Keeping app development costs down for startups

3 minute read

When launching a new app, it’s inevitable that cost will be a factor. As a startup, your goal is to be lean, flexible, and efficient. At the same time, you want to avoid making too many compromises when it comes to realising your vision. We’ve already discussed how to start with a highly focused MVP to kickstart your project but how do we keep spending down for development at this and later stages?

Shared codebases

Mobile app development can come with a hidden cost. If you want your app to run on as many devices as possible, you need to deliver both iOS and Android versions. These two platforms run on different architectures and coding languages, meaning you need to build, maintain, and pay for two separate apps. An alternative is to focus on just one platform first. This can work in some cases but can also backfire and you risk alienating otherwise receptive users by forcing them to wait based on their chosen device.

We don’t believe that’s a fair option so, instead, we use React Native. This allows us to manage a single codebase that runs on both Android and iOS with minimal compromises. It doesn’t exactly halve development costs but it comes very close.

UI Kits - ready made designs

A firm favourite in our hackathons and for any internal systems like admin dashboards, UI kits provide us with ready-made building blocks for building app front-ends. Kits like this mean your MVP can have a professional, polished look & feel straight away. UI kits also speed up the initial design process. By focusing on a set of predictable, reliable components for your interface, we can create wireframes and layouts that can then be lightly styled to match your brand.

Open-source software

For common tasks and problems there’s no point in trying to reinvent the wheel. We look to incorporate open-source solutions wherever possible, not only because these resources are free but because they’re backed up by a large community of developers sharing their contributions. This means that bugs, security issues, and improvements are raised and reviewed by more people than any single organisation could support. OSS lets us pick and choose the best crowd-sourced tools, saving on time and providing added peace of mind as we focus on the new and innovative aspects of an app.

Serverless - pay as you go for tech

Depending on your specific use case, we might recommend a Serverless approach. For systems that don’t need to be constantly performing actions, Serverless lets you only pay for the compute time you use. This can often work out cheaper than running a small server to house your backend and/or database full-time, especially as you typically benefit from performance, resilience, and speed boosts that are often reserved for more expensive instances.

Smaller, scalable architecture

We’re huge fans of Amazon Web Services at Gravitywell and for good reason. Their range of tools and systems allow us to create highly flexible architectures from discrete, modular parts. This keeps any single project as lightweight as possible. Often, they even come under Amazon’s generous year 1 free tier, something that’s very useful when you first launch. The real benefit is that the architecture can grow along with your app. If you need to add in a new product to handle a different database system, provide a CDN for media such as hi-res images and video, integrate machine learning tools etc. then it doesn’t require re-designing your whole setup to accommodate them. Early on in a project, this means that we’re not so worried about painting ourselves into a corner and can focus on delivering just the right amount of performance and functionality to help keep costs down.

Shortcuts without sacrifices

It’s important to realise that not every cost-saving measure is worth it, especially in the long run. Cut the wrong corner and you’ll only have to go back to deal with it later or worse - deal with upset users when a feature or service isn’t able to perform well enough. When we talk about taking shortcuts and preserving budgets, our focus is more on finding safe solutions to problems that help us to limit our efforts without compromising the final product.

Cut costs, not quality

We have invested a lot of time and research into finding the most efficient and flexible methods for supporting startups. We don’t believe that your launch should compromise on quality or features wherever possible. After all, you only get one chance to make a great first impression.


If you would like to chat about how Gravitywell can help design and develop your app, or to learn more about our process for startups, get in touch.

Written by Henry Osadzinski (Technical Project Manager). Read more in Insights by Henry or check our their socials , Instagram