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Product Design

How Much Does It Cost To Design An App

Ben Obear
May 29, 2017

The quick answer is that it depends on factors such as the complexity of your app as well as the location and skill level of your designers. Depending on these factors, it'll cost you from $3,000 to $60,000 to get a well designed app. While you may think this is a lot of money, good mobile designers are in high-demand so they charge premium rates for their services.

When you hire a company that follows a formal mobile app design process, you receive an intuitive mobile product design that appeals to your end users. Each step of the design process takes time to complete and the overall time required to design your app depends on factors such as your required features, platforms (iOS and/or Android) and form factors (smartphones and/or tablets).

If you want a remarkable app, you need to look at more than just colors, fonts, icons and layouts. Your app's success depends on how well it solves your core pain point, which is the reason you're building the app.

You may have rough mockups of your app's core screens and it may seem like you're only building a simple five screen app, but most simple apps end up being more complex then they seem at first glance. A good mobile design process susses out screens you may not realize you need. Your five screen app may become a 20 screen app once empty states, error prompts, settings screens and other features are mocked up. A great mobile design team will take you through a process that details every screen of your app, so your development team knows exactly what they're building.

Mobile App Design Processes

App designing procedures are often done in phases where each phase requires a budget to guarantee that subsequent phases fit in seamlessly. With custom designs, the cost is always projected to rise since the customized inputs and features drive a ripple effect on other features which then have to be blended on a wholesome basis.

If you're looking for a fixed-fee design quote, a design firm will estimate the number of hours required to design your app based on your requirements and multiply the estimated hours by their standard hourly rate.

1. Research and Information Analysis - While the design team you hire may have done a bit of high-level research to estimate your project, they need to get a detailed understanding of your competitors, target customers and feature requirements in order to start designing your app. This part of the process helps your designers understand your target market's pain points, preferences and desires. A thorough review of competing apps is completed to understand the core value proposition that makes your app different and unique.

If you hire a design team that follows a Lean UX process (that's us), you'll find that design research is completed within one to two days. Traditional marketing agencies may take 20-40 hours to complete this phase because they do much more exhaustive research.

2. UI/UX Prototyping - Prototyping involves the designing of a workable setting of the app to review its usability. In the prototyping phase, you need to structure the creation of the user experience and interaction which will aid in testing and concept validation. This is a process that takes 40-80 hours. On an hourly rate of $50/hour, prototyping can cost you between $2,000 and $4,000.

3. Creating User Interface and User Experience - This is the process that demands more from you since it is the brain-hub of the app. The procedures to be handled include Mapping and Wireframing and User Experience evaluation. Mapping and Wireframing takes between 14 and 140 hours whereby you are supposed to complete sketches of user interaction, templates and wire frames depending on the complexity of the app. The user experience evaluation phase involves the reviewing of features, navigation and spacing within the app and takes a period from 7 hours ranging to 200 hours, contingent on the complexity.

With an average rate of $50, Mapping and Wireframing can cost you in the region of $700 up to $7,000. User experience evaluation will have a cost of between $350 and $10,000.

4. Visual Design - This phase involves structuring the user interface in line with preferences expected by the target audience. It can take you between 80 and 300 hours to effectively capture the branding, color schemes, projection screens, display pages, visual communications and logo icons.

Visual design review ensures you are able to preview the app, feel the user interaction setting and structure the level of usability that users will be able to enjoy. This evaluates the level of appeal the app will have with the target market. Using the $50 flat rate, visual design review can cost you anywhere between $4000 and $15,000.

All these processes are fundamental to the success of an app as they govern each phase of building an app and the cost setting that can be expected.

Factors that influence the cost

The cost of designing an app is not entirely a factor of the procedures involved in the designing phase since other aspects influence the overall price that you can shoulder. The cost setting varies with;

  • Country or location
  • Complexity
  • Professional level of designer
  • Design rates
  • Cost by country

The cost of designing an app differs from one country to the next which is largely owed to the fact that different resources bases and expertise exist in the different regions. The hourly charges of designing an app in the USA will cost you between $50-100 while in the UK, you will be expected to offer between $65 and $130 per hour for the app designing service. In Eastern Europe, you will be charged anywhere in the region of $30 to $50 per hour. India is by far the country where designing an app comes at an affordable hourly rate of between $15 and $40.

Cost by Complexity

The complexity of the app will also determine the charges you will be required to shoulder. With complex apps, the efforts and measures taken in the process of designing are enhanced since attention to detail has to be perfect. With simpler apps, processes like Wireframing and Mapping are done in a seamless manner. Designing a simple App can take between 100 and 150 hours depending on the expertise of the designer. An app with middle complexity can usually take a designer from 200 up to 250 hours for completion. With complex apps, designers usually require a minimum of 400 hours upwards to effectively design and deliver a working version.

Cost by professional level of designer

There are varied professionals within the app designing industry and you can get their expertise at different rates. Full time designers and company based professionals usually charge you higher rates due to it being their sole focus. The benefit with these professionals is that you get dedication and a faster completion of the project. Freelancing designers will charge you lower rates since they work on the app in their supplementary capacity. Making a decision on the designer to go for should be considered on the basis of the duration needed to completion, budget, resource base desired and overall dedication to the project.

Cost by designer rates

Different designers charge varied rates depending on the value they bring to the table and overall expertise they expect will be needed for the project. Most designers give their rates not only on the work they will put in but the guarantee they will give on quality and value of the app including perfection in user interface interaction and capacity of user interaction with the app.

Calculating the cost of designing an app

When of the need to calculate the cost you will undergo in designing an app, the first step is to understand the complexity of the app. This will ensure you are able to understand the number of hours a designer will need to complete the project. Settling on where you want your app to be designed will give you the rough estimate depending on the average designer rates in that country. You can then have a full estimate of the cost by deciding on either a freelance designer or a full-time professional depending on the budget.

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Ben Obear
San Francisco