How to build an app when on budget?

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Not every aspiring app entrepreneur has a big budget. Though app development is expensive, it does not mean you cannot build an app when on a tight budget. Are there some secrets to minimize spending without jeopardizing the success of your mobile app. Apparently there are it seems.


Clearly define the product goals

When you are on a tight budget, the first thing you need to do is have clearly defined product goals. You need to have answers to questions like


a.) Who will use your app (target audience)?

b.) Why would customers use your app?

c.) What are the main functions of the app?

d.) Who are your competitors and what is their unique selling proposition?

e.) What results do you expect after launching the app? You want more than 1000 downloads in week or month or want the app to achieve a specific revenue target.


To find the answer to these questions, you would need to conduct a target audience research and also conduct a preliminary market research. Through the research findings, you should be able to know


The desired features ranked as per their importance or priority


Decide on the app monetization strategy. If you are creating a free app, you need to find out different app monetization strategies available


Using the information, you need to create app specification list and discuss it with app development companies. The app development companies would send you the quote to build an app as per the specifications.


Select appropriate pricing model

There are two pricing models for app development- hourly and fixed. When you are on a tight budget, the fixed pricing model seems more reasonable. However, there are some downsides of this pricing model such as you don’t have enough freedom to make changes in the product when you get new insights from your customers or investors.


When you sign a contract with mobile app development company using fixed price model, you need to provide a well-defined list of project requirements and you can’t modify them once they are agreed and approved. Many app development companies add certain terms and conditions in the contract to prevent undercharging. They might accept some changes to project specifications but only after you agree to pay additional for the changes that were not part of the contract.


Know your financial constraints

Some app development companies offer a third type of pricing model known as Fixed Budget Model. This pricing model works in a different way


A.) Initially, you provide detailed specifications of the project along with insights that you have gathered with market research, discussions with investors, and interacting with customers.

B.) The development team studies your project requirements and suggests some additional options. The suggestions might include adding some important features that will raise the costs or suggestions to ditch some features that will reduce costs.


You need to be upfront about your budgetary constraints with the app development company and be clear about what is possible and what is not in terms of additional financial support for the project.


Understand the factors that affect app pricing

The cost of app development is based on specific factors and you can get a perfect estimate if you don’t know them in detail. Here is the list


1.) The platform( mobile, Apple TV, Web, wearable)

2.) Supported device range and mobile platform types(Android or iOS)

3.) Product type- full featured or MVP(minimum viable product)

4.) Required technologies

5.) Essential product features

6.) Type of app Development Company- their expertise, reputation, and location.


Now that you know the factors that affect pricing, we look into details of each one.


Tips for building an app when low on budget


Go for limited device range and select one platform

You can keep costs under control by focusing on one platform and limiting to a smaller device range. Developing for Android platform becomes expensive mainly due to a wide range of devices.If you are planning to develop a mobile app for Android platform, you can select certain models and device sizes. Similarly, if you are developing a mobile app for iOS platform, you can consider iPhone models such as iPhone 5/5S/6/6S and later models running iOS 9 and above. You will be alienating some users by limiting the range of devices but it will also help in controlling the app development costs.


Build an MVP (minimum viable product) first

Building an MVP means you don’t rush to build a full-fledged app with all fancy features at the initial stage. It is a cautious approach where you launch the mobile app with truncated features before investing more money into app development. An MVP allows you to gather feedback, validate your ideas/assumptions with actual users and also analyze the demand for such application. All this information can be used to pitch the solution to investors. The MVP allows you to minimize risks as it prevents you from pouring money into a product that won’t bring good ROI.


You can create a variety of MVPs. However here is the list of MVPs that work best for mobile applications.


a.) Mockup or product wireframe – it is just a graphical skeleton of your mobile application that includes layout, functionality, and main screens

b.) Mobile MVP – a mobile application with 1-3 main features

c.) An interactive product prototype- it is a clickable wireframe that is not connected to a backend.

d.) Pilot app – an advanced MVP with more features that mobile MVP


After an MVP is created, you need to use it to gather as much as user feedback possible.


Don’t jump to build a cross platform app

A cross platform app is faster to build and also cost less. This is the primary reason for app entrepreneurs wanting to build a cross platform app. While a cross platform mobile application development seems to be an attractive solution, it isn’t always. Cross platform apps are known to bring best and worst of Native and HTML5 together. However, the platform does not allow you to deploy advanced functionalities like video streaming. Though app development companies might suggest some technical workarounds, they are not always stable. In fact, your cross platform mobile app won’t be able to take advantage of native technologies which will result in the creation of a mediocre app that no one is interested in.


You might save money by building a cross platform app but there is less room for further developments which will hamper the growth of your mobile app in near future. It will be like a dead-end to your mobile app development.


Spend time to know about expensive features

Incorporating some app functionality will need some time and higher budget. Hence, you need to find out which features are expensive and can be incorporated later. However, you need to keep one thing in mind; you cannot ignore main features of the app to save on costs. For example, features like a live stream of videos is expensive but you cannot ditch it if you plan to build an app like Periscope.


Payment integrations are also expensive but you cannot ditch it if you are building an e-commerce app. You can prioritize features based on two scales – user needs versus development costs.You can start with building low cost/higher user need features but you can opt for expensive features if they are critical for the success of your mobile app.


Consider ongoing maintenance costs

The budget should not be limited to app development only. It should also consider app maintenance costs especially if the app uses 3rd party services. For example, if your app needs to send text notifications, you need to pay to 3rd party service provider for the same. Also, if the app uses some payment gateway, you will be required to pay for the services. There are bunch of free APIs available and the app development company may suggest them during project meetings



Thus, you can see it is not hard to create a mobile app with limited budget. Follow the given guidelines and you can create a mobile app that has all elements needed for success.

Ready to Take the Next Step?


Rahul Singh

Sr. App Developer

Rahul has been associated with the apps industry for more than 9 years now. He has seen the apps economy grow from its nascent days to a full fledged industry with its complete ecosystem as of today. His interest lies in pursuing and getting to know the best app development technologies, processes and platforms. He is truly an app enthusiast. In his free time he loves playing console games and reading history.

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