App Quote - What's a non-technical person to do?

App quote…. No Two words are more misunderstood in the outsourcing of app development than these. Getting an app quote, while seeming straight-forward, in reality, has no real way of being an exact quote or even properly explain and vet development talent when a non-coder looks for a team. Our team has worked in the industry for years and has settled on a solution that has the least friction for non-technical people needing apps for their startup or business.

Below are the 3 most important considerations when at the “app quote” stage of development.


1. Know what is entailed in an app quote

An app quote, unlike other quotes is nearly impossible to pin down when a firm or freelancer, or team member if you have developers. There is a skill that is required along with experience that helps guide, not just individual experience, but the team’'s experience. Let’s take a look at this from a software developer’s point of view.

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A non-technical person comes to you saying they need an app that is like Uber, but not exactly. That is very vague, so the developer needs to ask some questions to narrow down the requirements of the app. Some of these questions (the best questions) are, “what is a typical user experience?”, “what is your unique value proposition?”, and “what are the top 3-5 screens in your app?”. With these questions they learn that the app is Uber for pet sitting. The unique value is that pet sitters are hard to find and offering them on-demand allows people to schedule at the last minute. The 3-5 screens that are most important are 1. the location of the person requesting the sitter and the pet sitter themselves, 2. Payment is required to perform the service 3. Profiles for pet sitters with ratings are required. With this, we have a much better idea of what we need, but it isn’t perfect.

This is where most firms dig to in the idea to give a quote. This gives you a great idea of the overall purpose, but within all of the pieces required to make each of those things work, you are left to guess. In order to make sure it isn’t going to break you, most firms & freelancers over-estimate the development costs to cover worst case scenarios. Teams with coders on them take another approach, like we do with our app quote tool.

Breaking down these early narrowing efforts into even smaller pieces allows development to more effectively and accurately judge the time required to create the app. The smaller and more “irreducible” the items are, the better and more accurate the quote is. For instance, our quote tool uses past experience to guide the process of creating a quote. It also allows people to iterate, which we’ll get to in another point.

2. Know what good code is

Even when you get the idea and all its pieces into irreducible form, there are still choices to be made. How you implement any given piece of functionality normally comes with a new set of choices that a non-technical person can’t predict normally, let alone actually participate in the process of making a decision. This is where the other experts on your team come into play. You should have someone on the team that leads development. Mercury, our tool that eases this for non-technical people, still relies on some knowledge when the code hits the keyboard, so-to-speak.

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You also want the code to be structured in a logical way that won’t cause issues in the future and to be commented well enough for another developer to step in if something happens to the developer or there is an emergency requiring multiple minds. Commenting is something that seems innocuous, but it is integral in getting new developers (and your team) up-to-speed on the code as quickly as possible.

Testing is another area that code needs looked at, other technical tasks need done, and multiple devices need to have the app tried on them, all before a user sees it. This is very hard for non-technical people to do, even impossible. Therefore, it is imperative you find a partner that imparts what you need and you trust enough to be on your side as long as you need to outsource development. Along with this, you need a great transition, but that is another post.

3. Find a long-term partner

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Development isn’t one-and-done. The nature of software development in general is always changing and mobile devices have accelerated that trend. Updates to underlying software (even the Android and iOS operating systems themselves) can render your app useless in one update. Users are always being pulled into other apps and you must keep on-top of and ahead of your users’ needs through integrating feedback into your app’s development plan. All of this means you need to find a partner in a developer. Not just someone to develop an app, but someone to give you an app quote for things on a quick turn-around and be there when emergencies arise.

We tackle this hard task by offering the free app quote and giving some general advice and a good starting point for the MVP of the app. Getting a true backlog (specification priority list of irreducible items), is something that can cost a lot, but it is invaluable for getting a great app quote at all points and keep trust and communication growing and working well, respectively.


Getting an app quote is really the wrong way to go about searching for development. You need a full team of experts to help you even write the specifications. Therefore, it is best to find a great partner and plan for the long-term success of the full team working together. Do your best to vet for the talent that will help mimic teams with much more expensive development hires. Our membership imparts a Team Lead and Development Representative to convey our team’s words to development and lead it, leveraging their experience to help your app get done more quickly (we work on one-week sprints, by default) and on budget.