Mobile App Development – Tips for Getting Started in 2020 How much does it cost to build an app?

Paul Walsh
March 5, 2020

Mobile app development costs are usually the biggest consideration during the app idea process.

In 2018 the App store made $46.6 billion, nearly double the revenue of the Play Store, so added together that’s over $70 billion dollars.

The thing is there’s not really a simple and straightforward answer. As with a lot of things it all depends on exactly what you want.

You need to nail down your fundamental requirements and think how you get a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ ready to go.

Think of it in the context of buying a new car.

You’ve decided on the make and model, the colour and the fact it has 4 wheels (hopefully) and an engine.

It’s now ready to drive off the forecourt. The fundamentals are all in place to get out on the road.


We’ve all seen an Aston Martin driving on the roads and looked at it in awe and jealousy. It’s an aspirational car. It’s a Facebook or Twitter app, with the backing of the cash and tech wizards of Silicon Valley.

Just in case you own an Aston Martin…you can download an app!


What you need to do is be realistic with your expectations early on.  Steer clear of vanity features at this early stage!

Do you really need two tone leather upholstery, heated seats or parking cameras (use your mirrors)? At this point we just need to get from A to B without breaking down on the journey!

You need to ask yourself a lot of questions about the mobile app development journey!

SO…put the brakes on and get these 3 fundamental factors sorted first;

  1. Identify a problem you’re solving or identify a need.

Always remember that the app isn’t for YOU, it’s for your potential customers.

Does the audience/user base for you app idea exist?

Can you back up your idea with a ‘proof of need’ or statistics?

The fact that your mate Terry loved the idea after 5 hours in the pub doesn’t make it a viable project – seek some (non-biased!) assurance outside your immediate circle of friends and family.

Look for apps that have had success with a similar idea. How have they achieved their popularity or growth? Can you emulate their strategy to gain similar results?

If you’re entering into a crowded space do you have unique features and/or benefits that will help you to stand out from your competitors?

2. Can you make money from it? (if that is your primary goal)

If you are designing and developing a mobile app with commercial intent, then you’ll need to consider the financials.

What will drive the app forwards? What’s the purpose? Does it have long term viability?

Are you looking to utilise the customer feedback loop to grow and further develop your app? Think about how you will finance the promotion, growth, bug fixes and future mobile app development plans.

Do you have an exit strategy, with a 3, 5 or maybe 10 years evolution plan? Are you looking to sell your app and data down the line?

Check out these quick 5 fundamental tips for getting your app foundations sorted!

3. Create a map of your app (known as wireframing)

Get all your ideas about your app sorted in your head (or on a piece of paper) and then organise them into an action plan. In the app world this is known as ‘wireframing.’ It can be approached in numerous different ways.

Importantly, however you choose to approach it, it’s a massive advantage to have a clear development path structured and formulated. It will not only help you but also your app development team.

The wireframe should focus you on developing 2 very important aspects of your app idea. The visual interface and user friendly navigation. This is a (very) basic example.

Image source: Smashing Hub

It’ll help you to explain and visualise the ‘logic’ of the app with the main pages, section and features and how they interact with each other.

Your app developer will work on this with you to help ensure all the fundamentals are in place from the beginning.

Remember to concentrate on the essentials first and leave the vanity features for down the road.

Developing a mobile app isn’t a straightforward issue. It’s a long process and getting the basics right will help you to build strong foundations. This is THE most important part of the mobile app development process.

Getting Your App Idea Formulated:

There are over 2500 apps uploaded to the App Store every single day. That’s 17,500 a week and around 75,000 a month (and that’s just on the App store!)

So how can you help your app idea to become a success?

Apps exist for 2 main reasons:

They identify and provide a solution to a problem – (mobile banking apps, dating apps, train timetables apps)


They create an experience – (gaming apps, social media apps, and community apps)

This is not a new concept and the majority of successful companies will all make this distinction at the start of their business life.

The UK mobile industry is still thriving as we can see from the data below.

So, the first thing you need to establish is which category your app will fit into. Remember that you’re not creating an app for yourself (unless you’re a whimsical millionaire with an expensive hobby!) you’re creating it for a mass, hopefully global audience.

Next, we move onto establishing the long term viability of your idea.

Proof of concept at this stage is never 100% reliable but market research is vital.

It’s important to be as honest as possible with yourself here. Manufacturing numbers you want at this stage will have no long term benefits.

Ask a few simple questions.

  • Are there other apps in your chosen space that are successful?
  • Can you improve on an existing app by offering something unique, something valuable or something that will truly disrupt the industry?
  • Do apps that already exist, that are similar to yours, have an existing user base that you can target.
  • Do you have a plan established for how your app will create a flow of revenue?

Are your answers viable? Do they make commercial sense? Be realistic with your expectations.

The gaming app sector, for example, can be extremely lucrative. However, at the same time, you need to appreciate that it’s a fairly saturated area occupied by some of the biggest and best apps out there.

They’ll have massive app development budgets but they do make a few quid.

Always make sure sanity overpowers vanity at this stage or you may live to regret it.

So, we’ve got another box ticked in our mobile app development process! Next, we’ll move onto the ways in which you can make money from your app.

We’ll cover potential revenue streams for your app and how different methods can be used to create and sustain a steady income.

Money Making Apps – Will Your App Be the Next Big Thing?

In 2018 the App store made $46.6 billion, nearly double the revenue of the Play Store. Money making apps are big business.

The number of global downloads is staggering too and yet the majority of income created doesn’t come from the download itself.

Image Source: Business of Apps

App income creation comes from a variety of other sources. These include in app purchases, freemium models, in app advertising and product promotion.

Next, we’ll talk about the different ways to make profit from an app and how viable they are as long-term income creators.

App Monetisation Methods:

Paid For v Free to Download:

The majority of apps are free to download. It’s clear from the iOS stats below that the majority of developers prefer to make the initial download free of charge.

This strategy allows the app to reach a massive intended audience quickly with no barriers to download.

Once an app is downloaded developers are then free to experiment with various methods of income creation.

Charging for the initial download is usually only a viable option for more established companies who are confident that the value they are providing is worth the initial charge. This can lead to a rapid cash injection at the very early stages of an apps life cycle.

Monetisation within the environment of the app itself can take many forms. In app purchases and in app advertising are by far the most consistent revenue creators. This is applicable for both gaming and non-gaming apps.

In-app Purchases:

In app purchases are probably the best-known way of creating consistent income with a mobile money-making app.

This method is particularly popular with gaming apps where virtual currency and other gaming personas and powers can be purchased with real money.

Payments usually take place within the confines of the app or through the app store. This helps ensure seamless transactions that are inherently trusted by consumers.

Gaming publishers have seen an increasing level of financial success over the last few years which shows no signs of slowing down.

Image Source: Sensor Tower

Consumers seem more than willing to enter into these transactions and the popularity of apps such as Candy Crush Saga and Clash of Clans have taken full advantage of this trend.

Worldwide consumer spend on entertainment apps continues to skyrocket. From a far from modest $1 billion in 2016 this number has now increased to over $6 billion in 2019.

Image Source: App Annie

Freemium Models:

The Freemium model is perhaps the most widespread business technique used for income creation for both short- and long-term money making apps.

This method allows a provider to control the level of access to an app. A ‘basic’ level app can then be leveraged – for a price!

The Freemium model essentially powers the ‘in-app purchasing’ power that we mentioned earlier. Another reason why gaming apps are often such big earners.

Image Source: State of Mobile 2019

In general, app developers can restrict things such as advanced functionality and user experience for non-paid versions of their releases. Payments can be made to unlock gaming levels or upgrade certain services and functionality.

In essence it’s a Freemium to Premium upsell!

The flexibility of the model also offers an environment where app developers can test possible paid versions of their apps without restricting access too early.

It also means that consumers can be selective whilst allowing app developers to avoid alienating users with excessive pricing structures. There will always be freedom of choice.

In-app Advertising:

The ability to advertise on apps has virtually become as accessible as it is on websites. There are income creation options that incorporate cost per click (CPC), cost per impression (CPI) and video views.

In-app advertising is becoming increasingly competitive as consumer in-app time continues to increase. Demand for these prime placements is soaring as they are targeting very specific audiences.

This method of money making isn’t as lucrative as in-app purchases but can be an entry level way to create income as a new or developing app. It’s more of a consistent long term earner rather than delivering fast results.

Consumer habits, behaviour and levels of tolerance to this method are yet to be fully tested. Developers, however, increasingly use advertising as a way to unlock other features though so there is an element of ‘give and take’ to this system. For example, watching a sponsored video in exchange for virtual currency.

The Subscription Model:

Monthly and annual subscription fees can be an effective way to fund the ongoing development of a money making app. Building a loyal and trusting subscriber base can also quickly help an app achieve viral status to the increased influence of social media.

Subscribers are, essentially, advocates of your app or brand and are ideal for helping grow your reach.

The weekly or monthly cash injection provides developers with a consistent revenue stream from an established and loyal consumer base. These types of customers are like gold dust.


As an app gains and retains a trusted user base it’s able to offer merchandising as a viable way of creating extra income.

This can act as a way of gaining new customers as well as further monetising existing ones.

Many of the more developed gaming apps now have a committed, brand focused, following. The fan base for the bigger apps are increasingly open to the potential of branded merchandise that opens up a global potential audience.

Clash of Clans has an extensive selection of merchandise that no doubt supplements the apps income levels with licencing and sales agreements around the world.

                   Clash of Clans Merchandise

These purchases don’t necessarily have to take place within the confines of the app but are certainly driven by a user being exposed to the brand story and ideals. The app experience becomes a lifestyle choice!

App Development in the UK

The UK population is increasingly immersed on their smart phones. App downloading and spending is increasing, with the average number of apps per device almost at 100!

Image Source: We are Social

These figures might suggest that the market is saturated. But it isn’t. Opportunities still exist for apps to enter the market. In fact, there are over 2500 released every day in the iOS® App Store® alone!

 Money making apps are here to stay. Consumers are hungry and the growth of the industry shows no signs of slowing down. Will your app be the next big thing?

Setting up Your App for Success – 5 Vital Tips

Do you know the in the UK alone there were more than 2 billion app downloads in 2018. That’s nearly 100 for each smart phone device. It’s a big business, with big numbers!

If you have a great idea for an app but that idea doesn’t transfer into a fantastic user experience, then it’s pointless. The time and effort you invest into your app development should be focused on offering an amazing customer experience.

How many times have you downloaded an app then deleted it not long after because it’s hard to use and makes you want to throw your phone out of the window? I know I would have lost a fair few phones over the years if I could figure out the locks on my windows!

Image Source: Clever Tap

There are a few things you need to remember to help make your user experience top notch from Day 1.

ALWAYS remember that when a new user initially downloads your app they’re seeing it for the first time. They haven’t spent months burning the midnight oil to make it perfect or stressed out for days whether an icon should be red or black on the home screen.

Functionality needs to be at 100% as soon as you launch.

You can launch with a minimum viable product as long as the user can navigate and use your app. It has to deliver on initial marketing and promotional promises.

I’ll share 5 tips with you for helping make sure that your app is set up for success:

1. Identify the need for your app

Ideally this information should be coming directly from the people who will be using it. Do your research and ask the target audience for their initial thoughts and feedback. They might highlight some extra things that you didn’t think about.  You can never start the customer feedback loop too early. It’s a vital component to the success and longevity of any business

2. Choose the right development company

We have seen so many great ideas over the years fail because the app was not built or designed properly. A professional, knowledgeable and experienced team will go the extra mile to help you accomplish your app dream. Ask for previous work, go through your idea in detail and get a detailed spec and quote, we provide this as standard.

3. Make sure the app is developed using the correct technologies

If you can identify that the majority of your target market use iPhones, it would be wasteful to develop an Android app. We always recommend that developing a native app is the best solution as it holds many benefits. Native simple means that its developed in the languages for that platform, for example Swift coding language for iOS apps (feel free to ask us more if this does not make sense).

4. Get your wireframe sorted early

This is essentially a blueprint walkthrough for your app and will help you to formulate a basic, essential structure and stick to it. These are then used to create the designs of your app, so it needs to be user friendly – simplicity is key. They can appear very complex at first but are vital for mapping out customer journeys and helping to make sure that the different functions of your app are easily found and identified

5. Test, Test and Test some more!

When your app is built, make sure you test every scenario, although your development team should do this with you, it’s vital to test it yourself and go through the app with a fine tooth comb. Apps have bugs, its natural with any development but the more bugs you can filter out (before it hits the app store), the better it is for the user. Even the best in the business aren’t perfect. Facebook often has little bugs, but they make sure its fixed as soon as possible and users don’t mind that. Updates show that a developer is evolving and potentially adding new features. Updates are often necessary for security reasons too. It’s all part of the continuous customer feedback and improvement loop.

Hopefully these 5 quickfire tips will have given you some food for thought and increased your app’etite to get your idea moving.

Turbo Charge Your App Store Optimisation (ASO)

Over 50% of discovery for both Android and iOS apps in the Google Play Store and Apple store take happen through general browsing in the app stores.

Image Source: App Radar

So, here we are with our app completed, ready to go and fly off the virtual shelves of the global app stores.

Now you need to put your marketing and promotions hat on and get your app out there.

It’s great to get all your friends and family on board, promote on your social media accounts and in blog posts, email your existing customers, set up a specific landing page on your website and even shout your app name from the local rooftop.

But as I mentioned in my introduction, over half of all apps that are downloaded are discovered in app stores.

And this is where ASO comes in!

ASO is App Store Optimisation and works in a very similar way to its close relative SEO in the online world! It works within the confines of the app stores too, so the right ASO can lead to massive exposure.

The ultimate aim of successful ASO is to increase your exposure and ultimately increase the number of downloads that your app has.

Like SEO, it can be a complex process with results taking a little while to achieve, but I’ll talk you through 6 quick tips here to improve your chances of being found.

Remember the majority of publishers never get around to doing these simple things so implementing them for your app will give you a competitive advantage!

1.Audience and Keywords:

Research your audience and find out what keywords they are searching for to find similar apps. This is vital and powerful information that should then feed into all your ASO efforts. You can use web based keyword research tools for this as the customer behaviour tends to be the same.

2. Choose your Category:

In the App Store you’ll have to select a primary and secondary category for you app (you only get 1 in Google Play). The Primary selection is (naturally) the most important as it will define the main area of the store that you would expect to be discovered and which chart you’ll be at the top of. Make sure to select a relevant category where you can also be competitive.

These are the current top level categories on the Apple App Store.

The different app stores will have slightly different categories so take some time to ensure you’re in the right area for each one you feature in.

3. Your App Store Sales Page:

Make sure you put your keywords in your app title and at the start of your description. The title is the most search driven aspect of a listing. An app store is essentially a closed search engine so ranking highly for your chosen keywords can be very powerful. Highlight the key features and benefits of your app in your description. Use descriptive, high impact and emotive language. You can also use your app sales page to display high quality images of screen shots and features – present your page well to encourage a high click through rate to the download!

You can even add video here – up to 30 seconds but make the first 5 seconds compelling and attention grabbing

4. Ratings and Reviews:

Although these can be difficult to control, they can have a positive influence on your ranking in the App Stores. They operate in a similar environment to website reviews.

Asking for ratings and reviews can be a good way to start the feedback and improvement loop of your app – but don’t beg for reviews! It’s also important to be responsive too – try and reply to all reviews if you can.

5. Number of Downloads:

Again, this is hard to control but the stores will reward popularity by pushing your app up the rankings as the internal algorithms start to kick in! Increased downloads = increased perceived value = increased prominence in organic rankings…this chain of events is the complete opposite of a vicious circle!

6. Analyse, Test, Tweak and Succeed:

Don’t be afraid to fail. Each hurdle you get over will get you a step closer to success. Make a habit of testing and tracking everything you do. If it doesn’t work, tweak it. Analyse what your competitors are doing and if you discover something that works for them, “borrow” the idea and see if you make it work for you too!

So that’s a brief introduction to promoting your app and the power of carefully planned and targeted App Store Optimisation. Now you can tell all your friends what ASO means next time the conversation dries up!

Hopefully this article has given you some top tips and ideas to start your mobile app development journey.

It might be a long journey but it could well be a life changing and lucrative one! Good luck!

About the Author

Share this article