Software Development Project Cost Factors



When it comes to developing a software application, there are a variety of factors within the software development lifecycle that influence the total project cost. A software development life cycle consists of project planning, design, development and launch, and each phase of the software development life cycle typically informs the next phase of the project. Because the phases are so deeply intertwined, it is important to understand your project needs and requirements as early on as possible. This will ensure that you start the project with the optimal foundation for traction and scale in future iterations of the application while spending the least amount of money.

Each software development agency works slightly differently, but it’s generally safe to say that the development portion of the software development lifecycle is the most expensive, hence why you want to have a good plan in place before moving into the development phase of the project. The easiest way to pay more than is necessary on a software application is by not following a plan early on in the project.

A good software development team should be able to offer you services, including a plan of action, no matter where you’re at in your journey towards building a great software product. 

So you’ve done your research and have selected a talented development agency to build your software application… Now let’s find out…

What are some of the biggest factors that impact project cost?

We know that the more complex the requirements, the more expensive all aspects of the project will be, simply because there is more to plan, design and develop. We also know that the development phase is generally the most expensive, but within the software development lifecycle as a whole, there are a multitude of factors (listed in no particular order) that influence the final cost of the project, including:

  1. Timeline - Does your software project need to be completed urgently? Generally the software development life cycle lasts anywhere from several months to over a year, but sometimes you can get lucky with agencies who are willing to prioritize getting a simplified version of your project out in much less time —- but it will cost you!

  2. Number of platforms - Do you want to build your product for use on Web only? Mobile? Both? For mobile, would you want a hybrid application? Or a Native application? The more platforms you need to build on, the more expensive the project will be.

    Here is a table to help you determine whether you need a hybrid or Native app:
  1. User Types - Are you building this application for one or two different user types, who all have essentially the same permissions? Or do you have three or more user types that will all need different levels of permissions (and perhaps different functionality) within the application? Usually more than two user types will start to have a significant impact on the project cost.

  2. Feature Complexity - Are you looking to build out your very own version of Discord or another large product with 100% custom, complex features such as chat or video streaming? OR are you more interested in making sure that your product serves a simple purpose and are willing to opt for integrations when they’re available? The more complex the features, the more design and development time is required, and the more expensive the application will be.

  3. Project Execution - Did you start off building this application with a solid foundation that can handle scale? If you started building this product, but it wasn’t done correctly the first time around, any design or development that must be re-done will greatly affect the overall cost of the product.

  4. Additional Features: If you are looking to launch a Minimum Viable Product, this early-stage version of your application will typically require less work than if you wanted to develop every single feature up front, significantly reducing the initial project cost. We advise the majority of our clients to start off with the MVP, and once they’ve gained sufficient traction with their current product, to build additional features on top of it later on.

The part of the project that will cost you the most is not doing it right the first time. Sometimes, the cheapest-appearing option is the one that can cause you the most amount of money in the long run, but even if you have a beautifully built application, make sure it’s what your target clients want by talking to them first. Contrary to popular belief, it’s unlikely that someone is going to steal your app idea, and the more people you can talk to to try and disprove your idea, the better. 

There are a number of steps you can take before you start to work with a software development agency that will help everyone involved in the project hit the ground running. You can figure out your problem statement and target market, conduct user interviews, find pitch competitions, create a list of required features and functionality, and more. In the Lithios Mobile App Roadmap, we offer tips on maximizing the amount of planning and research you can do before starting to work with a professional software development agency. 

We offer tips and guidance both in the Lithios Mobile App Roadmap and in the corresponding email series that you receive when you download the roadmap. If you’re early on your path, checklists like the ones provided in the Lithios Mobile App Roadmap, are completely free and may help you get your bearings in the world of custom software design and development. 


Lithios offers Discovery Workshops which are designed to create a solid foundation upon which to build your application. We can help you prioritize your needs, figure out your ideal technology stack, create User Experience flows, User Interface samples, brainstorm new ideas, and more! 

Reach out to us for a complimentary consultation where you can ask any question you might have. We’d love to guide you towards making the best investment for your unique requirements, timeline AND budget.

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