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Why building an app for $15,000 is like eating from a buffet instead of a chef

Posted by Daniel Boyce
2 years ago

It can be quite confusing to go out and get an estimate for your app idea with quotes. It’s not uncommon for an app developer to quote $0-$15,000 to build your app and the next call resulting in being told your app could be $50,000-$100,000 to complete.

How can paying for a developers time differ so greatly?

Just like ordering a meal, the cost differs greatly due to what you goes into it, this holds true for developing your app.


At Appomate we don’t build $15,000 apps, the reason being we don’t want to build an app that doesn’t succeed. But some people can build $15,000 apps, so how is that possible?

Think about going to an “all you can eat” buffet, perhaps something like Pizza Hut, Sizzlers or Smorgies.

At these smorgasbord restaurants, you can head to the bain-marie’s and grab a slice of pizza, some honey chicken or perhaps some beef curry and eat away.

  1. But what if the pizza has anchovies and you don’t like fish?
  2. What if the honey chicken was cooked with MSG?
  3. What if the curry had a nut base and you’re allergic to nuts?

At the buffet restaurant, there’s not much you can do about it. You can eat all the food you want there, you just have to eat it the way they make it. This is how a developer can build an app for $15,000.

Cheaper app developers can complete an app for $15,000 because they generally are a one man operation who repeatedly uses a pre-existing backend for their clients. The makes things easy to build as 50% of the app is using pre-existing materials.

The first issue with this is how can one man be an expert in all the skills required to build a successful app and yet price his app development at the cheapest price in town?

  1. App Design
  2. App Development
  3. UI (User Interface)
  4. UX (User Experience)
  5. App Feasibility
  6. App Marketing and Release Strategies

When you build a house you don’t get one guy to do it, you need a team of contractors. Electricians, Plumbers and Carpenters and apps are no different.

Developing any app requires at bare minimum four clearly distinct skills sets.


On top of this your looking for someone who can code app’s in numerous languages Swift (iOS), Java (Android), cross-platform languages like Xamarin and back end technologies like Javascript, .NET, Node.JS just to name but a few.

How could someone be talented enough to possess the skills of four different roles in the IT industry and be willing to work for the minimum amount?

If there was a chef out there that was a master of Italian, Asian and Indian cuisine do you think he’d also be the cheapest chef in town?

It is unlikely, but still possible that if your app idea has only a few select requirements, maybe the pre-existing back end that a cheaper developer provides meets could meet your app needs.

Therefore this option may allow you to hit the market in a cost effective way, however, as soon as your app reaches the stage that customising it in any way then you are going to have to remain in the confines of what the recycled/pre-existing back-end already provides… or start your app again from scratch.

An example of this could be you can include a chat feature to your app, but it won’t be able to customise how the chat box looks or what characters are used within it ie. emojis, other languages, etc. If you want a cheap app and you’re willing to give up a number of requirements to get something into the market, perhaps the “buffet” method could work for you.

So while the $15,000 option may seem like the cheap option to get to market, if your app becomes a success and you want to add features or change it’s look and feel… it’s likely at this stage you’ll be told the app needs to be completely rebuilt. It’s at this point the $15,000 option seems like it wasn’t the cheap option at all because initially developing your app from scratch would have saved you $15,000.

Below we have compiled some of the risks associated with building a cheap, $15,000 app and how the Appomate development team avoid those risks.

[wpsm_comparison_table id=”1″ class=”center-table-align”]

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