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The Cost of App Design: Detailed Look from Product Development Team

SpdLoad prepared an in-depth guide on app design cost. it covers the factors, executors and details of what defines the cost of design an app.

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18 min read

Graphic designer Robert L. Peters shares the crux of our discussion on app design cost.

Design creates culture.

Culture Shapes Values.

Values determine the future.

This means that the app design and the cost you put into it today decide your business’s future.

Creating a great design is fundamental to your application.

However, to execute a great design, you need to implement a great process. But it is not necessary to spend a fortune to execute a great process.

Various aspects play a role in developing the design.

  • User Interface
  • Foundation
  • Layout
  • Eye Movement
  • User Experience
  • Colors
  • Layout
  • Button Placement

There is a lot more to an app’s design than meets the eye.

Each and everything further plays a role in the app design price.

In this excerpt, we will discuss the mobile app design cost of the MVP version of the application.

Just as paying peanuts does not get you an engaging designing, spending a fortune won’t translate into success.

You need a mix of optimal cost structuring and some great tricks to create an excellent and valuable design.

That is exactly what we will discuss in this article.

Steve Jobs once said that a good design is not how it looks, rather how it works.

So, taking inspiration from this legendary entrepreneur and visionary, let’s delve into the intricacies of mobile app design and its cost.

You’ll learn about:

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What Type of Design Do You Need?

A 2018 research on mobile application development from the purview of the app design highlights three aspects.

  • Accessible = Intuitive
  • Appealing = Interface
  • Pedagogically Constructive = Lower Learning curve

All these concepts are highly subjective.

Users have different perspectives. Their perspective towards the entire structure of the application can differ.

In other words, the experience a person A has from your application will be different from person B.

All in all, application design is not something that you can handle lightly.

You need to invest time, resources, and money into it.

There are two types of app designs that you can implement. And the mobile app design price for both of these designs will be different.

Native Mobile App Design

Nativity to a mobile app design means that you need to follow the platform-specific design guidelines and element placements.

iOS, Android, and other mobile device platforms have some set precedents of how everything shall look on the screen.

This is similar to the de facto design of some application screens, particularly the search and Getting started sequences.

Following the native guidelines, you will incur less application design cost relative to the custom design.

With a native mobile app design, the guidelines set forth dictate how every element should be placed.

For instance, with the iPhone, the button to “Go Back” is always on the top left corner of the phone screen.

The designers can only change the icon shape and color, whereas the placement is fixed.

Hence, a native User Interface cannot divert away from these guidelines.

Pros of Native App Design

Platform-Specificity This is one of the biggest advantages of designing a native app.

Due to this, the mobile app design price is also lower.

Platform specificity implies that the designers can access all the normal functionalities without running into design or framework errors.

Easy to Implement With native app designing, the designers will mostly work with familiar systems.

There is less room for experimentation with a lesser learning curve.

This is because most of the systems and elements are pre-fixed.

Faster and Quicker Development Usually, the process of deciding the placement of the elements is quite long and tedious.

But here, you can use templates.

This saves time for developing everything from scratch; also, the final cost to design an app is also less.

 

Cons of Native Mobile App Design

Less Room for 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 designing.

In other words, the designers and developers are less flexible with the work.

Limited Features Because a Native mobile app has to follow the set guidelines, the number of features is limited.

Elements like buttons, scrollers, screens, and so on have a limited variety.

You can only insert as many features as they are present in the UI kit.

However, due to this limited set of features, the cost to design an app is also lower.

Custom Mobile App Design

Yes, native mobile application designing has a lower cost, and it can also be a safe bet.

The point is that with custom mobile app designing, you have the leverage to implement what you think, envision, and imagine.

Making the app’s design attractive while ensuring that the cost does not spike.

Hubspot exclaims that 38% of the users won’t engage with a website if they find the design unattractive.

Furthermore, 88% of the users won’t come back to the website if they have a bad initial experience.

We know that these metrics are not related to an application.

But we want you to focus on the designing aspect.

Design is important and if you want to make a difference in the industry, customizing the design is imperative.

Custom app design is when you create everything from scratch.

From a button to the AI-based automatic AI image slider, everything.

But how much does it cost to design an app that has custom designing?

Most probably, the cost is higher than the native design. But, it is much more effective, and at the same time, it is also risky.

It is like simple economics. The more you invest in unsolicited portfolios that have a higher reward, the higher is the risk.

If you do everything right and learn to understand the customer’s perspectives, engagement levels, and pain points, a customized design will bring groundbreaking success.

Pros of Custom App Design

Uniqueness in Design 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 designing (more on this later).

Brand Specific Stories 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.

One that strikes a chord with the users based on your research and findings.

 

Cons of Custom Mobile App Design

The cost can easily swell The answer to how much does it cost to design an app can vary with this approach.

This 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.

As you keep on adding more fuel, you will have a progressive level of fire.

Skilled Designers are Scarce Finding a good designer who understands the nuances of custom designing while keeping the cost in check is not easy.

However, you will find the perfect refuge with SpdLoad.

We ace the deliverability and results when it comes to imitating your expectations on screen.

Understanding the type of app design you want to execute is essential.

This helps with:

  • The scope and extent of research.
  • Select the right designer.
  • Identification of challenges.
  • Creating a market-fit product.

Not to mention, the app design cost also highly depends on this aspect.

When it comes to researching the fitness of your application design, go with a set flow of tasks. The price of app design based on what you plan to use: native or custom UI kit

The Designing Process or Discovery Workshop for the App

There are two aspects to this process;

  • Research
  • Designing

Under designing, we will further divide the discussion into two parts;

  • UX
  • UI

Beginning from the research part, we will identify the kind of research you require.

Make sure to conduct thorough research on the business and technical aspects of designing the app.

Under user research, we want to answers questions like:

  • Who will use the app?
  • Who are the ideal application users?
  • What are the goals that you want to achieve with the application?

Knowing the mobile app design and development cost is not a simple process. It is quite complex and highly interconnected.

So, from here on, you need to pay full attention.

Shall we begin?

To answer how much does it cost to design an app, a design team needs to conduct a user research

Research and Development Prior to the App Design Development

The mobile experiences and the users working with these mobiles are highly dynamic.

They change by the minute. We observe new trends emerging in the market. Some stick while others are replaced in the blink of an eye.

It is almost like the universal law “Change is Inevitable” has got the ultimate expression with mobile app design and its cost.

That is why we always concentrate on the research before knowing how much does it cost to design an app.

Here’s what you must do in this respect.

Interview With the Customers Why do it?

This part helps you understand the customer’s perspectives vis a vis your idea.

You need to be on the same page as your customers to get the best results and identify the core value of your application.

What to do?

We need to take out three elements from the interviews:

  • Experience Understanding
  • Usability Understanding
  • Ideation

In the interviews, try to understand;

  1. The user’s pain points
  2. How will they want to use a product?
  3. What motivates them to use a product more?
  4. What kind of technology do they prefer to use?

These may be simple questions, but their answers are the fodder for your design.

Every point will direct you in a certain direction and help you identify what kind of application you must design for the best results.

Moreover, you should not limit your interview to these topics.

Try to explore more application-related questions.

How to do it?

Prefer physical interviews, where your UX designers have a face to face interaction with the customer.

If not, then take the help of social media, online interactions, or surveys.

Interview with the Target Audience Why do it?

No, interviews with the customer and target audience are not similar.

Yes, some aspects might overlap, but the difference lies in the potential.

Your customers are the people you know that they want your product.

Whereas the target audience is the group of people, you can include in the list of consumers.

Designing the app for the target audience today will help reduce app development and design cost in the future.

This is most important for scalability.

What to do?

Your target audience will be connected to an industry that will be defined by the product.

So depending on the industry (entertainment, business, SaaS, Education, etc.), you will get your audience.

Interviewing every person in the audience is not feasible.

Not interviews, but you can acquire customer opinions and preferences through various methods by using the web.

How to do it?

You can conduct online surveys, resort to social media, and publish polls.

Collect data and understand the trend.

If you get some time, read the book, ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto,’ you will find one thing clearly and vividly explained in it, and that is.

Real Conversation happens in the Market.

So, you need to read the market and understand it and create conversational designs.

Research the Best Solutions for Your Niche Why do it?

What would set as a bar if you want to design an app for a car rental service?

Most probably, Uber. Right?

Uber is, by far, one of the best products when it comes to car rental services.

So, the developers and designers look forward to Uber’s interface, tech stack, design, and everything else to get an idea.

This helps them get an idea of what is appealing to the customers.

Plus, it helps them understand the problems the users might be facing by using these applications.

What to do?

You need to put the user in control of the application, period.

And everything that you do in this respect is connected to the process to identify the app design cost and its key aspects.

With this kind of research, you need to map the entire application structure and the placement of elements.

However, we are not saying to mimic the UI elements and then hope to create similar experiences.

Our motive is to help you understand what you must look forward to while designing the app.

Research on Competitors Why do it?

This is primarily for creating and analyzing the most approachable mobile app structure and design cost.

There is a difference between analyzing the creme de la creme application of your industry and the competition.

This is where you first have to identify your goals.

What to do?

Identify your direct and indirect competition.

Make sure that you note down the similarities and differences between these applications.

Look at things like:

  • The tonal quality of the application
  • The features and integrations
  • User feedback on all these aspects
  • Screen wait and load time

Plus, understanding the design aspects is a default requirement.

This was all about the research and its associated aspects.

Now we will understand the designing aspects to identify the app design cost.

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Design, and It’s Associated Aspects

In this section of how much does it cost to design an app, we will talk about the core designing concepts.

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.

App Design UX

UX is the real deal.

You have to create authentic, appealing, and innovative user experience elements that inspire your audience.

The answer to how much does it cost to design an app within the purview of UX depends on three things;

  • Mind Mapping
  • Sketches
  • Wireframes
Mind Mapping Mind maps leverage the benefits of a 2-D structuring depicting the relative importance of each subject.

You can use the mind maps for:

  • Showing the steps
  • Informational hierarchy

In terms of designing, mind mapping is executed during the research phase.

More importantly, it gives a clear idea about the product and its behavior.

The best part is that Mind Maps is apt for every stakeholder of the project.

It helps the viewer understand the core functions and the key branches of the project.

Tools to use

At SpdLoad, we use MindMeister to create mind maps.

We consider it as a tool to visually represent the problem and the solution.

Plus, it helps us create solutions to these problems that the customer might be facing with the existing solutions.

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

With Mindmeister, we can execute maps with properties like:

    • Collaboration
    • Solutions-ready maps
    • Creative explanation
    • Creating an intuitive interface
Sketches Sketches become essential when you have an intricate application design and a lot of screens to cover.

However, if you are focusing on minimal application development, sketches can be left out.

This will save the app design price for the time being.

But when you are looking to scale the app, then sketches are essential.

Wireframes In technical terms, a wireframe demonstrates the placement of various elements representative of the user interface.

Depending on the extent of wireframe creation, you can expect an impact on the app design cost.

There are two types of wireframes that you require:

  • Low Fidelity
  • High Fidelity

Both of these have their respective important and structural characteristics that help create understandable design layouts.

Tools we use

We prefer Balsamiq for Low Fidelity wireframes.

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.

High Fidelity wireframing is the next level of creating a great application design, which also impacts the mobile application design cost.

These types of wireframes are advanced and enhance the look and feel of the application.

High fidelity designs traverse beyond the skeleton and complete the structure with the colors, content placement, image dimensions, and other elements.

For High Fidelity designs, we use Figma.

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.

UX is one of significant parts to define the cost to design an app

App Design UI

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
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.

Understand the impact of every type of color on your users.

UI Kit UI Kit is a time-saving element of the application.

Not to mention, using a great UI Kit like Figma will certainly reduce the app design cost.

UI Kits are great at saving time too.

They provide you with readymade elements of app designing.

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.

If you have been designing for some time now, you must resonate when we say that “time is money.”

Be it a client’s project or your own.

Ideation, creation, and modifications should not eat up a lot of your time.

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.

So, you don’t have time to waste.

If you are looking for a great UI Kit provider, go for Figma.

It is great, efficient, and provides us with the requisite elements.

Icons and Logo Again, every element in the UI design is a way to communicate with your users.

Apple. Nike. Reebok. Starbucks. McDonald’s.

What do all of these have in common?

  • Branding?
  • Popularity?
  • Recognition?
  • Preference?

Some might even say monopoly?

But, how do we recognize them so easily?

Logo, right?

These brands don’t even need to write their names in the adverts.

We recognize them with the symbols.

The key is value creation.

These brands have set a benchmark of some unique qualities that the people resonate within the market.

For your logo making, take care of three qualities;

  • Trustworthiness
  • Awareness
  • Emotional Attachment

Trust means you must build your value proposition from day one as an authentic and reliable service provider.

Awareness implies your recognition demonstrated by the logo.

Emotional attachment is the result of trust and awareness.

Yes, for a good and impactful logo, the app designing cost may rise.

But the money you invest here will be worth it.

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 major aspect of the page.
  • Easier understanding.

You can leverage the power of animations in various places of the application.

  • Welcome screens
  • Onboarding screens
  • Login screens
  • To indicate the next steps
  • With Buttons and Icons
  • Menus (hamburger menu)
  • Other pages like Errors.

But if you would ask how much does it cost to design an app with animations.

The answer will most probably be higher than average.

The thing with UI designing is that you have got access to an assortment of smart tools today.

These are drag and drop builders that help you create the exact design that you want without coding.

Balsamiq and Figma are just two of them.

These tools ease the designing process while ensuring that you authenticate every aspect before moving the project from the designing state to development.

However, with all these tools, the initial app design cost might soar.

So, how much does it cost to design an app

But, if you look at the cost-saving due to lesser rework and corrections, it is lesser.

After going through all these aspects, now are left with one question.

How much does it cost to design an app?

What can you expect to invest in to design an app? Is the cost too high and too necessary?

What factors play a role in deciding the mobile app design cost?

Let’s discuss this.

UI is another significant part to define the mobile app design cost

Cost of App Design

You can expect to spend somewhere between $500 to thousands of dollars. Once you start planning out all the elements, the more you add, the more you spend.

Where a simple app design will put you down by a few hundred dollars, a great and feature-rich design will most probably ask for a lot more.

From what we have figured it out in all years of experience is that the design cost depends on two things;

  • Complexity
  • Region

Let’s understand what this means.

Complexity and Cost to Design a Mobile App

Have you ever looked at a maths equation that starts simple, but as you add more variables, it gets more complex?

Similarly, if you keep the elements to a minimum, the level of complexity will remain approachable.

With it, the cost will also not soar high.

For your reference, let’s keep the global average to $50 per hour.

Now, as far as the number of hours is concerned, look at three things.

  • Pre-Designing Planning
  • The Designing Phase
  • The let’s-make-it-better phase.
Phase What goes here
Pre-Design Phase All the efforts you want to put in to understand the kind of design you want goes here.

The mind maps, research, competitor analysis, feasibility studies, and everything else.

In addition to this, the app design cost will depend on;

  • The platform for which you are developing the app (ios, Android, Web, Cross-platform, etc.)
  • What kind of product is it? Are you making an MVP or a full-scale application with every tidbit added?
  • Do you want to include sophisticated technologies? AR, VR, AI, and ML elements, so on.
  • Do you need to add some special elements for a specific cohort of users?
  • What kind of research are you working with? The extent of competition analysis, customer reviews, and stakeholder research.

Depending on these answers, you will get an estimate of the number of hours required.

Design Phase Who designs the application?

Are you hiring a local agency, a group of freelancers, or outsourcing?

Because the rates of these players are different.

Your choice of the service provider will also change the app design cost (more on this later).

Apart from the dream team you need for the design, the tools and process, you also use matters.

The designing tools and the provisioning of their services can make a difference.

This aspect of app design cost won’t matter much to you if you are hiring someone to do the design.

Modifications How much does it cost to design an app that needs reworks?

The answer to this question depends on what kind of design you have initially.

Plus, what kind of contract you have with the vendor.

However, if you have set the guidelines of the design beforehand, the cost here won’t swell too much.

Region Specificity and Cost

In terms of the designing vendors, either you can go with freelancers, hire a local agency, or outsource the work.

Now, the app design cost of choosing any one of these vendors is different.

For better understanding, let’s assume that you want to make a simple yet effective design that will take 500 hours.

Depending on the prices:

Vendor Price
Freelancers $15 to $25 per hour
Local Agency in the USA $75 per hour
Outsource to Ukraine $30 per hour

Depending on these factors, the cost to design an app in the USA will be $37,500.

With an outsourcing agency, you can expect to spend $15,000.

And the same with freelancers will range between $7,500 to $12,500.

These are just estimated figures.

Whom shall you hire?

The thing with a local USA agency is the soaring costs. And these costs can rise too easily. Remember, for one hour; you are paying $75.

The other extreme is hiring freelancers.

They are cost-effective, available in an instant, and easy to hire.

But, the freelancers are not very reliable and efficient per se.

You will find that freelancers are not very smooth to deal with. They require more intricate management, and you may have to deal with various reworks.

Plus, you will also have to look for various freelancers for different roles.

But you have a third and the best option. Hire an agency that is located in another country, like Ukraine.

Hiring an agency will get you the best of both worlds: lower rates and perfect quality.

Everything depends on the time you need to input on all the elements of designing.

For instance, sketches, basis designing, branding, meetings, assurance, and so on.

Let’s breakdown the significant aspects of app cost design.

There are 3 key factors, that influence mobile app design price: complexity, region and vendor

Typical App Design Cost Spreadsheet

What to do Aspects
Discovery Workshop What Happens Here?

  • Meetings
  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Technical
  • Compliance Requirements
  • Special Considerations
Hours

50 to 75 hours

Cost

$2500 to $3750

Sketching What to do?

  • Formatting and Image setting
  • Setting the base for wireframes (low-fidelity and high-fidelity)
  • Artist or architect cost
Hours Required

15 to 25 hours

Total Cost (Average Cost = $50 per hour)

$750 to $1250

Branding Services What to do here?

  • Creating Logos
  • Icons
Hours

25 to 50 hours

Cost

$1,250 to $2500

Illustrations, Images, and Animations What to do here?

  • Create vectors or images
  • Animations
  • Number of images – 3
Hours

50 to 75 hours

Cost

$2,500 to $3,750

Final Cost $7000 to $11750

That is it!

Creating your application’s design can go both ways.

Either you can make the process more complicated, do everything yourself, or take the easier road and contact SpdLoad.

Looking for a Design Team?

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

SpdLoad has a team of designers ready to make your application look more appealing, approachable, and understandable.

We use the industry’s best tools and practices to implement your design while taking care of everything, from A to Z.

Our research and designing process is highly intricate, and we take the necessary steps to make sure that your application design is the best and resonates with your organization.

Contact us to know more about our process and approach.

Look for a Design Team, That Share Your Values?

We design apps, that bring a value to customers, and change the way people think and act. Check out our portfolio to make sure we are good fit for you.

Talk to Us

Thinking about App Design?

Get project roadmap, list of core milestones, and detailed estimation of your own app design

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Posted by

Max Babych

Max Babych

I am CEO of SpdLoad

I launched SpdLoad almost 7 years ago and now it has 20+ successful products in SaaS and Marketplace industry and several own products. I am an expert in Marketing, Lean Methodology and Customer Development approach.

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