The Hidden Costs of Software Development

Do you know what it costs to make an app?

Kevin Meldau
4 min readJun 9, 2020


From the huge number of different apps available in both the App Store and Play Store on the two major smartphone platforms (Apple and Android), it would appear the creation of an app is a quick and simple task. All it takes is a bit of code, some pictures, and a bit of interactive activity to create the app. A few updates here and there to keep it running and all is well.

If only it were that easy! Recent studies have shown that the development of an app can quickly enter into the six-figure range, while the maintenance and upkeep necessary can average around $2,500.00 a month.

For many outsiders to the app development world, this is ridiculous. How is this possible?

Think before you develop
It’s great that you have an idea for a new app. Get your idea scoped out BEFORE you bring it to a developer. Changing your app idea mid-way through the project could be very costly. A hired developer or agency will (rightfully) charge you to cover these changes. Revisions aren’t cheap. Take the time, and do your homework, detail what it is you are looking to do, and why. Determine what you want your app to be able to do, look like, feel, contain, and offer the user. The developer needs to know all of this in the beginning.

Hiring a developer is no different from hiring any other contractor. Get references, do some homework, check out previous work, and have a contract created for the work before anyone touches a keyboard. Building an app could be likened to building a house — you need to know all of the steps it takes before any foundations are dug and concrete is poured.

Where is your app going to live?
An app has to live somewhere. It has to exist on a server, which allows users to find and use the app. Servers also help send notifications and manage the content and user info. There are plenty of web services for cloud hosting available. Do your research and find out what this type of hosting is going to cost. This could be anything from FREE to thousands of dollars a month.

Security is not just social
Research shows that more than half of all developers are not 100% comfortable with the security of their programming. This means you need a security plan. Here are a few things to consider for your app’s security:

  • A third party is not necessarily safe. Developers take code from other locations. Have these locations been vetted for security?
  • A review team should look at how your app’s code can be exploited. Have time and resources been allocated for this?
  • The fewer permissions you have in the app the better. Stay away from access to the camera, contacts, online profiles, and payment gateways (Stripe, PayPal, etc.) unless it is a necessary part of the app.

These steps will affect the development process. More thorough security reviews will increase time and costs, but cutting out unnecessary integrations should improve security and reduce costs.

Apps have to keep up with the ever-changing security laws. Newer laws may mean you need to make adjustments even while your app is in development. If the app grows, you may have to increase the security for your user’s benefit.

Keeping your app running
An app is organic. That means the app is constantly growing and changing, you have to treat the app with a good bit of TLC. You need to invest time and attention to ensure that it runs like a well-oiled machine.

The best developers perform system maintenance work every 2–3 months and respond to operating system updates for iOS and Android apps. This includes security updates and regular server updates. Just because your app is created, does not mean the developer’s job is done. Get the cost of regular maintenance from your developer in the beginning, and have it in the contract. You can realistically expect to spend around $2,500.00 monthly for quality maintenance.

Monitor and change
The best apps use data from their users to determine what changes need to be made. There are a variety of tools available commercially that provide insight into the average customer’s interactions with your app, answering questions like:

  • What page has the most interaction?
  • Is there something about the app the user does not understand?
  • What page is the most dynamic?
  • Developers may charge you for individual changes or done on a monthly retainer fee.

App development is not cheap.
The estimated initial cost may not be what you are going to pay in the end because of changes and updates as you go. Find a reputable, honest developer or agency that offers a flat fee for development and a subscription for maintenance. You want to be able to iterate and double-check any features on a consistent basis for development and immediate changes to the app.



Kevin Meldau

Cherish life's extraordinary moments, one story at a time.