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How Much Does It Cost to Design a Mobile App (Full Breakdown)

Polina Hrudieva

Polina Hrudieva

UX/UI expert

13 min

Is sticker shock getting you down? We hear you. Mobile app design costs can be confusing.

Today, we’re breaking down exactly what goes into building a great app.

We’ll explore real-world price examples for different project types. Most importantly, we’ll share insider tips on choosing vendors who won’t drain your wallet.

Too busy for a long read? Skip straight to our new infographic revealing average price ranges.

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What’s the Cost to Design a Mobile App?

The average app design cost varies from $3,000 to $30,000. This is quite a 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 price breakdown based on these factors.

Cost Based on Complexity

The app’s complexity is equal to the complexity of the product idea: the number of roles, screens, unique features, usability, and visual design. These parameters determine the viability of the business model.

The simpler the business model and the challenges you solve, the cheaper the app design will be. Usually, the easier the design, the more affordable the mobile app development.

Let’s look at a few examples with conditional complexity.

ComplexityAverage cost, $
Simple App Design3000
Average App Design12,000
Complex App Design30,000

Keep in mind that this is an approximate value. In situations with complex back-end features, such as AI/ML integration, design can be inexpensive, but app development can be costly.

Cost Based on Team Type

Besides the complexity of the product concept, the development team is the second crucial factor that defines the design budget and software development.

We’ll use the average-size app, which requires 300 design hours to build, as a basis for calculations.

Type of a teamAverage cost, $
In-house team36,000
Local design agency48,000
Outsourcing agency12,000
Freelancers6000

We will consider each type of team and talk about how a development company’s location can affect pricing.

Cost Based on Team Location

Please note that the complexity of an idea defines the expertise level required to develop an application.

At the same time, an experienced app development company you hire offshore can cost less than a team with fewer years of experience based in the US, UK, or Western Europe.

We’ll use the same example: an app of average size, which requires 300 design hours.

LocationAverage cost, $
Australia36,000
The US48,000
The UK40,000
Western Europe28,000
Eastern Europe12,000
South Asia6000

There are many factors to consider when choosing a design partner, such as budget, quality requirements, and niche expertise. We’ll share the checklist to help you choose the right partner later.

Now, let’s look at the design aspects that shape the price.

On this picture you can see the key factors, that impact mobile app design cost

What Factors Influence Mobile App Design Costs?

In this section, we will discuss in detail the technical aspects that determine the price and duration of app design and development.

Here are a few factors to consider.

Factor 1: Design Type

There are two types of app designs that you can implement. And the price for both of these 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.

The cost of designing an app will most likely be higher than the cost of designing a native app. While the latter is much more effective, it is also risky.

ProsCons
  • Uniqueness. With customizations, you can control the mobile application design cost while ensuring uniqueness and exclusivity. However, while creating unique experiences, the designers must stay within 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 it costs to design a mobile app can vary with this approach. 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 phone app has a custom design: Uber, Lyft, Tinder, Bumblebee, and Airbnb.

A customized design will bring groundbreaking success if you do everything right and understand the customer’s perspectives, engagement levels, and pain points.

However, as an alternative option, there is a native design.

The custom design is another point you need to consider when finding how much does it cost to design a mobile app

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 for how everything looks on the screen.

Designing applications using native guidelines reduces design costs compared to custom design.

ProsCons
  • Platform-specific design lowers the price of mobile app design. Platform specificity implies that 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 high-quality templates, which saves time compared to developing everything from scratch. 
  • Less experimentation. Some designers believe that a native mobile app design framework reduces the potential to explore and experiment. There is less room for imagination and that can 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 restricted variety.

Examples of apps with native designs are WhatsApp and Twitter.

The native UI kits will make application design cost cheaper, than if we use custom version.

Another critical factor is the app’s complexity. Let’s research it in more detail.

Factor 2: App Complexity

In terms of design, the app’s complexity is the number of unique screens, specific blocks, and exclusive interaction in its features. But we will decompose this aspect further:

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 not only a project manager but also specialists who will be responsible for:

  • Creating a user persona
  • Sketching app wireframes
  • Working on app prototypes
  • Developing an intuitive app interface
  • Making necessary changes after testing and target audience’s feedback

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Number of Screens

Your application needs several basic screens and a number of platforms. 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.

If you ask how much it costs to have an app designed 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 sophisticated technologies such as AR, VR, AI, ML elements, and so on.
  • Adding some unique elements for a specific cohort of users.

Depending on these factors, you will get an estimated number of hours required.

Your choice of the type of service provider will also change the app design cost. Let’s see how exactly.

On this picture you can see the three key factors that impact to the complexity of the mobile application design cost

Factor 3: Team Type

Who designs the application? Are you hiring a local agency, a group of freelancers, an in-house team, or outsourcing? 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 employees who work directly for the company. Like any other form of collaboration, there are advantages and disadvantages to this type of arrangement, which we will discuss below.

ProsCons
  • 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 outsourcing 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 be 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

You can also hire a design agency within your local proximity. Let’s break down the significant pros and cons of the cost of designing an app by a local design team.

Pros Cons
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 team’s personnel.
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.

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Type 3. Freelancers

Hiring freelancers means you can choose specialists on your own. This approach has its pros and cons, too.

ProsCons
  • 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 can be hard 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.

Pros Cons
  • 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 start from $40 per hour.

What is usually included in the design process, and how does it impact the app design cost? Let’s go through this process in detail.

On this picture you can see the types of development teams, which depend on the cost of designing a mobile app

 

How Does the Design Process Affect Costs?

By taking an overview of both UI and UX elements, we will examine which tools can be used, the benefits of addressing these concerns, and how to approach them.

Let’s begin with the application UX.

UX Design’s Impact

UX design takes a major part in the whole mobile application UX/UI design process. Approximately 70% of the design budget is allocated towards using User Experience services. Why?

The role of UX design determines the way your future product will work. Your concept becomes visual precisely at the UX stage.

In addition to realizing your vision, UX also takes care of achieving your business goals as a founder, as well as user objectives. In fact, UX defines the scope of work in the development stage.

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. Here, we observe new trends emerging in the market and understand what functionality we can add.

During the research phase, we execute mind mapping.

This picture shows the first stage of UX design, which consists of 6 elements that affect the average cost to design an app

Step 2. Mind Mapping

Mind maps use a two-dimensional layout to show 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 are relevant for every project stakeholder. They help the viewer understand the core functions and 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.

Mindmapping is the second step of UX design. The complexity of mind map will define the overall app design cost.

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.

Low-fidelity prototype define the how much it cost to design a mobile app as well as more detailed versions.

UI Design’s Impact

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
  • Animations

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.

The UI kit makes prototypes live, and additionally define cost of designing a mobile app in a final look.

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.

The cost of designing an app may rise for a good and impactful logo, but the money you invest here will be worth it.

If you are on a strict budget, use a business name generator and a logo maker.

The illustration shows an example of an icon and logo design that affects the cost of user interface design

Step 4. Design Animations

Animations help deliver several aspects of a great design.

They assist 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 a mobile 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.

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3 Tips for Choosing an App Design Company

  • Check the Portfolio. Obviously, when choosing an app designer, you need to pay attention to the portfolio. However, there are a few things to pay attention to:
    • Beautiful design is subjective but also not as important as UX;
    • Note the industries the team has worked with;
    • Notice how transparent, detailed, and accurate the design process is.
  • Check the Testimonials and Social Media. The next point is to check reviews from previous clients. You can check the site, Clutch, Linkedin, or other listings. Pay attention to the team’s strengths from customers’ words and compare them with your expectations.
  • Conduct an Interview. Finally, the “strongest” way to see if a team is right for you is to talk in person. After all, we are all human. Actually, finding a common language is one of the fundamental principles of successful collaboration.

Now that you have understood the major aspects of mobile app design cost, you need someone to help you.

This picture shows the 3 tips for choosing a development team that impact the mobile app design cost

Looking for an App Design Team?

Pricing out app design is complicated – from conceptual work to meeting industry guidelines, costs add up quickly. But for startups, flipping norms through groundbreaking innovations takes skill.

That’s where we shine!

SpdLoad offers full-service mobile app design and development crafted to build profitable, valuable products entrepreneurs love.

Ready to chat about your big idea? Drop us a line!

Our team can assess your project goals, brainstorm possibilities, and provide custom quotes and timelines so you know what to budget.

Let’s talk – we can’t wait to help make that lightbulb moment a reality.

Bonus Infographic

Here’s a summary of our in-depth guide. Learn about the highlights of the cost of app design in 2024.

This infographic shows detailed steps to help determine the correct mobile app design cost

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