So you have an idea for a website or a web application or a mobile app that you want someone to create for you and now you are wondering what to do.

We get asked this all the time. Because of that, we created this handy little guide of what you should do to get started.

Option A: You can call someone who can explain to you what it might cost, and maybe tell you what you need.  


Option B: You can do a bit of prep work and then call someone – and only get the answers that you really need. You will get a lot MORE value and a lot better answers the more you know about what you want your app idea to be before you call anyone.


Technology is very hard to quote, especially if it is a new idea that requires custom work as there are so many ways to execute any vision. Application makers use different pricing models for different features and technologies. Knowing what you want before you ask for a quote, and arranging it in a way that vendors want, gives you the power to get quotes that can be easily compared to each other. It also protects you from vendors potentially selling you something you don’t need. For example, some app developers charge extra for an admin dashboard and sell you an app without one for a lower cost, and then when you ask they ask for more. Other vendors may lower the cost by outsourcing all their work, or by leasing you an app – where they own everything (the code and all the data) and they just let you use a customized version of a template.   

You might not be able to answer some of these questions on your own. And that is fine. You should think about the following for your idea before you call anyone to help you with it. But even if you don’t get it right, having a simple list of what you want makes a big difference. 

Just knowing the questions and knowing what to expect as an answer is enough to get you a lot more value from anyone you call to get help with your app/website project.

#1 What do you want?

This is the most important question to answer because it determines everything else. 

Some people will answer this question with  “I want an app like this one…”  or with “I want an app that does this”. That is too vague. To get good advice and to get a very detailed quote you need to provide more details. You need to have the details available with you, but you don’t have to share them on the first call.

You can always ask the vendor to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before you share anything with them. 

You should also have a short high-level description of your idea that you can share with anyone for a quick quote – an elevator pitch style description that explains to a vendor the project’s overall business goals. This will shape the conversation and allow the vendor to guide you better.  

What you really want to do is decide what features you want and list them. Different features take a different amount of effort to create, and the more effort a feature takes to create the more expensive it is to develop.

Some web-based features also can be done either fully custom or using existing plugins. Telling the vendor about how complex you need each feature to be, allows the vendor to give you the best advice on whether that feature should/could be made from scratch or if can be reliably implemented with existing components. 

To decide on features you want to think about the types of users you will have and what features each user will have on each of the components/platforms of the app. 

For example, you might want to decide what features you want to have as the administrator/owner of the app to have in the web-based admin dashboard. Another example of a key decision to think about is whether will there be a website and will any of the users be able to log in to it. Here is an actual example: “I want the main users to be able to (sell products) through a mobile app. And I want buyers to be able to (see) what they bought on a web app/website. And I want me, the administrator/owner, to approve each transaction before the buyer gets their product.”

The feature list could be as simple as a basic bullet point list – for example:
A. Mobile App (driver): track driver, see driving report, see distance, calculate distance
B. Mobile App (client): pay, register, find driver, see custom map, track data about user
C. Web app (Dispatch): track driver, message driver, see report on driving, find the nearest driver, download report (in PDF, Excel, CSV, etc)
D. Web app (Moderator): moderate activities, edit posts, make payments, control other users,
E. Admin – this is always web-based. We will make suggestions on what you need in your admin portal, but you can always add or type it nonetheless. It is best if you elaborate on the type of reports you want to see as an admin.

Other points about it:

i. User type examples: drivers, customers, administrators (you who will be managing the app), readers, buyers, sellers, etc

ii. Features are the actions (verbs) that each user can do on each of the. For example: buy, sell, list, download, view map, manage map, edit. 

iii. Components of the app are the web-based admin dashboard, a website, a mobile app, or a specific mobile app – if different users will have different apps – or any combination of these. You can read more about the different types in the article by our Senior Client Advisor Boris: What is an application? What is included in an application?

iv. Other considerations to be aware of: speed/SEO optimization, the ability to easily scale it quickly to many users, latency, and starting with a prototype first (you don’t have to get a full app right away). Here is a blog post that explains the difference between an MVP, a prototype, and a proof-of-concept: link.

You can write these in a simple high-level list or you can go into a lot of detail. The more detail you provide the more accurate your quote will be. It is common for startups to even do some very basic designs or user flows before asking for a quote. These are very powerful ways to help a vendor understand your vision.


#2 How fast do you want it

What is your timeline horizon? Or do you even have one? What are your timeline expectations?

Do you have a deadline for when you need it built or by when you need to have a prototype finished? 

For example, do you have a deadline from an investor or from a grant or when your peak season starts?

Is there a general timeline you need or want to have for the project? For example 2 weeks or 4 months.

This is a second key piece of information to think about and to be able to provide on your first call. That is because not every vendor will have the resources to be able to complete your project within your timeline. 

This question also impacts the type of technology and features that a vendor will suggest to you. Template-based websites and mobile apps with simple features can be created within 1-2 months. 

Complex custom features and websites take longer to create and might not be possible to do within your timeline.


#3 How much do you want to spend on it?

A detailed quote is what everyone wants. But to get a good quote you need to be honest upfront with your potential vendor about what you expect. There are so many ways to create each technology project, and prices vary so much in our industry. Therefore it is key that you set the expectation right away around which general figures you are talking about. This will save you and your potential vendor a lot of time by making sure that you are both in the same budget range.
Cost is a very important topic but it comes third on the list because you should always start with what you want. If you have a smaller budget and you are willing to compromise you might be able to get what you want within your budget. Regardless of your budget, it might not be enough to cover the cost of making what you in one way but it can be enough to execute your project in another way.

Therefore, it is very important that you clearly state your rough budget range/expectations for what you are looking for so that you can quickly learn if you can afford what you want.

Examples of budget ranges are $15,000 – $25,000 || $30,000 – $45,000 || $50,000 +

When you have a budget range you can get a very quick solid quote without revealing the exact amount you want to spend.
Sometimes what one considers a “large budget” is not enough for what they are looking for. So stating upfront what you are expecting helps your vendors greatly in their estimation.
You can read more about how you can ensure that you are getting an accurate quote here: link.

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