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How Much Does an MVP Mobile App Really Cost in 2017?

Alex Volski asks how much an MVP mobile app costs in 2017
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Alex Volski
By: Alex Volski
August 1, 2017

The following is a guest post by Alex Volski. Alex is a tech/copywriter and a business analyst at Thinkmobiles for more than 5 years. He is currently working on multiple mobile app projects that include AR/VR. Contact Alex for additional information about mobile app development or if you find some interesting stuff about AR. Find out more about guest posts.

Before we start, let’s find out what an MVP is. This is an abbreviation for a minimal viable product. The term was created by Frank Robinson in 2001, but it got popular thanks to Steve Blank and Eric Ries. But what does minimal viable product mean?

MVP is a kind of mobile app prototype: it gives you, as a creator, a chance to test out the app in a real world environment. The main purpose is to prove that your ideas are valid and that the customers are ready for your product.

The main downside of an MVP is that it isn’t free. However, it is still way cheaper than to develop a full app. That’s why I believe that it will be useful to cover this topic in this article.

Now when we have covered the basic concept of an MVP, we can move on to the matter at hand: the cost of the mobile app MVP. The development of a mobile app is an expensive process, but an MVP of a mobile app costs serious money too. Then what is the point of it?

Imagine this: you have spent over $100.000 and 6 months to develop a mobile app of your dreams, but, unfortunately, it has failed. Now, the alternative way: build an MVP for $10.000 and 2 months to test out your idea first. If it fails, you are still gaining a lot. Now you have experience, that will help you with your next project, and you can afford it because you didn’t blow all of the budget on the mobile app.

Fast recap, the benefits of an MVP over a full mobile app development are:

  • it is cheaper;
  • it is safer;
  • you get useful feedback; and
  • it is simpler and you release your mobile app faster.

The Cost of a Mobile App MVP

There is a way to have a mobile app MVP for free! Simply do it yourself. But, chances are if you capable of that then you won’t be reading this article to begin with. Jokes aside, you have following ways to build an MVP:

  • do it yourself;
  • hire a developer to work internally; or
  • outsource it to a freelancer or a software engineering company.

As you may already guess, the cost of the MVP development varies depending on the method you choose. The cost of having a developer as an employee is different in every country, but it should be roughly the same as what would a freelancer charge you which is approximately $4.000 – $6.000. The services of a software engineering company will cost you from $5.000 to $40.000, depending on their reputation and the scope of work.

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But it is not entirely correct to set price ranges depending on the developer. The best way to determine the cost of an MVP for a mobile app is to multiply the necessary number of hours by the hour rate of the developer.

But how to how long will it take to develop an MVP? The easiest way to find out is to ask a developer. From my experience, it is around 2 to 4 months. But there could be some difficulties along the way, that may prolong the process, like app design.

MVP Cost of Design

Despite the popular idiom, most people judge the book by its cover. That’s why the design of your mobile app MVP is just as important as the features. The user interface must be simple and pleasant to look at, it should be easy to navigate and always keep users engaged.

The best way to estimate the cost of an MVP design is to count the number of screens that will be used. But keep in mind that the initial design is a separate expense. For example, run-of-the-mill initial app design costs around $500. Afterward, every additional screen is usually about $50-70.

The Total Cost of Mobile App MVP

As I was saying the best way to figure out how much does an MVP for a mobile app will cost is to multiply the time needed to create it by the hour rate of your developer. But how can you know how much time will it take? Easy, I will help you with that. Below you can see a table with minimum and maximum time periods necessary to develop an MVP for a single platform.

Mobile app MVP development stage Minimum hours Maximum hours
Planning 5 30
Wireframes, mockups 55 100
Back-end 100 150
Development 100 150
Landing page + additional screens 40 70
Time total 300 500

Development of an MVP Is Not the End

To this point, I was only talking about the development process of an MVP, but that is not the end of it. In reality, there are following stages of the MVP life:

  • Forging a hypothesis
  • Development
  • Initial release
  • Collecting feedback
  • Data analysis
  • Confirming or disproving a hypothesis

Let’s take a closer look at the last stage. You have launched a mobile app MVP, collected and analyzed all of the possible data and feedback, What to do next? Well, you have three possible courses of action depending on the results:

  • Continue as is – this is what you should do if your hypothesis was correct. The users were satisfied with your MVP and were asking for a full app. Naturally, you also should make necessary changes and tweaks but most importantly you must stick to your guns.
  • Evolve – if your users had mixed feelings about your MVP, they loved some features but hated other you should make some serious decisions. Drop or change things that are not working and improve functions and features that were popular.
  • Stop the project – if you have mostly negative feedback, it means that your hypothesis wasn’t correct. In this case, the best course of action is to shut down your mobile app MVP and move on to the next one. But don’t get too upset, you were wise to choose the MVP path, this means you didn’t waste a lot of money.

Conclusion

Now you are ready to begin creating your own mobile app MVP. As a bonus you know approximate prices and time frames, this gives you an upper hand in negotiations with developers. Also, you know what to expect at the end of the MVP life cycle, so you can use this information to present it to your stockholders or other investors and executives.