Web application development has quickly risen to fame due to its benefits over mobile applications. Web applications are compatible with all operating systems, allow for instantaneous updates without disrupting the user and offer a high level of engagement for a quality user experience. But something we’re often asked at Blott Studio is: what does web application development cost? It’s difficult to offer a set sum without knowing the full scope of the project and requirements you have for your specific web application development, though we can offer some insight into how different factors influence the cost thereof. This guide reveals the complexities of web application development and how different considerations can impact the cost of your final product.
When to consider a web application
Put simply, web applications combine the best of mobile applications with websites. They provide interactivity and functions similar to that of mobile apps while providing large quantities of information for the user in an easy-to-digest manner. Web apps are often considered to be a combination of dynamic websites and server-side programming that result in a high-quality user experience. Examples of web applications could be online banking, social media platforms such as Facebook, as well as eCommerce sites.
The best time to consider a web application for any business is when you aim to prioritise security and user experience, particularly in the form of customer support. Web applications are designed to provide higher levels of privacy and security for users. They also provide an increased level of customer support and accessibility to users, both of which drive brand loyalty.
For more benefits in considering a web application over alternatives, read Part 01 of our blog: A Guide to Web Application Development
The different types of web applications
We’ve reviewed the different types of web applications in-depth in our previous blog and, as mentioned, the main difference between the various types boils down to functionality and how you would prefer your web application to behave. We’ve summarised the five most common types of web applications, and how they could potentially impact the cost of development, below:
Type 01: Static Web Applications (SWAs)
Static web applications are as the name implies; they do not offer interactions for users and display information on a simple, clean interface that is easy to navigate. Their simplicity, and the fact that they use coding languages that are known to most developers, means that static web applications are one of the most cost-effective development options on this list.
Type 02: Dynamic Web Applications (DWAs)
If static web applications are on the cheaper end of the cost spectrum when it comes to web application development, then dynamic web applications are on the other end of the same spectrum. Dynamic web applications offer users a high level of interactivity on one or multiple web pages, that are processed at each user’s input request. This level of development is thus more complex and costly, though it is important to bear in mind that updating dynamic web applications is quick and effortless. The process of updating this type of web application is made easy due to the nature of the DWA not requiring server access, so updates happen instantaneously.
Type 03: Single Page Applications (SPAs)
Much like static web applications, single-page applications are a more cost-effective development solution. Single page applications are, as the name suggests, one web page that displays all the information, though it does incorporate some level of interactivity with elements on the web page that have changing displays. The most common examples of single-page applications are Gmail, Pinterest, and Netflix.
Type 04: Multi-Page Applications (MPAs)
Multi-page applications are web applications that mimic traditional websites in that they consist of multiple web pages that are all interconnected. When it comes to costing the different types of web applications, multi-page applications are considered more expensive due to the amount of development that needs to occur for each web page. These web pages not only have to display unique information and offer unique functionality but must also allow for interactivity between the various pages, which is naturally more time-consuming and labour-intensive compared to single-page applications.
Type 05: Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)
Progressive web applications can be likened to mobile applications, the main difference being that progressive web applications are accessed via browsers, while a mobile application must be installed on the mobile device. Progressive web applications can be more cost-effective than developing a mobile application as the development team does not need to develop separate native apps for different operating systems. It is however important to remember that progressive web applications can become expensive to develop as they offer the benefits of a website, as well as a mobile application; the complexity of the progressive web application simply comes down to the size of the app, as well as the level of interactivity you need.
The different levels of web applications
- Simple. Simple applications, sometimes referred to as basic applications, are web applications that are made up of any combination of landing pages, single web pages and/or simple eCommerce. Some examples of simple web applications may include calculators, digital catalogues, or widgets. These are all considered the “entry-level” of web application development.
- Professional. Professional web applications are considered “mid-level” web applications and are those that have a higher volume of content and require more interactivity. An example of professional web applications is online stores that provide more information about the products and allow functionality to make online purchases.
- Complex. Complex web applications, or large-scale web apps, are the top level of web application development, not only because they are made up of the largest amount of content and more functionality than simple or professional web apps, but because they can manage high volumes of users at a time without compromising consistency or functionality.
Factors that affect web application cost
Now that we’ve reviewed the different types and levels of web application development, and how they might impact cost, we need to consider the various factors that can also influence the cost of your web application development.
The project scope
A good starting point to estimate the cost of web application development for any given project is to outline the scope of work (SOW). It’s important to determine the functionalities or features of your ideal web application, your target audience size, and the purpose this web application will aim to serve. You may want to give thought to the type of web application you feel best suits your needs, the level of interactivity you require if the scope should extend to include mobile application development, and potential deadlines. As part of this process, you should also review the stages of the software development lifecycle:
- Discovery. The discovery phase refers to the research you conduct to determine the business strategy, requirements, and cost estimations of the project. It is also during this time that a prototype can be created to understand the technical input required for success. Partnering with the right development studio that has qualified, experienced project managers to assist you through this process ensures that you receive all the information you need to make a well-informed decision on the next steps.
- Design. The next phase is to spec the prototype and this happens with the assistance of UX and UI designers. Their role is to design the web application user interface, determine your target audience’s expectations and incorporate the business goals you have previously outlined to create the blueprint for the best possible web application.
- Development. During this phase, your development team sets to work. It is their responsibility to create the front-end and back-end of the web application through strategic software engineering that meets the business requirements. It is also during this phase that iteration takes place to ensure that all the web app’s features are operational.
The developer’s location and skillset
One of the main factors that will influence the cost of web application development most is the development team you employ to deliver the final product. Two important considerations to be made are the geographical location of the developer, as well as their level of expertise. Naturally, certain countries’ hourly rates are higher than others, and a developer with more experience and a broader skillset will be more expensive than someone without that level of expertise. The second consideration to be made regarding your development team is how many experts you will need to work on the project. It’s important to take the time to research developers’ rates and compile the skillset you will need fulfilled in your development team or outsource this function to a development studio that can propose the best team for you.
The UI/UX design complexity
The complexity of your web app design is directly proportional to the cost thereof. On the one hand, if you opt for a single-page web application that mimics an existing design with no customisation, then the exercise will be relatively inexpensive. On the other hand, a progressive web application with high customisation and many additional features will be a costly exercise. Regardless of if you choose simple or complex, your web application should always prioritise user experience. A web application that is difficult to navigate and isn’t optimised will mean a failed launch, regardless of the design path you’ve chosen.
Maintaining the web application
Every web application requires ongoing maintenance and support. As technologies change and businesses scale up, web applications will require updates and additional development to support that company's growth. Debugging, systems updates, new integrations, additional features and security checks and updates (amongst others) are all part of ongoing maintenance, so be sure to include the relevant agency costs associated with your web application development.
Potential hidden costs
Though not always the case, hidden costs may arise throughout the web application development process, or during the annual maintenance of your product. Two such hidden costs could be potential cyber threats or subscription costs for elements of your design. Unfortunately, cyber threats are a very real reality in the digital realm and protecting your users’ data is of paramount importance. In some instances, you may be required to consult security professionals or enlist additional security support to secure your web app. In the case of subscription costs, some design and development tools that offer templates or plug-ins may involve subscription costs that could be adjusted further down the line or implemented for certain customisations. One way to avoid subscription costs is to partner with a high-quality developer who can develop functionalities rather than employ plugins. Either way, be sure to discuss these potential hidden costs with your development studio for further clarity.
Selecting the right support team for your web app
The next step to determining the cost of web application development revolves around the type of support team you will employ. Businesses can opt for an in-house team, a freelancer or outsource the function. Each type of support team has its benefits and only you can decide which of these will best support your goals. We’ve summarised a few of the advantages and disadvantages of each below:
The first option is to employ a dedicated team of developers to form part of your company operations. They would be permanent employees of your organisation, adhere to your code of conduct and have a clear understanding of business operations, your goals, and the company vision from an internal viewpoint.
- Pros. The biggest advantage of an in-house development team is that you would have full control over their activities. An in-house team also allows for face-to-face engagements as they would operate from the same workplace.
- Cons. The process of hiring developers is time-consuming and will be costly as the resultant employees would be permanent staff. Another drawback is that your company would be entirely dependent on the in-house development team and, as a result, may risk skillset gaps or extended deadlines on projects.
Hiring freelancers is considered the cheapest option for your design and development needs. Freelancers are thus a good consideration for businesses with a limited budget. They are also easy to find due to the wealth of online resources for hiring freelancer web app developers. Choosing a freelancing team also opens the opportunity to hire remote-working individuals that may be based in a different country than yourself, to assist in offsetting costs.
- Pros. The advantage of hiring freelancers is that, as with an in-house team, you would still have control over their activities, they would simply no longer be under your employ once the project has been completed. This is another reason why hiring freelancers is more cost-effective than hiring in-house.
- Cons. The disadvantage of hiring freelancers however lies with the quality of work deliverables, which is entirely dependent on the individuals hired, but also in that managing a freelancing team is a time-consuming role that someone within the organisation would need to fulfil.
Out-sourcing software development is a booming market and it’s easy to understand why. Out-sourcing guarantees a high level of work output as design and development agencies are experts in their field and hire the most qualified individuals to form part of their support teams.
- Pros. Out-sourcing may prove to be more cost-effective when enlisting services from a different country (if these same services are considered expensive in your region). You are also granted access to web app developers who are highly skilled and experienced and are managed by development professionals who understand the intricacies of software development. Out-sourcing thus provides the best probability for high-quality final products.
- Cons. Out-sourcing can be a more expensive option based on the skillset and experience of the design and development studio you choose to work with.
In-house teams are especially valuable to large organisations that require ongoing software development support, while freelancers are typically recommended for smaller tasks and projects that have a quick lead time. The drawback of both, however, is that you would not be guaranteed a full skill set for all your development requirements and these teams would need to be managed by the company itself which leaves room for a gap in an expert opinion that is vital for a high-end web app. Considering outsourcing for new web application development ensures that you have the best combination of experience, skillset and expert opinion.
Selecting the right tech stack for your web app
Now that you’ve determined your support team and have an idea of how your web application should look and function, you need to turn your attention to the tech stack. A tech stack refers to the technologies incorporated into the design and development of your application. This would include the front-end, back-end, data management, design of the app, and the like. While our recommendation is to chat with your development agency concerning the best solutions, here are three tips to help you decide on your powerhouse combination:
- First and foremost, start with research. Delve into your target audience and what their pain points are, discover applications that would be similar to your offering, and outline any additional features you want your web app to possess for a competitive advantage.
- Next, spend some time researching different tech stacks’ reviews and communities, as well as what level of support they offer developers.
- Once you have a better idea of the above you can begin selecting your tech stack and determine if its capabilities and processing power will support your web app needs.
Incorporating an understanding of software development and the factors that influence the cost of development is an integral part of the web application planning process. In this guide, we’ve covered a range of options when it comes to the type and level of web applications that may have helped clarify the direction you wish to take for your web app. We’ve also highlighted the various factors that form part of the cost consideration. Now you can recognise the elements that make up the cost of web application development and approach the development of your web app with a better strategy. The next step is to partner with the right design and development studio that can assist you in the creation of a high-end product that prioritises user experience. Chat with us, here.