The cost of app design depends on what we mean by the term “app design.” Designing an app requires a broad range of tasks: user research, competitive audit, user experience design, interaction design, mobile app interface design, graphic design, app icon and logo design – and this is not even a complete list.
We’ve already written about the cost of building an app. Now let’s talk about the average cost of app design, or the price of the look and feel. But first, let’s figure out how we got from one word – “design” – to a bunch of word combinations that describe the design of mobile applications.
What goes into app design cost?
Any design is about problem-solving. Whether you’re creating a brand-new product or improving an existing app, to design an app means to solve a problem.
A lot of our clients look at what their competitors are doing and try to do something similar. They don’t even consider the possibility that the features they see might not even be effective. Blindly chasing competitors is a poor strategy. But trying to reinvent the wheel isn’t the best practice either. The most effective problem-solving approach is exploration. This brings us to the first step in the process:
Analysis of competition and user research
We always start by researching three things: 1) competition, 2) market trends, and 3) people.
We analyze the competition to identify opportunities within a given app niche. For example, when we came up with a concept for a workout tracking app, we first did some research and identified an opportunity on the market for fitness tracking apps. We then created a Workout Book concept to bring our vision to the world and solve a specific problem for gym-goers. Our concept received lots of positive feedback from the community. Even today we continue to receive messages from people asking us to build a similar app for them.
Our design for a workout tracking app isn’t even close to what similar apps offer. But it took us quite some time to understand what features we could improve or invent.Instead of concentrating on other people’s products you should think about your own users and the strength of your own product. We study behaviors, needs, and motivations of the product’s target audience so we can design an app that appeals to them.
- Estimated time for competitive analysis and user research: roughly from 20 to 40 hours.
- Deliverables: use cases, realistic behavioral scenarios, and user stories.
- Tools we use: user personas, A/B test results, investigative user studies and interviews, brains.
[User story template. Credit: bloomy.com]
The next step in the process is prototyping or user experience (UX) design. During this phase, we structure our ideas to craft a delightful experience for people who will use the product. Our UX people make sure that navigation within the app flows logically from one step to the next so users don't even notice.
The prototyping process may include several iterations followed by usability testing and concept validation. The more people we can get to test our prototype and give us feedback, the more likely we are to nail it.
Refining app prototypes and iterating to create the best user experience can take more time than you might expect. But a thorough prototyping actually saves your budget. Does this make any sense? In fact, it does.
With prototyping, you decrease the probability of exceeding your budget. This is because, with prototyping, by the time the project moves to the development stage, the team has all the structure they need to start working on features.
All software projects have inherent risks. One of the most common sources of risks is changing user requirements that occur during the project's life cycle.
At Yalantis, we work on prototypes collectively. Everybody – including business analysts, iOS or Android developers, designers, project managers, and the client – works together to develop a prototype that they can all agree on. This helps us to identify and address misunderstandings that might occur during app development, thus reducing the risks of going over budget later on.
Even though mobile app design cost is being considered separately from app development cost, prototyping is part of development.
- Estimated time of prototyping: roughly 40 to 80 hours.
- Deliverables: wireframes of app screens, user flow diagrams, interactive prototypes.
- Tools we use: Sketch, InVision, Principle or Flinto, Pixate.
[Wireframes by Yalantis. Credit: 99miles]
If app design is about problem-solving, then visual design is about communication. Visual design is often called User Interface (UI) design. UI design tells a story about the product as a user moves from one screen to the next.
We design the look and feel of the product. This means choosing the right colors, creating shapes, and designing typographic communication. We care about a product being easy to read and pleasant to view. Finding the right way to display different types of content requires creative thinking. Designers who can do this well have years of experience.
Our UI people deal with both the look of a user interface and the function it performs when a user touches it. This means we not only create static assets, but we also motions or animations.
Mobile app designers decide how a menu should slide in, where to swipe to access a certain function, and how to go back to the profile page. For example, we decided to rethink a traditional interface element – the hamburger menu – and created our own animated version. Guillotine Menu drops down from the top-bar when a user clicks on it.
You can check out all our open source libraries on Github.
It is important to understand that visual design and branding are interrelated. Visual design is a cohesive product style and encompasses logo, mobile app icon, and screens.
App design illustrates brand identity. The question “How much does an app logo design cost?” doesn’t make any sense. A logo is just a small element of the brand – and hence, a small component of the overall design. We include the cost of designing an app logo and icon into the total cost of the app design.
- Estimated time for visual app design: roughly from 80 to 300 and more hours.
- Deliverables: final product design including app logo, icons, and screenshots for app stores.
- Tools we use: Sketch, Affinity Designer/Photo, InVision, Principle or Flinto, Pixate, Origami or Form, After Effects or Apple Motion.
[The Brilliant Move app by Yalantis. Read the case study here.]
How much does it cost to design an app?
Now that we’ve finished with our definitions and discussed the stages of app design, it’s time to talk about money. App design cost is usually calculated according to project complexity, a designer’s level of expertise, and the number of platforms being designed for. We create mobile apps for Apple iPhone and iPad, all Android devices, Apple Watch and Android wear, and also Apple TV and Android Smart TV.
If your iOS or Android app doesn’t require complicated solutions like animations, it will require less time and therefore, less money. But the main factor that influences app design pricing is geography. So, how much does it cost to design an app across the map?
1. App design cost by country:
US-based design teams charge between $50 to $150 per hour. You are likely to pay anywhere between a couple thousand dollars to several tens of thousands for a high-end app.
UK studios charge £40-£80 ($65-$130) per hour. iOS app design, for example, starts at £1,000 and goes up to £5,000. Actual cost depends on graphics, the scope of work, and platforms (iPad app is more costly than an iPhone app, for example).
Ukrainians can deliver great design at $30-$50 per hour.
Indians charge $20 per hour and up.
2. App design cost by project complexity:
To give you a better understanding of costs, we can roughly divide iOS and Android mobile applications into three types: 1) basic, 2) middling complexity, and 3) complex. We will calculate the cost based on a $50/hour rate, since this can be considered as near-average: Here is what the average price looks like:
1) Simple app will take about 100 hours and starts at $5,000.
Brilliant Move, an on-demand delivery app that we built for a moving company, can be considered simple if we’re talking about designing it for only one platform. We created three products for Brilliant Move: an app for customers, an app for delivery crews and an admin panel for delivery managers. A single app for customers that allows for order creation and map-based delivery tracking took us about 100-150 hours.
My Tab is another example of a simple app we developed. It’s a gift app that lets people send vouchers to their friends that can be redeemed for alcohol at a bar.
2) Middling complexity apps will take about 200 hours and cost around $10,000.
An example of a middling complexity app is WhatsApp. On the one hand, the app looks very simple. But if you take a closer look, you’ll notice a lot of additional screens, well-designed interactions, and types of content that you can send in one message. A chat app like WhatsApp can take roughly 200-250 hours to design. In total, however, it takes more than 700 hours to develop only for one platform. You can read more about the cost of WhatsApp app development here.
3) Complex apps with custom animations can take closer to 400 hours and cost around $20,000.
There aren’t many complex apps out there. The majority of mobile solutions are simple or of middling complexity. Number of platforms is the single largest factor that can increase the cost. Autoportal is a marketplace for cars that we developed for both iOS and Android platforms. The app offers a variety of features from car comparisons to booking test drives and calculating a the potential cost of a loan for a particular car model. We also made the AP Partner app, a referral application for the automobile service. The number of platforms and a variety of features that the Autoportal apps offer made this project a complex one.
Keep in mind that these estimates of global design costs are approximate. The cost of a freelancer or studio is not only dependent on location. Each design studio offers their own quality, approaches, specialists, and processes.
We’ve given you some information about how we design apps at Yalantis and what we charge our clients for. To learn more about our experience, you can check out apps we’ve developed over the past year, and see our motion designs with open source code.