Breaking Down The App Testing Costs, Models, and Ways To Save

As of the first quarter of 2020, there were more than 5.5 million mobile apps in the leading stores. Google Play led the rankings with over 2.5 million applications. Needless to say that this number is growing steadily over the past years. People switch to mobile solutions in all spheres. And this trend opens limitless opportunities for businesses.

Put very simply, to get your own mobile app, you should move through a few stages. Most often, companies order mobile applications from vendors – teams that have experience in development. But actual coding is just a part of the big process that includes a few stages:

  • Discovery, requirements gathering.
  • Design, wireframing, and prototyping.
  • Development, coding.
  • Testing and quality assurance.
  • Deployment and store publication if needed.
  • Post-launch support, maintenance, marketing.

Each stage has specific rules, features, and challenges. What’s more important, each stage features different costs associated with the work done. Development processes are responsible for the majority of the expenses, especially in case of sophisticated functions and custom requests. 

In this guide, we’re going to focus on one particular part. It’s testing and QA. According to different estimations, app testing costs are from 10% to 20% of the total cost. Exact numbers may vary from $5,000 to $25,000 or more. Further, you can find more insights into the pricing models, actual costs, and ways to reduce these expenses. Enjoy!

Pricing Models in Testing

The first thing we should study here is pricing. As long as there are different forms of cooperation, it’s essential to know how much you would spend with each one. Basically, there are two ways to get your application tested: hire a freelancer or cooperate with a reputable agency. Let’s look at both options.

Freelance Pricing Models

If your project isn’t complicated and you need testing/QA only, freelancers may help. In a nutshell, you just should navigate to any freelance job platform, select the appropriate candidate (directly or through your offering), and agree on the terms & conditions. 

Often, freelancers focus on two pricing models:

  • Hourly rate. To count the cost, you should multiply the hourly rate of the chosen tester by the hours worked. That’s simple. The longer your team works, the more you’ll pay in the end. This approach leaves enough space for fraud, sadly.
  • Fixed fee. Here, the final cost is approved in advance based on the complexity of the project, your requirements, and the proficiency level of testers. Often, it’s pretty challenging to count everything correctly and offer the best price.

To estimate costs, let’s take Upwork. Among other jobs and offers, this platform lists mobile app testers and their hourly rates. The lowest rate is $32 while the highest one is $135. On average, hourly rates are around $50. 

Vendor Pricing Models

Software testing agencies often don’t offer such straightforward models. They take into account more factors to estimate costs more accurately and ensure their clients in the efficiency of services. That’s why this cooperation is a viable choice for businesses.

Source: Digital Connect Mag

Unlike freelancers, vendors offer more options. The most popular ones are these three:

  • Fixed price. This model is great for limited scope projects and startups. It’s similar to the fixed fee approach because the vendor estimates everything and proposes the final cost. However, this way isn’t viable if you need many ongoing changes.
  • Time & material. This option suits SMBs and complex projects with changing requirements. The T&M model relies on the hourly rate but also includes other expenses like licenses, hardware, trips, etc. It’s pretty flexible and leaves room for changes.
  • Dedicated team. The third approach is great for enterprises. It lets you get a full team of professionals or extend your in-house department with extra workers. Dedicated teams are great for full-cycle development but you also can get one for testing and QA.

Don’t forget that client-focused companies are always open to custom requests. If none of the listed models fits your requirements, reach the chosen team directly and negotiate changes in the price, schedule, or other aspects.

How Much Does It Cost to Test an App

Moving to exact numbers and estimations, let’s look at how the applications are tested at all. It’s essential to understand that Agile projects feature continuous testing. Yes, there’s a specific testing/QA stage but all other stages feature some forms of testing, too. That’s why the total app testing costs can be different, depending on how you estimate them.

Overall, we propose a breakdown by conformation. Conformance testing includes all activities handled before the release and delivery to the client. Non-conformance testing and changes include tasks and problems identified after the launch (particularly, by the users themselves). Spoiler: you want to invest in the first category because the second one is insanely expensive.

Let’s take a look at the specific activities included in the conformance and non-conformance testing stages. Here are the examples:

  • Direct/conformance testing:
    • Test planning
    • General reviews
    • Program testing
    • System testing
    • Acceptance testing
    • Related costs: software, hardware, employees
  • Indirect/non-conformance testing:
    • Minor and major app corrections
    • Redesign and bug fixing after the launch
    • Recovery after terminal issues
    • Costs related to failures and user issues
    • The next rounds of testing if needed
    • Related costs: software, hardware, employees

And what about real numbers? Well, there are different estimations. According to Clutch’s survey, the combined cost of testing and deployment phases vary between $5,000 and $25,000+. 63% of the project owners reported these app testing costs between $5,000 and $10,000. Still, you should understand that hidden testing that occurs before and after the actual QA phase may add more expenses.


Source: Clutch

So, the thing you should realize by now is that there are two app testing costs in general. The first category includes so-called conformance or direct testing. This part may be up to 25% of the total project’s spending. Another category is non-conformance or indirect testing. And it may be up to 75% of the total spending! Further, you can learn more about this difference.

Maintenance and Regular Development Updates

It’s the moment when things may become a bit complicated. The idea of testing is clear as this activity helps you to get rid of bugs and other problems, making a top-quality product. As we’ve discovered above, the earlier you find a bug and fix it, the cheaper app testing costs will be at all. In other words, post-launch testing is really expensive because you have to redesign whole modules, pay for customer support work, and mitigate reputational risks.

Nevertheless, there are other types of post-launch testing that aren’t devastating but helpful. Let’s briefly analyze these two activities and look at how they differ:

  • Ongoing tech maintenance. Testing procedures don’t stop after the launch. However, there are two ways you may bump into a bug. The least desired option is when a customer finds an issue and notifies your team. To avoid the related financial and reputational losses, you may want to get a maintenance team. It analyzes the application proactively, trying to eliminate problems before they can trouble users. The support team also handles customer requests but you want to minimize them.
  • Development and testing updates. Another case in which your app requires ongoing testing procedures is updating. Let’s be honest, none product is made perfect. There are some tweaks needed in terms of functionality, scalability, and performance. Overall, you just may want to add new features demanded by clients or freshen the design a bit. For all these changes, relevant testing is required. Consider such modifications as small app development projects. Test everything before the release to cut costs.

Long story short, these two approaches act as buffers between your product and unhappy customers. Indirect non-conformance app testing costs emerge when the testing team fails to handle pre-launch QA, tech maintenance, and dev updates. You’re risking spending a lot only if the internal testers can’t find and fix bugs, either legacy problems or ones appeared after an app update. And that’s the basics of app testing costs reduction. Want more insights? Read on!

How to Reduce the Cost of Testing

The next four hints aren’t ultimate but they can save a significant part of your budget. Get it right, it’s always better to invest more in testing to avoid extra spending in the future. But you should invest smartly. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Plan Everything Properly

First and foremost, understand the goal of testing. It’s not about eliminating all bugs. It’s about focusing on the acceptable quality level (which is different for all projects). You want to avoid exhaustive tasks associated with unnecessary app testing costs. Thus, define the desired quality level, choose features and sectors to be tested and ones to be left as is. And stick to the developed plan during the entire project.

  1. Test Early and Praise Holistic Testing

This part is extremely essential. Holistic testing provides for QA activities that go beyond the testing stage. In other words, you want to start testing from the requirements gathering phase and continue doing it even after the launch. Just look at the chart. You may spend $100 on fixing bugs during the planning stage. And you’ll spend $10,000 on fixing the same bugs after the launch. Hence, be sure to test early to get the best testing ROI.

  1. Adopt Automation when Possible

Manual and automated testing are two different approaches. To be honest, both of them work fine depending on the case. But we see many businesses that stick to manual-only testing nowadays, and that’s not the best plan. The thing is that automated testing is great when it comes to repetitive tasks in Agile projects. For more creative and, especially, regression testing tasks, we still suggest choosing a manual approach.

  1. Have Right People in the Right Places

Finally, remember about the skills waste as it’s called in Kaizen. This concept provides for significant losses related to a lack of expertise. If your testing team doesn’t know how to complete the tasks properly, you’re at a high risk of extra spending. Instead, it’s better to invest more in research or hiring to find the testers with the relevant skills and knowledge. Thus, they can complete your tasks faster and at a lower cost.

Justifying the App Testing Costs

At the end of the day, the final question sounds like “Why is testing needed at all?”. That’s true, we know that many businesses (including some of our clients) don’t realize the importance of testing. They say that app testing costs are too high and that it’s acceptable to launch any application without in-depth QA expertise.

Well, we hope that the previous section convinced you that testing is vital. The reason is pretty transparent: you risk spending much more money without pre-launch testing. The earlier a team of professional testers finds bugs and issues, the earlier analysts or developers can fix them. Ignore these problems, and you’ll spend a hundred times more to fix them after the release.

Finally, don’t forget about the indirect costs, too. It’s evident that launching a flawless or nearly bug-free app is better for your reputation than publishing a raw product. People appreciate your effort, they see that you care about their experience when you offer a well-tested solution without major issues. Think about this. And ask us if you need testing.

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Grzegorz Kłos
Grzegorz Kłos - Apphawks Co-founder
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