Design is more than the visual side of a business. Today we invite you to explore this topic and find out the factors that impact the cost of a mobile app design.
Here you can find a detailed overview of the cost with examples.
If you prefer visual to text, then go straight to the bonus Infographic “How much does it cost to design an app?”
When you are developing a new app or optimizing an existing one, designing an app is more about its functional approach rather than how it looks. The app should be easily navigable with enticing app designs that stand out from the competition.
We recently released an article on the cost of developing an app. Now, it’s time to estimate the app designing cost.
Considering some of the top tier companies such as Airbnb, Uber, Google, and Apple that dedicates a good chunk of success to their user-centric design strategy to deliver an extraordinary experiences.
Designing an exceptional UX isn’t a cakewalk. It begins with “understand your user.” Now, what makes an app user-centric?
To design a high-quality app, it’s essential to figure out what are the necessary aspects such as:
- User experience of the developed application
- Existing market for the app idea
- Preferences and taste of the target market
- Latest mobile UI design trends
In this blog, we will outline the essential steps involved in app design, actors influencing the cost of designing an app, and other necessary elements to help you get started with designing mobile applications.
Let’s dive in.
What is referred to as App Design Cost?
To understand it better, let’s first understand what mobile app design is:
Mobile App Design is a process of designing mobile apps, encompassing faster loading times, accessibility, and overall user experience.
According to Adobe, App design combines the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). While UI lends itself to the overall style of the app (including the colors, fonts, and general look and feel), UX focuses on the actual functionality and usability.
To pull each of these operations, resources are required. These resources come at a cost often referred to as app design cost. In general terms, the cost to design an application is the amount of capital spent from the budget for designing an application.
How Much Does It Cost to Design an App?
The app design cost varies from $3000 to $30,000. This is a quite wide range, that depends on a few factors: the complexity of an app idea, the type of team, and the team location.
Let’s take a look at the app design prices breakdown based on these factors.
Cost Depending on the Complexity
The app complexity is essentially equal to the complexity of the product idea: the number of roles, the number of screens, the number of unique features, their usability, and visual design. In turn, these parameters determine the viability of the business model.
Simply put, the simpler the business model and the challenges you will solve, the cheaper the app design will be. And usually, the simpler the design, the cheaper the mobile app development.
Let’s look at a few examples with conditional complexity.
|Average cost, $
|Simple App Design
|Average App Design
|Complex App Design
At the same time, keep in mind that this is a conditional value. Because if you have complex functionality on the backend, such as AI/ML integration, design can be cheap, while app development can be expensive.
Cost Depending on the Type of Team
Besides the complexity of the product concept, the development team is the second crucial factor, that defines the required budget for a design phase and software development.
As a basis for calculations, we’ll use the average size app, which requires 300 design hours.
|Type of a team
|Average cost, $
|Local design agency
We will consider each type of team in this section. Now, let’s talk about how a development company’s location can affect pricing.
Cost Depending on the Location of a Team
Please note, that the complexity of an idea defines the expertise level required to be able to develop an application.
At the same time, an experienced app development company from outsourcing countries can cost less than a less experienced team from the United States, Britain, or Western Europe.
We’ll use the same example, an average size app, which requires 300 design hours.
|Average cost, $
The choice of design partner is determined by many factors: from available project budget to quality requirements or availability of niche expertise. We’ll talk about the checklist to help you choose the right partner later.
For now, let’s look at the design aspects that shape the price.
What Factors Impact the Cost of a Mobile App Design?
In this section, we will talk in detail about the technical aspects of design that set the price and duration of an app design and development.
Let’s get straight to the point.
Factor 1. The Type of Design
There are two types of app designs that you can implement. And the mobile app design price for both of these design services will be different.
Type 1. Custom Design
The custom design of a mobile app means you need to create a User Experience and User Interface from scratch instead of using premade libraries.
Most probably, the cost will be higher than the native design. It is much more effective, and at the same time, it is also risky.
|Uniqueness. With customizations, you can control the app design cost while ensuring uniqueness and exclusivity. However, while creating unique experiences, the designers must not sidetrack the core principles of UX design.Branding. You can ensure that your mobile app design and cost reflect the organization’s vision and mission. Customizing the design can take a healthy representation of your company’s profile.
|Overall cost. The answer to how much does it cost to design an app can vary with this approach. It is because customizing a design can take time, effort, and money. Plus, there is no limit to what kind of design and which level of designers you can hire.Cost per designer. Finding a good designer who understands the nuances of custom designing while keeping the cost in check is not easy.
Almost every app on the phone has a custom design: Uber or Lyft, Tinder or Bumblebee, Airbnb.
A customized design will bring groundbreaking success if you do everything right and learn to understand the customer’s perspectives, engagement levels, and pain points.
But as an alternative option, there is a native design.
Type 2. Native Design
Nativity to a mobile app design means following the platform-specific design guidelines and element placements. For instance, with the iPhone, the button to “Go Back” is always on the top left corner of the phone screen.
iOS, Android, and other mobile device platforms have some set precedents of how everything shall look on the screen.
Following the native guidelines, you will incur fewer application design costs relative to the custom design.
|Platform-specific design. Due to this, the mobile app design price is also lower. Platform specificity implies that the designers can access all the standard functionalities without running into design or framework errors.Easy implementation. With native app design, the designers will primarily work with familiar systems. There is less room for experimentation with a lesser learning curve.Quicker development. Here, you can use templates of high quality. This saves time for developing everything from scratch. Also, the final cost to design an app is less.
|Less experimentation. Some designers believe that a native mobile app design framework reduces the potential to explore. There is a lesser inclination to deviate from the set standards that take all the fun out of the design.Limited design solutions. Because a native mobile app has to follow the set guidelines, the number of features is limited. Design elements like buttons, scrollers, screens, and so on have a limited variety.
Examples of apps with native designs are WhatsApp or Twitter.
Another critical factor is the app’s complexity. Let’s research it in more detail.
Factor 2. The Complexity of the App
In terms of design, the complexity of the app is, in fact, the number of unique screens, specific blocks, and exclusive interaction in its features. But we could decompose further on the following :
Number of Roles
One of the first things you need to define is the number of team roles for your design project. The more unique features you want to implement, the more UI/UX designers you need to find.
For a project of average complexity, you may need only a project manager, but also specialists that will be responsible for:
- Creating a user persona
- Sketching app wireframes
- Working on app prototypes
- Developing intuitive app interface
- Making necessary changes after testing and target audience’s feedback
Number of Screens
There are several basic screens and a number of platforms that your application needs. But you can go further and leverage the power of screens in various places of the application. Here, you can use:
- Welcome screens
- Onboarding screens
- Login screens
- Screens to indicate the next steps
- Screens containing buttons and icons
- Menu screens (hamburger menu)
- Other screens and pages like Errors.
But if you ask how much it costs to design an app with numerous screens, especially with animation, the answer will probably be higher than the average cost.
Number of Features
Here, the app design cost will depend on:
- The platform of the app development process (iOS app, Android app, cross-platform, etc.)
- Type of the product and type of app. Are you designing an MVP or a full-scale application with every tidbit added?
- Including the sophisticated technologies and AR, VR, AI, and ML elements, so on.
- Adding some unique elements for a specific cohort of users.
Depending on these factors, you will get an estimate of the number of hours required.
Your choice of the type of service provider will also change the app design cost. Let’s see how exactly.
Factor 3. The Type of Team
Who designs the application? Are you hiring a local agency, a group of freelancers, an in-house team, or outsourcing? Because the hourly rates of these players are different.
Let’s see what to expect if you hire an in-house team.
Type 1. In-House Team
In-house specialists are people who work in the company’s staff. This type of cooperation, like any other, has its pros and cons that we will consider below.
|It is easier to control all the activities of the internal team.In-house employees are more involved in all processes. They better understand the product, values, culture, and brand philosophy.The performance is high, as app developers devote all their efforts to one project.
|In-house employees can be limited to one project. Sometimes it can cause burnout.Hiring an in-house team costs much more than an outsourced team or freelancers. Use our startup salaries calculator to compare the price.If some employees get sick, you need to spend time or money on new hiring.
Hiring in-house teams can cost- and resource-consuming as it requires a lot of additional work.
The other option is hiring a local design agency.
Type 2. Local Design Agency
Hiring a design agency means hiring a team within your local proximity. Let’s break down the significant pros and cons of app cost design by a local design agency.
|The local team understands your market.
|There can be limited views on the overall perspectives.
|You’ll get better communication and faster updates.
|You can’t change the personnel of the team.
|You can work with a team in person and participate in all the processes.
|The cost can be higher depending on the location.
|The team can use local resources, brand ideas, and networking.
|The quality of work can vary.
Hiring a local agency in the USA can cost you $150 per hour. The other option is hiring freelancers.
Type 3. Freelancers
Hiring freelancers means you can choose specialists on your own. This approach has its pros and cons too.
|Freelancers are cost-effective.They are available in an instant.They are easy to hire.They can pick up your ideas quickly.
|Freelancers are not very reliable and efficient.Freelancers are not very smooth to deal with.They require more intricate management, and you may have to deal with various reworks.You will have to look for various freelancers for different roles.
The average pricing for freelancers involved in design ranges between $15 to $25 per hour.
This brings us to the last but one of the best options. Hiring an outsourcing agency.
Type 4. Outsourcing Agency
Hiring an outsourcing agency means hiring an agency located in another country, like Ukraine, for example.
It can get you lower rates and perfect quality. Everything depends on the time you need to provide input on all the elements of design. For instance, sketches, basic designing, branding, meetings, quality assurance, and so on.
Let’s see the main pros and cons of this option.
|You have access to the best talents.It can increase your revenue.You save time and resources.You can get a fresh look at your project.
|Time gap.You can’t control the entire process.There can be a lack of transparency.
Hiring an outsourcing agency in Ukraine can cost starting from $40 per hour.
What does usually include in the design process, and how does it impact the app design cost? Let’s go through this process in detail.
What are the stages of mobile app design?
An effective app design process revolves around delivering a great user experience and problem-solving approach. The mobile app design involve research, analysis, prototype designing, UI/UX, testing, and branding.
Catering to different facets of a mobile app design, here are 3 stages of app designing:
1. Analyze app idea
Estimated time: 20-40 hours with a maximum of 150 hours
App development starts with an app idea discovery and brainstorming. The very first step of app design is to convey the app idea correctly to the developers. During each stage of the mobile design, do substantial market research, study your audience well, create user personas to segment your users, analyze the actual user demographics, and behavior patterns.
This phase is crucial because designers work to take the client’s requirements and no one likes to pay the redesigning cost.
2. Work on the prototype (UI UX Design Cost)
Now, you are ready with your app idea, the next step is to shape them with documentation and wireframing. How much does it cost to develop a mobile app prototype?
To understand the app functions and future scope, try to focus on app usability, project complexity, and navigation. This stage includes App sketching, Wireframing, and User Experience (UX), and App Animation guides.
To design a great mobile app, sketches are used to display complicated app mechanisms. Popular sketching tools are Sketch, Buildfire, Adobe XD etc.
During this process, designers create interactive layouts to structure the app screens and showcase app screen connectivity with the help of some of the best mobile UI design tools for app designers. UX Wireframing ensures the app flow and gets the visual concept of an application. It gives a general understanding of an app and all the functions it does.
- UX Wireframes with Native UI Element
The mobile app UI design cost varies from app to app. To give an idea of the basic app interface and more detailed design structure, add distinct fonts, buttons and control styles, and other native UI components constitute the UX wireframe. Finally, the prototype phase ends with usability testing and validating the concept. Special tools like MARVEL, Balsamiq, and Photoshop are used.
3. Create Visual Design (UI)
In mobile application development, the visual design consists of UI mockups, that help users to understand the basic idea behind the app. It gives a clear idea of different approaches to style, use of different elements, forms, shades, color schemes, and others.
It’s important to know that visual design and branding are inter-related. Visual design is about creating a cohesive product style that includes an app’s logo, a mobile app icon, and screens.
Branding is another essential stage of mobile app interface design as it includes the creation of logos, fonts, and brand illustrations. Branding begins with mood board creation and then shifts to logo design. Check out the top app UI design trends and keep your eyes on how your competitors are designing an app.
4. How much does UI UX design cost?
To learn about “How much does UI UX design cost?”, the average cost of designing an app can be divided into factors mentioned below:
- Average cost to design an app for hiring a designer
The cost of hiring a designer depends on your budget and pocket. You can find a range of professionals, in terms of technology expertise, platform, experience, and pay range. To hire a professional senior designer, the hourly wage rate can go up to $150 per hour or even more. However, The average cost to design an app by hiring a decent app designer starts usually from $45/hour. There are numerous top mobile app design companies with some incredible design portfolio that charges from $45/per hour to higher end.
There are two major aspects of app development, function, and appearance. If your users want the app to be highly functional, your primary focus should be on the app features and secondly appearance. Just go with the flow, follow the market standards, look out to your competitors, and invest more to enhance the app features.
- Cost to design an application by region
If you’re looking to outsource your application designing, then services may vary according to the region. Although the cost to design an app differs between countries, we have listed out the average cost to design a good looking app from the most common hourly rates for design in US dollars.
- Mobile cost of designing an app by complexity
Whether you’re designing an app or developing one, both processes involve complexity analysis. Firstly, let us understand what defines the app complexity?
i) Number of platforms the app would be available on i.e. Web, Android, iOS etc.
ii) Number of user-roles and MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
iii) The complexity of app functionality ( Including AR)
iv) End-user requirements and specialization.
v) Customization standards
5. How much does it cost to design a simple app?
To further segregate the pricing, we have divided the topic “How much does it cost to design a simple app?” into 3 complexity levels. These cost estimation complexity levels not only give a decent idea about creating simple apps but complex apps too.
- Average cost of designing an app based on the type of platform
The development of native applications plays a fundamental role in deciding the cost to design an application. The app designing cost varies depending upon the platform.
The cost of app design for iOS tends to be higher due to bigger payments on Apple App Store and more strict rules, as compared to Android. Let’s figure out what are the key aspects.
Every app is unique as compared to design, function, and number of platforms. We suggest researching the target audience, business sector of application, and decide the platforms & technologies based on. It will help decide platforms while saving cost to design an application in the process.
- App design cost based on the type of Team
The average cost to design an app is directly related to the type of team chosen. In the spectrum, the type of teams can be divided into four categories i.e.
1. In-house team: An in-team is entirely made up of internal employees working together. It offers better control over the project. However, it is limited by the amount of resources required. These resources can either be the strength i.e. number of individuals in a team, devices, softwares, etc. Excluding the wager, there are also multiple operational costs attached with it.
2. Design Agency: Here, we are referring to the design agency from a local perspective. A design agency based out of the USA is going to charge a premium for the app design. Considering designing mobile apps is their core competency, they would handle the entire project by themselves. It means once the project is allotted, the design agency is responsible for the end-design based on your preference. However as stated above, these often require a decent budget.
3. Outsourcing: With outsourcing initial app design ideas can be turned into reality within a budget. However, to find a good design agency that doesn’t burn away the entire budget, a company from the USA needs to find an agency from a developing nation such as India, China, Pakistan, Philippines, etc. The only limitation is the geological distance and credibility of the agency hired.
4. Freelancer: Hiring a freelancer is the cheapest option. The limitations with freelancers is lack of control and the time taken by them to complete a project. Freelancer’s often work on multiple projects and considering they are a single army, the deadlines are often compromised. Also having quality issues is very common.
To understand range of charge accrued by the different types of team, we have consolidated the data into the table below:
|Type of Team
|Average Costing in $
|$45,000 and more
|$12,000-$15,000 and sometimes more
|Starting from $5000 (for experienced freelancer)
How Does the Design Process Impact the Mobile App Design Cost?
By taking an overview of both UI and UX elements, we will look at which tools can be used, the benefit of addressing these concerns, and how to approach them.
Let’s begin with the application UX.
Stage 1. UX Design and Its Impact on App Design Cost
UX design takes a major part in the whole mobile application UX/UI design process. About 70% of the design budget is used for creating the User Experience. Why?
The role of UX design determines the way your future product will work. Your concept becomes visual precisely at the UX stage.
But in addition to realizing your vision, UX also takes care of achieving your business goals as a founder, as well as user objectives. So, in fact, UX defines the development stage scope of work.
Let’s look at the UX process details:
- User research
- Mind mapping
- Low-fidelity prototypes
- High-fidelity prototypes
Let’s take a closer look at each point.
Step 1. User Research
During the research phase, we will identify the kind of research you require.
Make sure the business analysts conduct thorough research on the business model and technical aspects of designing the app.
Under user research, we want to answer questions like:
- Who are the ideal application users?
- Who are buyer personas?
- What are the goals that you want to achieve with the application?
This stage dramatically impacts the final cost of the app development, as here, we observe new trends emerging in the market and understand what functionality we can add.
During the research phase, we execute mind mapping.
Step 2. Mind Mapping
Mind maps leverage the benefits of a 2-D structure depicting the relative importance of each subject.
You can use the mind maps for:
- Showing the steps
- Informational hierarchy
The best part is that Mind Maps is apt for every stakeholder of the project. They help the viewer understand the core functions and the critical branches of the project.
Mind maps are essential from the perspective of mobile app design price.
More sophisticated applications with a user base of thousands create specialized maps – Ontology Maps.
In terms of other tools, the designers use prototypes of different fidelity.
Step 3. Low-Fidelity Prototypes
Low-fidelity prototypes often don’t involve user interactions. The design team uses them to collect and analyze feedback.
Low fidelity shows the placement of elements. It helps us understand what goes where in the application design and layout.
Think of it as the skeleton of your application. It does not have any color, vector shapes, and other elements.
For low-fidelity prototypes, you can use paper sketches. They become essential when you have an intricate application design and a lot of screens to cover.
However, if you are focusing on minimum viable application development, sketches can be left out.
Step 4. High-Fidelity Prototypes
High-fidelity prototyping includes wireframes, i.e. sketches created using the software. For example, we use Figma. It is the next level of creating a great application design, impacting the mobile application design cost.
Also, high-fidelity prototypes are created with interactions.
After completing the User Experience and its attributes, let’s move on to the User Interface.
And yes, UI also brings a difference in the app design cost.
Stage 2. UI Design and Its Impact on App Design Cost
User experience is how the application feels, and the user interface is how the application looks.
With UI, we have four different elements to cover:
- Color Scheme
- UI Kit
- Icons and Logo
Let’s consider each point in detail.
Step 1. Choose a Color Scheme
The user interface is about communicating your vision to the users. Every element that you add to the application has to engage with the user.
In UI design, you must take care of color psychology. Here, it’s essential to understand the impact of every type of color on your users.
Step 2. Create a UI Kit
UI Kit is a time-saving element of the application.
Using a great UI Kit like Lovely UI or Pttrns will undoubtedly reduce the app design cost. It provides you with ready-made elements of app design. It is excellent, efficient, and provides us with the requisite details.
Not only will you find the items and elements of the UI conducive to your design and the client’s vision, but you can also customize them as needed.
For an agency, every bit of delay reduces the accountability and reliability of your company.
For an owner or founder, the time it takes for an idea to cross the four walls and reach outside is paltry.
Step 3. Design Icons and Logo
Every element in the UI design is a way to communicate with your users.
Apple, Nike, Reebok, Starbucks, and McDonald’s don’t need to write their names in the adverts. We recognize them with symbols.
These brands have set a benchmark of some unique qualities that resonate within the market.
For your logo making, take care of three qualities:
- Trustworthiness. You must build your value proposition as an authentic and reliable service provider.
- Awareness. Implies your recognition demonstrated by the logo.
- Emotional attachment. The result of trust and awareness.
For a good and impactful logo, the app designing cost may rise. But the money you invest here will be worth it.
Step 4. Design Animations
Animations help deliver several aspects of a great design.
They help with:
- Reducing the cognitive load put in by a user.
- Gaining attraction and appeal.
- Redirect user attention towards the significant aspect of the page.
- Easier understanding.
You can leverage the power of animations in various places of the application. But if you ask how much it costs to design an app with animations, the answer will most probably be higher than average.
And as an example of animated onboarding, take a look at our dating app design.
To better understand how to choose an app design partner, look at these tips we collected from our practice.
Tips on Choosing a Partner for App Designing
There is no fixed criteria to choose a partner with credibility. However, there are certain key points that one can research about to come up with a decision. These are:
- Existing Portfolio: Every design agency has a portfolio of app design they’ve worked upon. Checking out the existing portfolio will help you decide whether the agency is worth it or not.
- Age of the company: The older the company, the better. With age comes experience and it is true for every facet be it business, work, or app design. Older companies are experienced with complicated designs and technologies. It gives them an added advantage and the capability to handle unique requirements.
- Revenue: Learning about the worth of a company is essential. A 20 year old company that doesn’t have a value of $100,000 is definitely not a good pick. Think about this, the more business one acquires, the more experienced they are.
- Number of employees: Looking for a company with a higher number isn’t always a must. However, it is important to learn whether the design agency has resources to allocate to your project or not.
- Technological expertise: Technologies used for coming up with a design are different while making them functional are different. A great UI UX designer can create an app design on tools such as Figma, Marvel, Sketch, etc. However to turn them functional one requires development frameworks such as Flutter, React Native, Kotlin, etc. Understand your requirements and choose whether the design agency has previous experience with it or not.
- One-on-one discussion: There is no better way to understand someone other than direct communication. All the pointers mentioned above are mere filters. However to truly understand the capability, have a detailed discussion about the requirements.
To sum up!
“Every dollar invested in ease of use returns $10 to $100“.
With this, we have reviewed almost all the important aspects that influence the cost of designing a good application.
Apart from app complexity, Android/iOS app or both, type of the targeted devices, designer experience and geography, etc., are some additional things to consider to design mobile applications.
If you have a great app idea in your mind, let’s give it a quick shape. Get inspired by some of the top mobile app design companies that have successfully created a global presence and are working to empower human ideas through a well-crafted website and mobile app designs.
She is an avid writer of technology and trending mobile apps. When she is not busy updating you about the tech world, she spends time reading books and playing guitar.
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