpret how the product should be built.

Don’t take our word for it. Here’s the average freelancer estimates for cloning some of the hottest apps out there today, as per Gigster a site for hiring freelancers for such projects.

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The folks at the TNW asked some of the top mobile and web development agencies for ballpark estimates for building bare bone MVPs some of the same projects and their quotes are below;

Twitter: $ 50,000 – $ 250,000

Facebook: $ 500,000

Uber: $ 1 million – 1.5 million

The difference should convince you that there’s more than cosmetic difference in the end result here.

Arriving at your MVP is a mini-project

What is your end vision for your product? What are the key assumptions that need to be validated to prove that this vision is reachable? The latter is the question your MVP should be designed to answer.

Depending on your budget you would need to decide if you are going for a throw-away MVP that will be discarded once there is a need to scale or a platform on top of which you can continue to add further features. To keep costs low you may want to use third party tools, where you can. Such decisions invariably requires some technical input from a CTO and sometimes a bit of research as well.

Finally, if experience has taught us anything it’s that a picture is worth a thousand words. It’s easy to miss out key features when writing down bullet points for desired functionality. Such omissions can be costly and completely throw off initial estimates when they come up as change requests later. Creating designs or wireframes of the user interfaces, to visualize the implementation of your idea in detail is best done at this stage. Other than providing a crystal clear picture of what you’re expecting to the developer, visualizing your app idea is a good sanity check to flag logical inconsistencies and issues in the user journey within the app.

Sounds great, but just don’t have the time to do this? Talk to us and we can undertake this as a mini-project for you. Under this exercise we will write a detailed technical specification document and create either finalized high-fidelity designs or wireframes for the whole system. By the way, this is first engagement we do with many of our customers.

Let’s crunch some numbers!

If you’ve read so far you must probably be curious to find out how much we at Calcey would charge to build an MVP. Let’s work this with an example of a simple app we all know about – Tinder, the dating app that’s been sweeping the world.

Here’s our estimates of what it would cost to build an MVP of Tinder.

Requirement elaboration with Hi-Fi user interface design and complete technical specification development: $ 7500 (3 weeks)

Mobile app (cost of building an iOS or Andriod app) with FB login, card swiping for liking/passing, matching, in app chat, setting discovery preferences and managing user profiles: $ 25,000

Administration backend (web app) with ability to ban reported profiles, real time dashboard of user behavior analytics and report generation (number of likes, matches per period/region): $20,000

For the above we are assuming that this app would be deployed globally with no localization. We are also assuming that this isn’t a throw-away MVP but rather a scalable, API based platform that can sustain several iterations of front-end and back-end improvement. Hence there is no limitation on the maximum number of users that the MVP can serve, but this would obviously be subject to the scalability of the infrastructure chosen.

Think we are expensive? Check out what others charge for MVPs.

In the end what ultimately determines whether you paid too much for your MVP is whether it transforms into a successful product/business. Here’s a few MVPs we built that crossed the chasm.

  • ImSMART: mobile sales and marketing collateral distribution solution for sale people to showcase marketing material on their iPads and Android or Windows Tabs, where the material is centrally managed via a Web CMS. Companies can gather detailed analytics about customer interactions during sales pitches via the app. ImSmart initially worked with Calcey to build their MVP several years ago. Today it’s a roaring success used by over 60,000 b2b sales personnel across 35 multinational firms including Agilent Technologies, Zimmer Dental and Shofu.
  • Stanford Leadership in Focus portal: An e-learning tool with video case collections business leaders talking about significant challenges they have faced, decisions they have made, and lessons learned from the experience. This content is used by academics, corporations and alumni who access this content from around the world through a controlled membership access portal.
  • Vertical Platform (VP) – An enterprise level content management solution. A high performance site can be easily configured and launched using VP. VP contains extensive set of modules including article management, lead deployment, HTML module management, page designer, form designer and page template management. All time consuming tasks are offloaded to a scheduler service. Calcey took over a prototype of this app and transformed it in to a highly scalable MVP. Today VP powers more than 30 leading lead capture marketplaces, including Biocompare.com which has over 50 million products.

Want us to build your MVP for the next big thing? Let’s talk.