I am trying to work up a budget for an app, specifically a budget for hiring a third-party programmer to add a specific feature, and I'm trying to figure out how to get a decent number. The requirements are beyond my ability to estimate, so I'll obviously need to talk to someone with more experience, but I don't know anyone with this sort of experience.

My first thought was to just post a job on oDesk or something similar, but here's the thing: I'm not ready to hire someone yet, and it seems less-than-professional to post a job listing just so I can poll programmers on how much something might cost me later.

I can't imagine I'm the first person to encounter this problem. Is posting a job listing an acceptable way of price estimating, or if not, how does one estimate a budget without doing that?

For what it's worth, what I'm looking for is largely a self-contained feature, with minimal integration with the pre-existing code. As an example, imagine hiring someone to animate a ball bouncing across the screen whenever a button is hit. I can handle the menu design and button, I just need someone to work up the code that happens when that button is hit (creating an animating a new object onscreen, simulating gravity and impact physics, etc). I'm trying to figure out how much to budget for "the programmer I'm going to hire to animate that ball," so their familiarity with the code of the project at large isn't terribly important.

  • @Ordous I added an edit to my question, addressing the issue of familiarity with code. You are perfectly right, but in this particular instance, familiarity with the project isn't as important. They just need to add code that does one particular thing, at a particular spot. – Nerrolken Mar 12 '15 at 18:32
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    Sorry, I can only comment with an xkcd xkcd.com/1425 – Pieter B Mar 12 '15 at 18:40
  • @PieterB Well, I just found my new desktop image. – Nerrolken Mar 12 '15 at 18:53
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    You might just assume the cost will be the upper bounds of what you would be willing to pay to have it done. Barring that, I don't see why you can't contact programmers and ask for a quote - so long as you are up front with the fact that you aren't ready to move forward immediately. – GrandmasterB Mar 12 '15 at 19:55
  • Have you considered speaking with a consultant? – lunchmeat317 Mar 13 '15 at 18:11

Make sure that you

Make your requirements extra crystal-clear to understand

and then

Understand how software developers estimate their own projects

To do the second one I would recommend reading up Black Art of Software Estimation.

With these two things in mind you will be able to closer estimate your project to something that other developers would want to work on more eagerly + you won't pay more than you have to.

  • Thanks for the answer! Is "Black Art of Software Estimation" a book, an article, or something else? My Google search is returning dozens of different results (it seems like a lot of people use that term), but you seem to be referring to something specific. Do you have a link? – Nerrolken Mar 12 '15 at 18:34
  • @Nerrolken I totally forgot to include the link. Edited now so you can check it out. – AvetisG Mar 12 '15 at 18:36

Maybe you should hire a developer to make the estimate and determine the budget for you. When the requirements are beyond your capability of estimate the estimate is probably way of and useless.

Also make a min-max estimation, min for when everything is easy and a max for when things are difficult.

And multiply the estimate by 2 ;) Software estimation is very difficult and developers are optimistic.

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