What must I give an app developer to find out cost? - Cost of app development UK

8 minute read

You've got an idea and you want find out how much it will cost to build. You're going to do the sensible thing and speak to an app development agency about it. You want to avoid the "how long is a piece of string" situation. Nobody wants that. But... if you don't provide enough information then it's very difficult for developers to provide even a rough cost estimate.

In other words: how do I brief app developers?

There are so many factors that go in to an estimate for a new app project. Here are a few examples that will run through the minds of the developers:

  • Features & functionality
  • Backend and admin systems
  • Server Architecture
  • Connections to 3rd party systems
  • Design
  • User testing
  • Branding
  • Security
  • Software Testing
  • Marketing
  • Documentation
  • Maintenance
  • And so on…

I know, it’s a lot. This is why you won’t get a cost back from the developers unless you’ve given them something to work with. In fact, if you get a quote back based on a very simple description of your app then you should probably be suspicious!

So, what can you do to make sure your app development agency can give you a reasonably accurate cost estimate?

The Idea

Let's start with what the app is and what it does. In your brief, you need a concise way of explaining it to people (ideally without too much umming and ahing). Try writing an “elevator pitch”.

You also need to be able to answer the following:


What problem does it solve or what advantage does it bring?

e.g. "Save time booking a car" or "a new way to meet other mums in the local area"


What are the main features and functionality?

e.g. "A map view with pins for each store's location", "card payment", "editable profile", "text chat", etc.


Who is the app for?

e.g. "young professionals living in city centres" or "keen cyclists"


Are there any existing apps or services that do something similar? How is your project different?

This is another way that developers can quickly understand what you're trying to achieve.


When do you hope to launch?

Usually it's "as soon as possible" which is fine as this is still useful to know.


Who are you and what experience do you bring to the project? How much do you know about the subject?

If it’s a dining app, do you know your Eton mess from your watercress?


What is the budget?

This is often overlooked by clients because they're hoping to find out how much their idea will cost, rather than setting a budget at the start. The reality is that there are usually many ways to achieve the same goals and many ways to compromise on costs. The same idea could cost £10k or £100k depending in the approach for the project and what sacrifices you're willing to make.  

So it's usually best to determine what your maximum budget is for the project. What's the most you can afford to put into it? This then allows the developers to understand what level to pitch a solution - one that is realistic for your budget. This is a huge time-saver at the start of the relationship.


How is the project going to be funded?

Do you have your own resources? Have you found or are you looking for investment?


Do you need an admin or backend system?

This is rarely considered by clients! How are you going to manage users (e.g. remove their account on request or block troublesome users)? How are you going to edit and control content in the app?


If you're planning an app then you've probably done your research. Any conclusions you've drawn will help the developers understand the project better and anticipate more of your requirements, so you should include them in your brief.

  • What kind of people are your target market? What are their interests and how are their needs met currently?
  • Are people willing to pay for your service?
  • What's the size of the market?
  • Who is the competition and what can we learn from them?

You can read more about the benefits of research in my millionaire app idea article.


Wireframing is a quick and easy process for communicating your app idea. They're basically rough sketches of the layout of each screen. You don’t need to be an artist because you're not producing finished designs. The sketches can be very basic black and white line drawings of only the key features of the page. Designing apps is easy, right?!

You can create them with pen and paper, you can use online sketching tools or you can purchase specialist software but they all produce similar results.


This is the next step along from wireframes. In order to illustrate the different journeys a user could make through your app, you could create a clickable prototype. Again, each screen could be simple black and white sketches because we're only illustrating the connections between each screen of the app. But as they're 'clickable' the rough sketches come alive and it's easy to spot problems or improvements to the whole app.

Adobe XD is a popular wireframe and prototyping tool - currently a free download!

There you have it. Just remember, the more info you can provide your app developer the better - given that you've just read the above, this should be a walk in the park! If you’re concerned that you’re giving too much away and worry that a developer might be salivating over your idea a little too uncontrollably, then allay your fears and read Will agency developers steal my app idea?


If you would like to chat about your project or understand the cost of app development UK better, get in touch.

Written by Hugo Walker (Head of Marketing & Digital Content). Read more in Insights by Hugo or check our their socials , Instagram