3 Reasons Your App Will Cost More than Your Website
Earlier today I had a meeting with a couple of entrepreneurs who’d booked a consultation regarding a new online business they were thinking of developing. Initially they used our app proposal generator to get an estimate for their concept, but during the course of the meeting it quickly became apparent they could just as easily launch their concept as a website first, and follow up with an app once it was clear that there business was gaining traction and meeting revenue goals. The resulting savings? 82% of their initial estimate, or about $44,000. Not a bad return for a one hour lunch meeting…
The obvious question raised by this massive disparity in costing is why?
Why are apps so much more expensive than websites?
The truth is there are at least three primary causes, and neither one of them looks like it’s about to change much in the couple or so years ahead…
1. Supply and demand
Building apps is subject to the same economic axioms that regulate any other product and service. In the 9 years since the launch of the first iPhone over 1.5 BILLION smartphones have been shipped to market. The growth rate in adoption for the past 3 years averages out at roughly 30% year over year. Everyone wants a piece of this action, which is driving a huge demand for app development skills. However the number of available app developers isn’t increasing at the same rate, giving increasing leverage to established providers, who are becoming pickier with the projects they choose to take on. For companies and entrepreneurs looking to develop an app the bad news is that prices are going to climb steadily higher with every month that goes by, until supply eventually levels out demand.
2. A Fundamentally Fragmented Ecosystem
The World Wide Web as we know it is pretty much device and platform agnostic – Your website (assuming you follow best practice) works just as well on any browser, regardless of devices and platform. Aside for necessary adjustments to screen size, the experience your audience has on your website is pretty much identical on Android devices and iPhones. Whether people visit your site on a smratphone, phablet or tablet – they come to it via a browser that offers a set of interactions which we all pretty much take for granted by now (e.g. you can always bookmark a website, zoom in to a page, etc.)
With Apps this isn’t the case. Google and Apple maintain respectively the Playstore and the Appstore – These are two entirely separate ecosystems, and covering the full gamut of possible audiences requires you release an app on both platforms.
While the platforms may look alike, from a development perspective they’re worlds apart. In fact they’re so alien to each other that professional app studios must employ two entirely separate teams of developers in order to build an app for release on both.
3. Building Apps Remains Primarily Custom Work
The web will be celebrating it’s 25 birthday this year. In the generation that’s gone by since its inception pretty much any type of revenue generating platform you can imagine has not only been built, it’s also later been released as ready-to-brand white label solution.
The most widely known example for this principle is Content Management Systems. While at first dynamic websites each had their own solution developed from scratch, today about 25% of the websites you see are built on WordPress. It’s a massive ecosystem that offers over 40,000 published plugins with which the WordPress core can be expanded in order to rapidly build everything from ecommerce marketplaces to dating sites, and everything in between. As always supply impacts cost – nowadays most plugin / theme packages cost under $100, and although you still need a designer and web developer to brand and build your website, their job is fundamentally one of cobbling together pre-existing building blocks.
With apps this isn’t (yet?) the case. Building apps is mostly a custom job. It’s true that for most common features (e.g. login, location via Google maps, connect to Facebook etc.) developers have access to libraries of existing code that can save them writing from scratch, but these are mostly available only for fragmented functionality, and not full blown services. The app ecosystem has yet to develop a free and reliable WordPress like platform that allows developers to cobble together an Uber or Instagram using off-the-shelf themes.