The not-so-satisfying answer is that you’ll never be able to calculate the exact cost of an app. The development process can be full of surprises, especially as expectations for the product change along the way. The first thing you need to do is set clear goals.
These are the simple steps you can follow to make sure you have clear goals for your project:
Define measurable metrics for each task - know what the MVP of your product should look like, and how you’re going to check whether it meets your expectations.
Consider the team that will be working on them - will it be just one developer and a designer, or are you going to have a separate Quality Assurance Specialist?
Talk to your team during the planning stage and figure out the project schedule together.
Consider the costs outside of development, like marketing and platform maintenance.
The last point is more important than you might think. You’ll need a domain, hosting, copywriting, and maybe someone to run a social media campaign. The specifics are going to depend on your product, but it’s important to include them. This way, you won’t end up cutting features to cover marketing costs.
Here are the costs that you will have to face during developing, deploying and maintaining a Django application:
Feature changes and creation of custom features and code;
Scaling a developed product;
Infrastructure maintenance and management;
Additional security measures if required.
In this article, you’ll find an in-depth analysis of each of these points and their effect on app development costs, as well as tips on how Django can help you be more efficient when building your project.
Regardless of the chosen tools, developing a web application can be time-consuming. The more often the idea for a given feature changes, the more time will be required to deliver that feature. That will definitely generate some costs. Django isn’t an exception. In most cases, the best strategy is to quickly build a Minimum Viable Product and launch it, to gain traction, get user feedback, and have something to show to investors.
The creators of Django knew that and offered some convenient features to reduce development time to a minimum. These features include a template engine, generic classes that are free to be customized, and ORM as a convenient DB interface. Thanks to this, development can proceed more smoothly, and MVP features can be generated faster. This can reduce costs, as it’s easier and cheaper to reject a bad idea when you can see it in action and identify its faults, or to fix small issues with an otherwise good idea before it’s grown into a complex feature.
Some programming languages require a lot of code to accomplish seemingly simple tasks. There is a good reason for it, often related to performance speed and scalability. Nevertheless, technologies like C++ or Java might not be the best option for you if time is of the essence. Python, on the other hand, does away with a lot of useless “code fat”.
Experienced developers will focus on efficiency, using ready-made packages and libraries, while less experienced ones might end up reinventing the wheel. There are many libraries out there that help create commonly used features and solve typical development problems. Additionally, Django offers a lot of different generic class-based views, which, used wisely, will reduce the implementation time. It’s not only the quicker way to deliver the functionality, but it is also recommended that you write your own views based on the generic ones.
Feature changes and custom code
Like most modern frameworks, Django offers a lot of built-in resources for the most needed functionalities such as: registration. login, logout, password reset, and handling permissions for specific users. The list of these reusable solutions for Django is impressive. By using existing solutions, which have already been tested by thousands of people, you can also manage the costs of quality assurance.
Your app most likely won’t be created just by stacking existing packages like legos, however. Unique custom features are often the main differentiating factor between competitors. These are the parts of your app that will be the most time-consuming and costly to develop, especially when you factor in a proper quality assurance flow.
Finally, consider your platform. If you’re building a web app, will you need native mobile apps in the future? If so, that should be factored into your costs and you should probably consider technologies that will allow you to reuse some of the code on multiple platforms. Remember that Android in particular is a challenge due to the many screen sizes and specifications of Android devices.
Scaling a developed product
Once your MVP is up and running, and hopefully attracting a good user base, you’ll want to extend your product’s feature set, improve user experience, and scale the app to support a large number of users at one time. Scalability will be the next cost generator that every team will have to face. Much can depend on the technological stack. Django scales well, and it’s easy to build up from an MVP once the business concept has been proven. The technology comes with everything that’s needed to develop most types of apps beyond that early stage. This means little backtracking and no unexpected extra costs.
Infrastructure maintenance and management
The costs of developing an app aren’t limited to developers’ salaries. Maintaining a stable infrastructure and managing it properly can have a huge impact on project spending, especially with apps that have to scale for large user traffic. Django apps can be hosted on Amazon, Heroku, DigitalOcean and other popular infrastructure providers, to take advantage of modern scalable hosting solutions. Consider a scalable service which will let you pay only for the infrastructure your app needs at any given moment, like AWS Lambda, or the serverless approach.
There’s no way to plan around errors and dead ends. If your app isn’t extremely simple, mistakes are going to happen during development, even with the best QA process and the most experienced team. This means you should know what your team will do to solve issues as they arise. Will they be able to find resources online and work solutions out quickly, or will they be on their own?
Django’s robust community and some of the best documentation out there makes information easy to get and solutions quick to find. The amount of resources available (most of which are regularly refreshed) is a great benefit to any development team. On top of that, Python has a built-in library that solves many common programming issues, and it comes with a unit testing framework.
Because of how readable and sleek Python is, not only is it more difficult for developers to make costly mistakes, it’s also much easier for new developers to pop in and take a look at the code, without spending additional time on gaining an understanding of the project. This can help when problem-solving or with peer reviews that help maintain high code quality. Regardless of the technology you choose, make sure that your team’s development process includes keeping the code clean and healthy. It’s a small investment that can help you make huge savings throughout the project.
Django is very secure by default and helps developers avoid common security mistakes. It offers a lot of built-in security features, like CSRF tokens, user password hashing, authentication and authorization modules, or even scripts that will run a security checklist before deployment. Additional costs can be generated if some custom security measures are required. But even then external Django modules are present to help your development team with the task. For example, there are modules that will easily implement external file storage (like Amazon or Azure) or add two-step validation for users. Adding additional security measures can be costly, but underestimating application security can potentially generate huge losses later on.
There are aspects of custom software development that are difficult to predict. Cognitive bias, the planning fallacy, and sheer happenstance can have a more profound effect on your estimations than anyone could expect. Thankfully, Django makes estimations easier and development more predictable by providing high development speed, flexibility, security, easy testing, code readability, and a vast range of resources. By using built-in Django apps, admin panel, third-party packages, and generic class-based views, you can save a lot of time and reduce project costs.