Have an idea for an app? Here’s where to start:

Basic Flow:

  • Idea
  • Wireframe
  • Designer
  • Developer
  • Prototype
  • Testing
  • Full Product (v1)
  • Testing
  • Launch


The cost of an app varies greatly depending on the scope of project. I’m going to model the development of an app with the technical capabilities to transition into a real business.

Theoretically, you can throw up an app for a few thousand dollars, but its going to be just that – an app. No backend, No API, etc.

Thinking a good app can be created with a few thousand dollars like looking at the tip of a iceberg and thinking thats the whole thing.

For a good developer, you should be paying anywhere from $75 / hr to $150 / hr.

For a good designer, you should be paying anywhere from $50 / hr to $120 / hr.

A rough estimate for an average app wold be 500 – 1,000 hours of development to product launch.

You’ll probably hit a feature complete prototype 1/2 of the way through (250 hrs).

Some choices you make early on will greatly affect the price:

– Custom backend or working on top of something like Parse (http://parse.com). Custom backends allow for more flexibility in later stages of development (thinking longterm), but are also more expensive to build the first time.

Realistically its going to cost $30k to get a prototype (design + development) and probably $60-100k all in for an app ready to go live in the app store (and work like it should). That said, it depends a lot on exactly what you’re trying to build. Creating a simple game would cost a lot less than creating a full feature social network from scratch.


Where to start:

In my opinion the first step is to find a great designer. They’re going to turn your “vision” into an actual design which is then sent to the developer who makes it work.

It is a massive help for designers to have a clear idea of what you want, and a “wireframe’ is one of the best ways to do this. Wireframes are basic mockups / sketches that include basic design elements as well as the flow of how users would navigate through your app, what features it has, etc.

I personally use http://www.balsamiq.com/ for mockups / wireframes, but there are a ton of services out there that allow you to do app mockups. This one’s really cool: http://popapp.in/

After you have your designs created and finalized from the designer, the developer can start. Realistically, the developer is already setting things up and building a framework while the designer is finishing up his work.

Having finalized designs will make it very clear to the developer as far as what they need to execute. This also makes it easy to setup milestones and track progress (helps the project from getting away from you).


Where to find Designers & Developers:

Best way to find designers & developers is through referrals – ask around and find someone who’s worked with people and will vouch for them. The hardest part about finding both designers and developers is getting someone who you trust and who is reliable – someone who won’t string you along. In my opinion its always better to wait and find the right person (no matter the price) than try and squeeze your budget to get a less reliable developer. A bad team member can stall a project to its death.

I try to find designers who can also code – this shortens the process of needing to find multiple people. In addition, the work usually turns out better if you have one person handling both the design and development. Going from one person to another is like playing telephone, some of the info always gets tweaked a bit each time its passed to another person.




Dribble is my favorite place to find great designers (and developers).

Search for designers who have a similar style to what you have in mind. Search “iOS” or “Vintage” or “Apps” and create a list of people you’d like to work with.

After narrowing it down to a few people and contacting them (some won’t be interested, some will be busy, etc.), you should send them your wireframes.

Don’t worry about telling them your idea or sharing your wireframes – they won’t steal your idea. Ideas are only a small part of the game – a successful app / company is about the combination of design, development, idea, marketing, money, connections, etc. – a designer or developer can’t run off w/ your idea unless they’re better at all the other things too (which is very rarely the case).


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