How much does going mobile really cost?

How much does going mobile really cost?

As more citizens access government services via mobile platforms, agencies are responding with native mobile applications, responsive web design and mobile web development. But the costs of building and maintaining a mobile presence can make for a big investment in the smaller platform.

The cost of federal application development can run between $50,000 and $300,000, according to an informal survey of members of the MobileGov Community of Practice that was detailed on DigitalGov. The costs varied depending on how the app functions, its integration with existing databases and whether it needs new content. The Apple developer toolkit costs $99 a year, and Google’s is a one time cost of $25.

Then there’s maintenance to address operating system upgrades or new content. Depending on how the changes, expect annual maintenance costs of $10,000 to $12,000 per app -- and more if major changes are needed.

And though using responsive design for a website offers a less-expensive option than building native apps, it also has its costs. DigitalGov found an average fixed contract price for web redesign with six templates to be $85,000, before in-house development costs.


DigitalGov recommended preparing for and being aware of long-term costs before jumping into the process, as the shift to mobile is only growing.

Last year, InformationWeek suggested agencies seek a “build-once, deploy anywhere methodology,” in order to use one template across all necessary channels. Paying once for a single development platform is much more cost efficient.

The post also suggested using one common code base, such as JSP, HTML or CSS, rather than using separate, specific codes for platforms like iOS, Windows Apps and Android.

Other tips from m-Power, a web application development platform provider, include starting with clear specifications for what is needed, investing in a single template or framework rather than starting from scratch, or integrating already-made tools or features before building from scratch. 

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a Reporter/Producer for GCN.

Prior to joining 1105 Media, Ziadeh was a contributing journalist for USA Today Travel's Experience Food and Wine site. She's also held a communications assistant position with the University of Maryland Office of the Comptroller, and has reported for the American Journalism Review, Capitol File Magazine and DC Magazine.

Ziadeh is a graduate of the University of Maryland where her emphasis was multimedia journalism and French studies.

Click here for previous articles by Ms. Ziadeh or connect with her on Twitter: @aziadeh610.


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