By Riley Panko

Your business decides to build an app.

After all, launching an app seems like a great idea. The app market thrives and users downloaded apps nearly 150 billion times in 2016. You read enticing success stories of revolutionary apps. You believe that building an app for your business will equal more customers, more traffic, more revenue, etc.

Does it make sense to immediately dive into crafting and coding your app?

No. Your business should critically analyze the need for an app before diving headfirst into the development process. A pre-research or discovery stage remains critical to an app’s success. In a recent survey of 102 app development companies on app development cost, Clutch found that nearly 70% of app development companies require a discovery stage and it’s average cost is less than $5,000.

The discovery stage allows businesses and their developers to thoroughly analyze how an app will contribute to the business’s overall goals. Without this analysis, your app risks floundering in the highly competitive app market.

What is the discovery stage in app development?

During the discovery stage, businesses and their developers plan goals, brainstorm ideas, and schedule work. People unfamiliar with the app development process may think that development companies only code. However, an app development company is often comprised of not only developers, but designers, business development associates, marketing professionals and more.

It’s beneficial for these app development companies to allot the time and human resources necessary to plan out an app, not just develop it. Thorough planning increases efficiency and the app’s likelihood of success. Questions to explore during the discovery stage include, among others:

  1. What are the theoretical app’s competitors?
  2. Is an app the best method for reaching the business’s goals?
  3. To some degree, what will the app look like?
  4. What is the timeline for this app development project?

The information found and analyzed in the discovery stage helps inform your app’s development, marketing, and long-term endeavors.

How does the discovery stage contribute to an app’s success?

The popularity of the discovery stage is a break from the early days of app development. “The early days of app development were more about what we could do than what we should do,” said Drew Johnson, Co-CEO of App Partner, a mobile app design and development agency.

“These days brands and startups need to be far more strategic,” continued Johnson. “Where will their app be able to create value in the lives of their target users? How will they be able to measure and demonstrate that value?”

If you create an app without determining the app’s value or how to measure its success, you set the project up for disaster. In 2014, Gartner determined that only 0.01% of apps will be considered financial successes by their developers through 2018.

This statistic shows that blind luck is not on your side when creating an app. Thoughtful planning, goal setting, scheduling, and brainstorming before any development begins sets your app up for a greater chance of success.

What does the discovery stage cost?

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of the discovery stage is its ability to offer a more accurate price estimate for an app. Apps can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to millions of dollars. It’s difficult for an app development company to offer an accurate price estimate if they do not have a full idea of how the app will be built.

“It makes sense to only give an exact [price] estimate after the team clearly understands what should be done,” said Dmitry Dobritskiy, CEO and Co-Founder of MindStudios.

Any smart business wants to avoid surprise costs or going over-budget. Those issues can be common in the app development world, especially if you do not properly discuss and plan the project before beginning development.

It’s tempting to accept an upfront bid, though.

“In the very beginning, when clients are trying to get a quote on a project, they tend to believe the company that offers a fixed price without doing proper research,” said Dmitry. “There’s always a pitfall there because, in the very beginning, neither the client nor the development team clearly understands what should be done.”

Thus, it’s in your best interest to conduct the discovery stage with an app development company before signing a contract for the full development of the app.


The discovery stage is critical to the success of an app. If you do not thoroughly plan out your goals, metrics, and needs, your app faces a high likelihood of failure. No matter how much marketing you conduct, if your app isn’t suited for your target audience, or isn’t being measured properly, you will struggle.

Be sure that any app development company you contract with allows proper time for the discovery stage.