How to get your money's worth in your app development quote

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If you're worried about being ripped off when getting an app development quote, this article should help.

In this post you'll find out how to evaluate app development costs to get the best quote. You'll also learn how to develop your app to get the most bang for your buck. Focusing on value and asking the right questions will get you the best quote from any UK app developer.

Let's discuss your FAQs in the comments section below. You can also like/share your favourite part to let us know what to write about next!

If you're just looking to get a quote from an app developer you can contact us here.

How can I tell if my app development quote is a rip off?

I'll start by saying that in business, things that are a "rip off" are rarely a rip off due to price. It's because the offer doesn't efficiently solve the problem or make your business a return on investment (ROI). Or when it does make a ROI, it's not in a reasonable enough timeline.

When I'm talking about "price", I mean the pounds-and-pennies figure at the foot of your software proposal. The actual cost to your business can vary — you might be paying interest on a loan, or have access to a grant funding scheme like Innovation Vouchers.

Without being well-versed in app development it can be tricky to tell if you're getting a fair price or not. But don't worry, the following sections will better prepare you for getting the best app development quote.

Why shouldn't I just pick the quote with the lowest price?

Here's the catch when getting a cheap app development quote (one that's priced too low). It might be priced just low enough so you're comfortable to make the purchase. What happens when "unexpected" issues crop up down the project timeline? The new issues will increase the amount you pay, and cancel out that initial low price. Ever heard somebody say "you get what you pay for"?

A low-ball quote from a software development company can be just as risky as an overpriced quote. The wrong expectations can mean project costs run out of control, and you end up with a half-finished software project.

It'll be hard to make a return on investment with a half-finished software project. And if you abandon the project because costs have run out of control, you're making a 100% loss 🚨

What can make matters worse, is that agencies sometimes purposely low-ball software project costs just to make a sale. Then they have to rely on the sunk cost fallacy to lock a client into a project for the longer term.

Of course, there's more risk in terms of cash for an overpriced project. But, if you aren't making a ROI, you're making a loss. No matter if the price is considered high or low.

The trick is to find the right balance between money spent and value created. Focusing on value for money will help you get your custom app development quote 'just right'.

Most importantly, the software needs to help you achieve your business goals. Don't be afraid to challenge the quote and ask why the app is being developed a certain way. You should ask as many questions and provide as much information as possible.

How can I get the most value out of my custom app development quote?

The two main things to consider when getting a software quote are affordability and value.

Whether or not your business can afford the project will be based on the capital you can risk. It's also based on the cash you have available (cash flow, loans, grants, etc.)

A good way to make custom app development more affordable is to reduce the scope of the project. But it's crucial to make sure the project retains value by focusing on higher-impact, lower-effort features. Lowering the price without focusing on value is one-dimensional and can harm the project in the long run.

The software company should be able to organise your features into an impact-effort matrix. This will help you focus on value when developing the software.


Your project may focus on one core feature, or several smaller ones. Each feature can be broken down into smaller tasks and estimated individually. In Codevate's app development quotes, we organise these tasks into "phases". Each phase focuses on delivering a key element of the software, or tries to answer a specific question.

Why would I need to answer questions when developing an app?

Targeting specific questions is a great way to maximise value when developing an app. In Lean methodology this is called "validated learning".

Early user testing can help you and your app developers find a 'snug' market fit. Each new app update should bring in key user feedback, enhancing the product every step of the way. This will help you give the target user what they need, and in turn, increases your chances of making a return.

That's why Codevate offers several services that can facilitate capturing early user feedback. For example, developing a prototype for your app will get you those key insights faster. Our app development projects usually start with:

  • A functional prototype that tests one feature or idea with users; or
  • A design prototype that maps out the user experience (or "flow") of your app.

Both provide the opportunity to capture insight from users or answer questions early on in the project.

Developing a functional prototype for your app could help you answer questions like:

  • Can GPS background tracking help me verify staff timesheets?
  • Will SMS reminders reduce the amount of customers that abandon quotes in my app?
  • Does my target market really care about checking in to venues in advance so they can meet new people?

These questions will often be based on your business goals, objectives, or pain points. Including them in your initial enquiry will help you get the most out of your app development quote. Especially if you're getting different prices from multiple agencies.

Why do different app development agencies charge different amounts?

A key factor in the pricing of a software quote is the rate you pay for each developer on the project. This is usually an hourly or daily rate depending on the software developer(s) assigned to your project.

Agencies will have different rates based on their location, target market, technologies, and other factors. Depending on the size of your project or the agency in question, they might charge you for a project manager too.

In some cases, agencies will charge a flat rate for all developers, no matter their skill level. So a higher or lower daily rate doesn't necessarily mean your project will be more or less pricey.

How much does developer skill matter? Well, studies show that some developers can be up to 10x faster than others.

Some agencies may opt to "figure it out later" and offer a rough quote that they think is "good enough". Unfortunately, humans are notoriously bad at estimating things.

Others will initially offer a high-level proposal, then develop it into a full spec later on. This is because it can take a long time to consider all angles when putting together a thorough software quote. A high-level proposal should outline key elements, goals and assumptions, and a rough ballpark estimate.

There's a key difference between the "figure it out later"s and the "high-level proposal"s. The latter acknowledges that they don't have all the information yet, and outlines goals and assumptions. This can help plot a course for validated learning, and structure the spec into a series of "hypotheses".

Answering those questions and validating your app idea step-by-step will give you a much better product. This comes back to incorporating user feedback and finding a snug market fit.

How can I compare quotes from different app development agencies?

When it comes to comparing app agency quotes, it can be a little like comparing apples and oranges. Ambiguous requirements can introduce misunderstandings or leave too much room for error. So, it's good to be as specific as possible.

For instance, simply specifying that your app needs to be "responsive" can be interpreted in a few different ways:

  • The app needs to support multiple different screen sizes.
    • How small a screen do we need to support? As small as an iPhone 4?
    • Will we need to support iPads and Android tablets too?
    • Should the design be different between phones and tablets (to make better use of screen space)?
    • Does that mean portrait and landscape modes are different?
  • The app needs to be "fast" when it loads things.
    • But how fast is fast? Less than one second? Less than ten?
    • How fast is the current process (if any)? What's the benchmark?
    • How big is the data that's getting loaded?
    • Should we load a preview and download the rest "behind the scenes"?

Being able to ask the right questions can depend on the agency's past projects and business experience. So, being as specific as possible can help you get a more realistic quote from your app developer.

It's still a good idea to compare quotes from multiple agencies. Even a rough ballpark from a different software agency can help tell you if you're on the right track price-wise. Don't worry about upsetting the first software company. If they're confident in their pricing it shouldn't matter.

Feel free to challenge the quote and ask which developers are working on your project — it can make all the difference!

What else can I do to get the best app development quote for my business?

It's a good idea to discuss how some past projects went (including challenges, successes, and failures). This will help you get some insight into how the agency works.

An experienced agency should be able to weigh in at the business level as well as at the software level. Both will factor into the cost of the project and its chances of long-term success.

If your app or software idea is complex, you may benefit from upfront software consultancy. This can help you nail down the finer details, or solve crucial problems in advance. Longer-term projects will need a more thorough specification too. It's important to start with your best foot forward, as bad technical decisions can cripple a project down the line.

This will factor into the future maintenance of your software as well. As your project matures, "technical debt" will accrue interest, costing you more in the long run.

Other things to consider are the location of the agency, as well as how long it has been established. A young agency could be missing crucial business experience that will be vital in delivering your project. Offshore agencies come with their own obstacles, like time zone and language barriers. Different legal jurisdictions can make transferring or protecting your intellectual property difficult too.

So, when it comes to getting a custom app development quote, it's never about getting things done "on the cheap". It's better to think in terms of cost-effectiveness and return on investment.

I've included a summary of my key points below. Don't forget to like/comment on your favourite one!

  1. Cheap app development quotes can be just as risky as expensive ones. You could end up making a 100% loss!
  2. For a project to be sustainable in the longer term, budget expectations need to be realistic. That way, you can make an informed decision about whether to go ahead with the project or not.
  3. Developing your software in phases (or step-by-step) can help you focus on value and validated learning. Incorporating user feedback can help you get a better 'fit' for your app.
  4. When comparing quotes from multiple agencies, it's important not to be tempted by low-ball costs. Just because an agency charges a lower daily rate, it doesn't mean you'll spend less money overall.
  5. It's important to be specific when getting quotes from different app agencies. Technologies, skill levels, methodologies, business, and coding experience will vary.
  6. A good app development quote will consider your business goals and objectives as well as how to develop the app.
  7. The skill level of your software development team will also play a major role in the longer-term. You likely won't need (or even find) a company that's done the job before. But, you'll definitely want an experienced and innovative software development company.
  8. Complex software ideas can benefit from upfront consultancy or prototyping before you commit to the full project.
  9. Bad decisions early on in a project can create "technical debt" that accrues interest. This will impact the future maintenance of your app, as well as long-term costs.
  10. When working with an offshore agency, time zones, language barriers, and legal jurisdictions should be considered.

At Codevate, we work on longer-term and more complex projects, that's why we only recruit senior developers. That means realistic budgets and value/ROI-focused software proposals are super important for us. And the proof is in the pudding — so far, we've maintained a 100% project completion rate (compared to a much lower industry standard).

If you have a new software idea and are looking to get an app development quote, please drop us a line. We offer upfront consultancy via Project Discovery Workshops, as well as design prototypes and technical evaluations.

If you already have a software quote and want a second opinion, we'd be happy to help! You can contact us here.

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