Design is the first thing users see when running an application. This initial impression your app makes is likely to influence their behavior, turning them either loyal or fickle. A recent research proves it: 65% of users claim that a poor mobile experience affects their opinion of the brand.
That’s why the look and feel are worth your investment. But how much of it? In this article, we will outline the main factors that influence your app design cost.
First things first, so before calculating the expenses, you need to know the complete scope of work. Let’s outline the key levels of app design development that are necessary for your users to get a robust product with a superb user experience.
Even if you think you have the brightest concept of how to make an application appealing or user-friendly, there’s no way you can skip the research phase. All in all, isn’t it easier to satisfy the audience when you know exactly what it craves?
The research will let you learn more about your niche competition, target market and users’ product vision. By diving deep into the latest digital trends and analyzing potential users’ behavior, you can get valuable insights into their likes and dislikes. This way, you can respond to the rising demand for highly personalized services and tailor your solution to the needs of the app’s actual users, not the market average.
Research takes approximately 20-40 hours and results in such deliverables as actionable use cases and behavioral scenarios. All these are to assist in building a genuinely intuitive app.
Today’s mobile users expect applications to be more than just quick and nice-looking. They also have to be responsive and personalized. If just a single page or an image takes forever to load, get ready to receive 1-star reviews and lose around 47% of customers.
Your application will be a success if it loads fast, is easy to navigate and, of course, delights your users during an interaction. For this, mobile app designers need to focus on creating a smooth user experience with plain and straightforward navigation. If you hide a bunch of features behind long-press of two-finger taps thinking it’s cool and innovative, you’re probably wrong.
The following video explains what does a UX designer do.
Plan between 20 and 200 hours for UX design, depending on the bulk of features you want to pack into your app. As a result, you will get a full-fledged set of user flows to go into the next phase—prototyping.
Mobile app prototypes are clickable sketches made of wireframes to test if all the planned design elements and UX features go well together and meet users’ goals. At this stage, you create the backbone of your application to find out which elements are must-haves and which are just extra niceties, so that you can remove them to optimize your development budget.
Prototyping is a fast and cost-efficient way to visualize the final version of any app and make critical changes with minimum loss. It helps to validate the concept and carry out usability testing before the actual development begins.
The estimated time for prototyping is up to 80 hours, with app wireframes and design sketches as the deliverables.
Once the app prototype is ready and approved, it’s time to get down to crafting the look that your users will love. Designing mobile UI is all about forming the visual style of an app and polishing its layout.
UI designers’ tasks here are to create compelling images (logos and icons included), color schemes and overall appearance while ensuring all the app screens are in harmony. This is where the research from the first stage comes in handy to deliver the look that users can truly relate to.
UI design takes around 80-200 hours, but depending on the app complexity the estimates may go over 300 hours. Your set of deliverables will include the final product design with all the images, animations, icons and logos.
Even when the app is released, the design work may be far from over. Hitting the market, the app goes through reality checks, and this is when customer feedback and reviews can suggest more than a few tweaks.
Such extra post-launch adjustments can wind down to anywhere between 20 and 50 hours, complete with usability testing. The deliverables at this stage may include revamped visuals, user flows, and more.
You have two options here: designing either a native app or a cross-platform one. Both of them have benefits and disadvantages not only in the development process but specifically in terms of budget.
Native applications are literally “native” to a particular operating system, aimed to work on a single platform. That means you have to tune up UI elements for the targeted system, which makes an app relevant to this platform’s users and ensures a flawless UX.
However, it means that you will need to develop separate applications for each platform, which stands for more people required on your team. This may slow down your app time-to-market and burn a hole in your pocket. As iOS and Android users differ, you will also have to spend more hours on the research stage to tailor your offering.
And what about cross-platform apps?
In this case, one application can fit various operating systems, so that you won’t need to hire separate specialists for each system. However, you may need to compromise on the app’s look and feel: cross-platform apps are not always seamlessly integrated into each targeted platform, which may affect both user experience and app performance. On the bright side, the cost to design an app is likely to be lower.
Apps differ in complexity, and as a result, in the overall budget.
Simple, medium and complex apps will vary in price considerably. While one or two designers are quite enough for a simple app, you may need to increase their number for a medium or complex one. In case of the latter, you may require senior designers to pull it off, so be ready to pay for higher rates to make up for this ‘competency upgrade’.
Again, two options here: you can either handle it in-house or entrust designing your app to an external team.
You may think that this variant is cheaper, but in fact, it’s quite the opposite. In-house development expenses are not about salaries only: consider the time and resources spent on recruiting perfect designers, social packages and leave pays, office maintenance and hardware. Seems not so cheap anymore, right?
Cooperation with offshore teams is time- and cost-effective. In business, every penny saved is a penny earned, and outsourcing may help you reduce your expenses on hiring and training in-house teams. You don’t have to bother creating favorable conditions for remote employees, paying for sick leaves and office supplies—just leave it to the vendor.
The rates differ depending on the country, though:
Mobile app design is impossible without professional tools. And these always come with license fees, be it subscription plans or one-off prices. Such tools include but are not limited to Sketch for wireframing, InVision for visual design, Flinto for prototyping, and Adobe for animation.
Now that you’ve learned more about the essential levels of app design. Let’s look at how much does it cost. Total design timeline, depending on the scope of your requirements, can vary from 220 to 670 hours.
The following time expenditures should be considered:
Making a crude approximation, a basic app design could cost between $5.5k and $17k. These prices are based on the hourly rate: $25. But it can be more expensive.
EasilyDO is a simple app that works as an assistant to remind you of important information, meetings or emails. Simple apps like EasilyDO have a basic functionality, mainly intended to display text-based content.
Designing an app like EasilyDo won’t take much time and money—you can have its design all ready just in 100-200 hours. Taking into account the average designer’s rate of $50, the costs will start at $5,000.
Corner is a good example of a medium-complexity application, which features a user dashboard, a product database, real-time messaging and some payment options. Other popular applications that fit in this category are Amazon Audible, WhatsApp, Messenger, No Parking Enforcement and Flipkart.
An app of such an average complexity requires more features to be designed while retaining an appealing user interface and serving engaging content. The estimated delivery time of a fully-designed medium app is around 200-300 hours, with the average cost of about $10,000.
Uber is a complex app, as building and designing navigation tied to GPS is no easy task. Complex applications support multiple operating platforms, social media integration, data filtering, and real-time synchronization. Such apps as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Netflix and Airbnb are the ones belonging to this category.
Complex apps will take around 400-500 hours to be designed. The expenses also get times higher—you will need more than $20,000 to have such a complex app designed thoroughly.
With thousands of applications created every day, your app has to stand out to hook the audience. The UI design is the key to making an application eye-catching. Unique, dynamic and usable design can help you with both brand identification and user engagement.
First, help users to navigate through your app with intuitive interface. The navigation menu is not a place for experiments and excessive creativity, so focus on simplicity and comprehensive lists for a smooth user journey. We offer Tumblr as an example: it’s a visual app, so its menu is also visual with icons and labels yet nice and simple at the same time.
Secondly, make all the texts easy-to-read and pick perfect color schemes to complement your app design. Forget about designers’ preferences and choose only brand colors based on your brand book guidelines. Take Messenger: all texts are vivid and tuned up to Facebook’s color schemes.
If login and signup are complicated, users will leave immediately. Thus, pay attention to simple registration through email and password or integration with a popular social media platform. Just like Uber does.
No matter the application type, create interesting activity feeds and appealing user profiles, just like the ones you can find in the Pinterest app.
Checkout is a tricky step since it requires lots of details but minimum friction at the same time not to scare customers away.
You may add guidance for the next steps, provide only key fields or break the necessary data in chunks so that users are not confused and overwhelmed. Moreover, provide the guest checkout option for not registered customers. Here’s how Asos coped with this task:
Now, don’t forget to orchestrate each design level to create a complete look of the application. Make the UI design elegant and user-centric, this way the application will become truly streamlined and appealing.
According to Benjamin Franklin, by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail. Make it your motto before getting down to mobile app design. A result-oriented and well-planned design strategy is a proven way to reduce your expenses.
More features drive more spending. So don’t disregard your user and market research and focus on the core features that will give your app a sharp edge. Only when those are nailed and the success of your app is proved in real-life conditions, you can implement secondary features, if necessary.
Consider passing your entire project to an app design company with deep UI/UX expertise, as well as certified designers on board. A specialized agency will roll out your application’s visual concept and design times faster. And fewer person-hours means lower budgets.
You can always get more tips on how to make your mobile app development more cost-efficient from our experts at VironIT.