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How much does it cost to develop a mobile app MVP?

Find out how much it costs to develop a mobile app Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and what factors affect the development cost from Atlanta mobile app company Winnona Partners

The 3 primary factors that contribute to MVP development cost

1. Self-evaluation to consider which MVP method might be best for you
2. Determine the core features of your app product or service
3. Agree on an app flow with the development team

Creating a minimum viable product (also known as MVP) for your software or mobile app idea has become a vital, necessary aspect of the modern development process. While the idea of creating a prototype or beta version of your product or service is nothing new, the challenges associated with creating an effective MVP and overall approach is rapidly evolving as high-end technology services become more affordable and easier to implement from a development standpoint.

So how much does it cost to develop an MVP for your software or app project? A quick Google search reveals average MVP development cost from a company typically ranges from $20,000-30,000. Forbes has quoted $15,000-20,000 for “a good developer” based in the U.S. Our firm, Winnona Partners, works closely with clients in the planning stage to cut costs where possible, allowing us to develop app MVPs in the $5,000-10,000 range for most project. In some cases, a simple website could suffice to getting some traction on your idea. You can learn more about various MVP options in our free MVP resource guide.

For most early stage startups and entrepreneurs, MVP development cost is the most important–and potentially limiting–factor to get even a basic version of their idea off the ground. We understand that at the startup stage, nothing is more important than getting something tangible in the hands of potential customers (or investors) to determine if you have a viable business. Here are 3 important aspects that contribute to mobile app development cost:

1. Conduct self-evaluation to consider which MVP method might be best for you

Sometimes when a creative idea takes hold, it’s easy for your imagination to run wild with all kinds of dream scenarios for the success of your app. We love to share and support this enthusiasm! That being said, we also feel our role is to provide counter-perspectives to help mediate expectations, and prompt you to view the possibilities in an honest, less subjective way. Self-evaluation is an important first step in determining your MVP development path and cost, and here’s a few questions you can ask yourself or discuss with us to get started:

  • What is my total budget (including marketing or advertising if applicable) for this MVP?
    • Depending on your desired feature set (next section), the answer to this question will disclose what’s realistically possible to build for you at this stage. Our team always strives to provide the best technology solution to fit your budget.
  • Who is this MVP for?
    • Are you ready to build something functional for real customers, or would a working prototype with mock data be useful to showcase to focus groups or investors? You can explore some detailed options in our free MVP resource guide.
  • What is my preferred timeline and personal availability for this project?
    • Asking yourself how much time you’re willing to commit each day or each week to a new endeavor is essential to determining how soon your software can generate enough traction to “graduate” from MVP to full production status. Investing more time in the MVP stage can save you money long term when progressing to the full production stage.

2. Determine the core features of your app product or service

Figuring out which features of your app idea are absolutely essential in order for your app to run is one of the most challenging aspects for entrepreneurs and startups. We’re not expecting you to know all the answers about your audience or customer base, but having a core concept or specific problem you’re trying to solve is necessary to develop a viable MVP. People have gotten used to apps with an overload of features (Facebook or Snapchat for instance).

With the widespread availability of these high performing apps, it’s easy to adopt the mentality that your app should also be able to do all these cool–and complex–features that have become so iconic in the apps people use on a daily basis. Being inspired by the top performing apps and SAAS technologies in the market is an excellent approach, but you should always ask yourself whether an idea you’re contemplating is a “must have” or just a “nice to have” feature. Talk to your potential customers or users to validate your idea as much as possible. Winnona Partners is also happy to work closely with you to help narrow down your idea to a core set of features and functionalities that address the immediate needs of your customers or users. Doing so saves both you and our team time and money, ultimately speeding up the development process.

3. Agree on an app flow with the development team

Once you’ve got a solid understanding of which type of MVP method will be best for you, and which core features are most important to implement in this early stage, the last factor to determine your MVP cost is to agree on an app flow with your developers. The app flow, sometimes called a storyboard, is a basic visual demonstration of how a user will navigate your app. Here’s an example of such a storyboard that we could work with a client to create:

Software MVP Storyboard example by Winnona Partners

The number of screens required, and the features on these screens can all affect the development cost. In some cases, fancy animations or special user interface (UI) design requirements may also affect the development cost.

Before obsessing with trying to get the lowest cost, however, we recommend you do research and think thoroughly about the login/on-boarding process for your users. What information is required to complete (if any) for them to access your service? In most cases (social networking, e-commerce, on-demand apps), securely verifying a user’s phone number or email address is necessary for the app flow. However if your app doesn’t allow any contact between users, offer any direct services, or if you don’t need to collect any personal information, this step may be omitted.

You can always contact us if you’d like help answering some the questions above, we’ll work directly with you to help come up with a strategy and app flow that gets results. Our goal is to help you get your project off the ground as soon as possible, with the best technology and user experience (UX) possible. Our firm excels at communicating with clients, and we feel it’s probably the most important factor in progressing an idea from concept, to MVP, to full production app quickly and effectively.

Ready to start your project?

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By Jonathan Richter

Jonathan is CEO of Winnona Partners, a custom software development company based in Atlanta, GA that specializes in helping startups and small businesses thrive. He's also a classical guitarist, and has studied Chinese language, music and culture extensively.

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