During 2021, we at Whidegroup were seeing a significant increase in the number of requests for a custom Shopify app development. These requests frequently come with the desire for a precise Shopify app development cost estimation.
The thing is, in practice it is almost impossible to give a precise cost estimate for the development of a custom app before we know all the details of the project needs. To bridge the cost estimation gap, we decided to create this detailed guide for estimating the development time and cost that you should expect when addressing Shopify development companies. Continue reading and you will learn:
- Factors affecting the cost of custom apps
- App cost calculation methods
- Stages of Shopify custom app development
- An approximate estimate of the time required for an app to be completed
And, of course, we will help you to get an idea of the final Shopify app development cost to expect.
What Factors Determine the Cost of Shopify App Development
Before telling the client how much a custom Shopify app will cost, it is necessary to clarify the maximum number of requirements to the future app. In the case of Shopify apps, there are several factors that directly affect the final cost which we try to figure out first.
The functionality of an app
The more complex the functionality of a future app, the more it will cost you.
If you want to develop one simple function, like a product filter or add a customer feedback form to your store, usually, it won’t cost you a fortune. At the same time, though, these simple features are usually already available in the Shopify App store for you to add on. You can also check our two-part Top Shopify apps compilation, where we gathered only the best apps that will help you meet almost any need.
If we talk about the cost to develop a more complex custom functionality, it’s quite reasonable that it is going to be higher than the cost of an add-on app. So how do we actually determine the future cost of a Shopify app to give an estimation that is as precise as possible?
What type of a Shopify app do you need?
Now, when talking about the “types” of Shopify apps, we do not mean their features, or the type of e-commerce niche it is created to serve. What we mean here is the app’s purpose.
Are you creating your own Shopify app to serve the one and only store? Or maybe you have several Shopify e-commerce stores that need that one exclusive app? Or you just have a brilliant idea for the app which you want to develop and share with all Shopify merchants? Do you get it?
The thing is, Shopify gives you an opportunity to build three different types of apps: Public App, Private App, and Custom App. Every type determines the way an app will be developed and who can use your app in the future. Let’s review each of them in more detail:
Public Shopify Apps
Public Shopify Apps are those that have passed the Shopify App review process, are publicly available, and can be installed on numerous Shopify websites. Actually, there are two types of Public apps – listed and unlisted. You can see listed Shopify apps in the Shopify App store while unlisted ones are not in the App store listings but can be accessed by the link and installed the same way the listed apps are.
Shopify Private Apps
Private Apps are developed with the only store (and its needs) in mind. Such apps can’t be installed on other online shops or used by other merchants. To get a Private app for your store, you will need to provide a developer with API access to your store and access to your Shopify admin.
Custom App development is the best option for you if you want to add a unique feature to your Shopify store but are not comfortable with giving access to your store admin or API access to external developers. These apps do not need to pass the Shopify App review process and are not listed on the Shopify App Store. These features are developed exclusively for a single store and, as well as private ones, can’t be installed on other stores.
Although the type of the app you need doesn’t directly influence its final cost, the development process for each type has its own intricacies and characteristics. This means that the time required for development may vary slightly.
Who will be engaged in the development of a custom Shopify app?
In fact, this stage determines not only the final cost of a project, but also the quality of the final product. In general, there are three options for organizing the development process:
- Hire a Shopify development company
- Contact a freelance developer
- Build an app yourself
How do these options differ? Let’s take a look at each of them separately.
When should you hire a Shopify app development company?
Most often, in order to hire a close-knit team of developers, you will have to find a development company that has decent experience in Shopify app development.
Why a company? Let’s take a look at the main benefits of such collaboration:
- Companies usually provide comprehensive services. The result of this collaboration is a completely tested product that is ready to be installed and used.
- You will communicate directly with the project manager, not the developer. If you are not tech-savvy, the project manager is the one who eliminates all inconveniences and conveys the info from you to developers and back.
- Specialists working in Shopify development companies always have deeper expertise and more experience in this area.
- In most cases, cooperation with a company protects you from unforeseen situations and missed deadlines. For example, if you hired a freelancer, but for some reason they can’t continue working on your project, further work stops for an undefined period. In development companies such situations have contingency plans in place.
Is working with freelancers right for you?
Today, using freelance services is just as popular as working with companies. A business will often choose a freelancer because:
- You can save a lot of money by coordinating the process of a Shopify app development independently, and don’t have to pay extra for the project manager’s services.
- You will communicate with the specialist directly, without intermediaries.
- Some freelancers are ready to work on weekends and holidays, which means that even at the height of the vacation season and winter holidays you can count on active work on your tasks.
However, there is another side of the coin. Depending on the technical requirements and overall complexity of your future Shopify app, you may need to hire one to five freelancers (designer, developers, etc.) to create your development team. In order to develop a quality product, specialists working on the project need to communicate with each other. This means that you will have to first find and hire every freelancer, and later establish contact between them potentially being the go-between and having to understand the technical aspects to communicate.
If you hire specialists from different countries, mutual understanding between them can turn problematic for many reasons. Accordingly, there is a risk of misunderstandings between remote employees and other issues like language barrier or work schedules that will negatively affect the quality of the final product.
Can you manage the Shopify app development yourself?
If you answer “Yes”, this only means that you do not need this guide. Having enough knowledge about the intricacies of the Shopify app development and, of course, practice, you can start the development right away and without third-party assistance. Here is your answer to the main question of this article, namely “how much does it cost to build a Shopify app?”. For you, it will account to 0. Instead, you may be interested in reading our definitive guide on how to create a custom Shopify theme.
How Shopify App Development Pricing is Usually Formed
Generally there are two common ways to calculate the costs of web development of any type: fixed price and time and material.
Fixed price model is applicable to projects with a clear or default functionality. These are the projects that have:
- A clear technical task
- No, or almost no, custom logics
- Minimal risks associated with a change in the project requirements
This option is often a good idea for startups and small scale projects.
It is important to note that nobody needs to develop an app with default functionality anymore. Such apps are already available either with Shopify out-of-the-box features or in the Shopify App Store. So every quote request we receive from potential clients concerns the development of complex solutions and needs to be individually researched and estimated.
That is why Whidegroup uses the Time & Material pricing model for all our projects. We know that it is simply impossible to precisely estimate the cost of a Shopify app development without having a clear technical task, which can be compiled only after a thorough interview with the client. Based on the detailed technical task, we can estimate the time (in hours) needed for the development and implementation of the requested app.
Important! No estimate can be 100% accurate. Therefore, deviations from the declared time estimate by 10-20% (up or down) are usually implied.
What are the Stages of a Shopify App Development Process
The Shopify app development process usually includes five stages. The number of stages mainly depends on the project requirements, which become clear after the initial interview.
Stage 1: Discovery
After the initial interview, our major task is conducting a deep analysis of the market and the client’s niche. As the result of the research we:
- Define the scope of a project
- Evaluate the competition in the niche market
- Map a user journey
- Choose a technology stack
- Give an even more precise time & cost estimation for a project
- And map our further steps
This stage usually takes up to 40 hours.
Stage 2: Design
An app design is not just about the way users will see your app. It is more about the way they will interact with it. The greater the user experience your app provides, the more likely it will succeed.
There are two steps of a Shopify app design creation – wireframing and prototyping:
- Wireframe represents the future structure and layout of the app. With its help you can understand the placement of elements and the functionality visible from the website front and back.
- Prototype is made to simulate user interaction with the app. It is a high-fidelity wireframe that looks and works almost like a finished app.
Rare apps don’t need a design. Such features are integrated into the website backend and do not require a store manager or a customer to directly interact with it. All other apps always require a visual part either on the website’s fron-tend, or back-end, or both of it, depending on who is the end user.
Stage 3: Development
Now that the app’s design is ready, we start working on the custom logics development. Again, depending on the app functionality, the development process might look different and take more or less time to be completed.
In the next section we will show an example of how much time the development of two different Shopify custom apps might take, from our own experience.
Stage 4: Testing
Testing is vital, as you know. Different teams can have different approaches to quality assurance on their projects. As for Whidegroup, to verify that every aspect of the developed Shopify app works properly and actually performs expected functionality, our QA specialists thoroughly test the app at every stage of development.
In general, there are two types of testing we perform for every custom Shopify app:
- Functional testing. This stage allows us to test the app’s features, validate that it is functional, usable and reliable, and report bugs.
- Non-functional testing. These are usability tests, the goal of which is to make sure that the app provides an effective interaction design for its users.
After the final tests are performed, we are ready to submit and launch a new app.
Now, your app is ready to be installed and used on a Shopify store. The next steps will depend on the actual type of an app. If it is supposed to be a public Shopify app, you’ll need to prepare it for the Shopify App Store submission.
To be successfully submitted, the Shopify App Review team must review your custom Shopify app and approve it for further publication. For more information on the app submission process, you can visit the official resource.
Although, even if you are building a Shopify private app, before launching it, you should make sure it meets the vital requirements. So, every Shopify app must:
- Be properly configured
- Meet the functional and quality expectations
- Be secure
- Provide the support for further improvements and maintenance
- Offer customer support
Done? Congratulations. You now have your new Shopify feature ready for installation and use.
How Whidegroup Estimates the Time and Cost for a Custom Shopify App Development
As we’ve already mentioned, it is nearly impossible to estimate the time required to build a custom Shopify app before exploring all requirements to the future functionality. However, we’ll try to uncover time and price estimation peculiarities based on our own experience.
Lately, we’ve developed two totally different custom Shopify apps.
- 1. The first one is Census – a public survey app, which helps merchants to get valuable feedback from customers with the help of surveys, conducted after the purchase is complete. All surveys can be created right from the Shopify admin panel. A merchant defines the number and the order of questions to be asked. Right after the checkout, the customer is asked different questions depending on the product SKUs they’ve added to the cart and purchased. The discovery stage took us 30 hours to complete. For the design, development, and testing we spent about 130 hours. Consequently, the whole process from the first interaction with the client and until the app was submitted to the Shopify App Store took no more than 160 hours.
- 2. The second one is a public unlisted app made with several specific stores in mind and supposed to serve as a kind of out-of-stock tracker. The tracker is strongly tied to Shopify. Once a day, it is tracking all the products in-stock and compares the result to a previous day. So, the merchants have fresh data on their stock every day. The time spent for development of this app was less than the survey app. Whidegroup team spent 20 hours for the discovery and analysis, and about 95 hours for the development, testing, and implementation for a total of 115 hours.
Of course, the apps mentioned were not too complex to implement and didn’t have a long list of required functions so the hours spent in development reflected as such. Our portfolio also includes several, more complex, successfully developed apps, so we know that some high-level custom Shopify apps can take from 2,000 to even 20,000 hours to be developed, as well as discussing the alpha/beta version of the final product.
So, How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Custom Shopify App?
After reading this article, you know that the cost to develop a custom Shopify app depends on the time required for its development.
When searching for the Shopify app developers to assist you in the project, you’ll find out that the developers’ rates can differ significantly.
Generally, the rates for Shopify app development start at $15-$20/hr, and can reach as high as $200/hr. It usually depends on the developer’s location and their experience. So, how much does it cost to build a custom Shopify app?
LocalizationEstimated cost for custom app development (~100 hrs)
If you plan to create your own Shopify app, the cost calculation is not the only issue you will face. Besides the Shopify app development cost calculation you will need to define the final list of features, have a clear understanding of the competition in the niche, and, of course, choose a partner with the most reliable experience to work on the development of your app. Weighing all pros and cons and choosing the best Shopify developers only by the cheapest rates or location is not the best decision. So before signing the agreement with a team, make sure they have relevant experience in your niche and won’t charge you extra money. Approaching several agencies with your inquiry is also a good idea.