The app industry isn’t particularly old. Yet, there are already multiple pathways for building an app for your business.

For simpler apps, a DIY app builder software may suffice. Other businesses may seek out the expertise of a professional app development company to help them create a high-quality product.

Working with these companies may seem confusing for an inexperienced business, though. There are offshore firms, local firms, enterprise firms, and more – what is it like to work with a professional app development company? And how much will it cost you?

Clutch, a B2B research, ratings, and reviews firm in Washington, DC, recently surveyed 102 various app development companies from around the world to help answer these questions.

There are four core steps that most of these firms conduct or advise on to some degree.

  • Discovery/Pre-Research Stage
  • Production Stage: Design & Development
  • Testing and Deployment Stage
  • Marketing Stage

In this article, we will walk through the basics of each step, using Clutch’s survey report on app development cost for reference.

Discovery/Pre-Research Stage

Every good project requires careful planning. Just like in grade school, if you dive into a project without a clear idea of the overall objectives, you are more likely to fail.

Many app development companies help businesses seeking to build an app go through a pre-research or “discovery” stage.

Questions asked during this stage include:

  • What is your business trying to achieve with an app?
  • How will you measure the app’s success?
  • Is an app the best route for meeting your business goals?
  • What competitors will your app face?

The stage is required by 70% of app development companies before proceeding with development, and it typically costs less than $5,000.

This stage can make or break an app’s chances of success. You could build an incredibly impressive app, but if it isn’t properly targeted towards your audience, or isn’t aimed towards your specific goals, then it won’t benefit your business.

Furthermore, this stage helps companies give a more accurate price estimate for a project.

“It makes sense to only give an exact [price] estimate after the team clearly understands what should be done,” said Dmitry Dobritskiy, CEO and Co-Founder of MindStudios.

Production Stage: Design and Development

Once the project’s details are clarified and objectives are laid out, then the company can begin producing the app.

First, it must be designed. In the design stage, the company will help you understand how the app will look through wireframing, visual design, and user experience (UX) design.

The largest percentage of companies said this stage cost less than $5,000, but that price heavily depends on the number of screens your app requires. The number and complexity of screens in your app can significantly increase the cost of the design stage.

After the app is designed, then the coding can begin.

The development stage is obviously one of the biggest contributors to an app’s overall cost. The number of features, and their levels of complexity, will significantly increase the money and time required for this stage.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine the exact price of a feature without consulting with an app development firm. That is because the exact needs for a feature will vary from project to project.

For example, though the majority of firms in Clutch’s survey said that push notifications cost less than $5,000 to build, one firm reported them as costing more than $50,000.

Dmitry explained how this can happen: “Take Facebook as an example,” he said. “They have a bunch of push notifications, and by clicking on every push notification, you are transferred to a particular place. The more complex logic you have [with a feature], the more expensive the development will be.”

Carefully consider the features your app will need, and the functionality required for each feature.

Testing and Deployment Stage

All businesses should make sure their app is thoroughly tested before launching. The quickest way to turn off new users is with a buggy product.

“It is increasingly important for an app to be well-designed and executed to stand out in app stores,” said Nik Sanghvi, Head of U.S. Sales and Business Development at Robosoft. “Users want an app to function in a certain way, and not to have any glitches or too much lag.”

Furthermore, that app needs to continue to perform well. Investment in an app does not end with deployment. You should be maintaining an app for years with new updates.

That means your engagement with an app development company could be a significant long-term partnership.

Nearly 30% (28%) of app development companies predicted post-launch maintenance to cost less than $5,000 for the year after deployment. Another 28% of companies said it will cost $5,000 – $10,000.

Dominic Tancredi, CEO of end-to-end product development agency Dom & Tom, emphasized the importance of post-launch maintenance: “You should be reinvesting, maintaining, and optimizing your product, which, ultimately, means your users.”

Marketing Stage

Many app development companies will assist businesses with marketing plans, both in the pre-research stage and after launch. There are even specific app marketing agencies that you can seek assistance from.

Do not disregard the importance of marketing your app. Even the best products require marketing to attract users.

“I’ve seen a lot of startups develop mobile apps to break into the MVP [minimum viable product] stage. Then, they suddenly realize that they are out of money, and they can’t start marketing activities before their budget is consumed,” said Pawel Josiek, Co-Owner and Vice President of Future Mind.

This is a waste of time and money for both businesses and their developers.


Apps can be a boon for businesses seeking to reach new audiences. Professional firms offer the expertise required to create high-quality and intricate products.

Yet, working with these firms can seem overwhelming for those new to the process. Maximize your relationship with an app development company by thoroughly understanding the process and its costs before committing to a project.