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App Design Cost: What Goes Into It?

Updated on
December 14, 2023
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When you want to create your business, build a software product, or launch an MVP to test the market, you face a choice: high quality for a high price or poor quality for a low price. Finding a good partner along with a fair cost is hard but possible.

In this article, I'll talk specifically about app design cost. Not just because 50% of internet users said web design was a crucial factor in making an opinion about a business, but to show you how the app design cost estimation is made.  

With over 10 years of experience in BizDev, I’ve helped to make development and design cost estimations for clients depending on their requirements and business needs. And today, I’ll share with you everything I learned so far.

I’ll cover the following topics:

  • how does UI&UX design affect app design cost?
  • how much does it cost to design an app in different regions?
  • what are 2 effective ways to reduce your expenses?


What Do We Call App Design?

Before making any app design costs estimation, let's take a quick break to figure out what app design stands for. 

Take your phone and open any app you like. What do you see? Probably the text, buttons, icons. Pay attention to colors in the app. What are they? Do you like how they combine? Now try to take any action: tap the button, swipe. Was this easy to take this action?

It was a short introduction to app design. It's a combination of what you see in the app and how you interact with it. Two elements are engaged in this process: UX & UI design. 

  • UI (user interface) design. It's a visual part of any software. It includes buttons, sliders, input fields, colors, animation, etc. 
  • UX (user experience) design. It stands for functionality: users' reaction and their navigation on an app.  

Designing a successful app includes the correct visual touchpoints, precise sequence of actions, and easy navigation. It's important to remember that the purpose of any app is to solve a specific problem. Good design is what helps you achieve this goal. 

app design cost


3 Business Needs that Affect App Design Cost

I cannot stress it enough: there's no precise sum for an app design cost. It depends on several factors, and the client's needs are the most crucial. Let's look at 3 common situations when clients' needs may affect the final app design cost.  

3 Business Needs That Affect Design App Cost

  1. No App: need to build an MVP/Prototype to test the market
  2. Existing app: need to improve the app’s features
  3. Existing app: need to rebuild the app from scratch 
app design cost


No App: need to test the market

Situation: you come with the idea of an app.

Need: test the market or attract the investors by showing them the MVP/prototype of the solution.

What you get: discovery phase, simple and minimalistic app design with minimum features to test the key hypothesis.

App design cost: 1-1,5 months, ~ $8K

Existing App: need to improve the app

Situation: you come with the existing app, and you’re not satisfied with some features.

Need: improve the existing app: add animation, speed up the loading process, etc.

What you get: heuristic analysis of what doesn't work in the app: unclear CTA, lack of screens, etc. List of features to improve, and depending on the elements, you get the professionals who can cover this scope of work. 

App design cost: 2,5 - 3 months, $15 - 20K

Existing App: need to rebuild the app

Situation: you come with an existing app that you’re not satisfied with.

Need: rebuild the app from scratch with astonishing design.

What you get: technical discovery to understand which frameworks to use and if all features are possible to implement, full-time design, and technical team. 

App design cost: 3 - 4,5 months, ~ $20K

To sum up, the average cost to design an app is between $8-20K. Note that the price may vary significantly depending on whether you need a full cycle of services or have already done part of the homework.


6 Other Factors That Affect App Design Cost

The most important thing to remember is that there's no one-off answer to the question "how much does it cost to design an app?". It's a complex product development process that includes designers and experts from different teams: engineers, QAs, analysts, and product managers.

Plus, the app design cost is a thorny issue as everything depends on a client's goals and needs. So, I’m not promising to give you the accurate price of the app design, but I will try to get as close as possible.

Now that you know that design isn't just about illustrations or a piece of code. Let's get to know what else affects app design cost.

app design cost


Discovery

When there's no talk about design, you just have an idea of an app; Software product discovery is what goes first. Note that this stage isn’t essential. If you need to research the market and shape your target audience, only then the discovery stage is included in app design cost. Usually, the process consists of the following scope of work:

  • Conducting market research;
  • Studying competitors;
  • Interviewing users & stakeholders;
  • Shaping Proto Persona;
  • Creating Customer Journey Map;
  • Creating Value Proposition Canvas;
  • Prototyping wireframes;
  • Testing them;

Suppose test results show that the solution meets business goals and users' pains. In that case, we move forward and start prioritizing the scope of work, negotiating a roadmap within a client, and evaluating time & money resources.  

app design experts

Technical complexity

The second thing that affects mobile app design cost more evidently is technical complexity. If you need an MVP or prototype to test the idea quickly, we'll not build a rocket. Creating a simple app with basic functionality, no database, and social media integration will take less time & money resources. In another case, when a client wants to build a compound app, like Uber, we propose a more complex solution. 

For example, while working on Sprent – an online delivery app, we included three different user roles: buyer, store, and admin in one app. It's basically creating three separate applications. We also implemented such features as: 

  • a one-click answering system for push notifications;
  • credit card payments;
  • tracking orders.
app design cost - influence of technical complexity

All this demands more time on development and, in return, increases the cost of designing an app. 

Devices and OS

Telling the truth, the average cost to create an app will not significantly change depending on which platform you need, iOS or Android. Only if you need both, the cost to design an app will double.

app design cost


Another thing you need to consider is the number of devices. If you want to build an app for smartphones, tablets, each of them requires an individual approach. Be ready that a larger design team will be engaged in the project. Moreover, if you additionally want a web app, the cost will be even higher.

app design cost


Custom design

We noticed that clients come with solutions that already exist in the market, and astonishing design is what they want to stand out with. In this case, we propose using a custom design that includes:

  • illustrations;
  • animation;
  • branding.

The more advanced and time-consuming design is, the higher the cost will be. Each custom element takes time, so rich design means large investments. 

UX & UI Design

We've mentioned this part earlier but let's break UX & UI design into stages and understand better why it may add extra dollars in app design cost: 

Stage 1: UX design. At this stage, a designer spends a lot of time figuring out how to make a users' interaction and navigation smooth. The output is – users have to understand how the app works intuitively.

Stage 2: Prototyping. Now the designer creates prototypes, which are clickable wireframes. A wireframe is a simple sketch that shows how elements in an app may be positioned. It can be made on paper or a digital one. This stage aims to evaluate the UX part and see how a skeleton of the app may look. Plus, it's a cost-efficient way to pitch an app to the client and get their feedback.

Stage 3: UI design. When prototypes are approved, designers start to work around the visual part. This is the stage when color schemes, logos, all illustrations, and animations are created. 

Again, not each stage is necessary. We may skip UX and prototyping parts if a client has something on his/her hands.

app design


Location of Development Company

Rates are different in different countries, and you're free to choose from lots of options. The most expensive ones are in the US, Canada ($150-200/hour), and Western Europe ($60-100/hour). While in Eastern Europe, the average app designer cost is typically 3 times less ($35-60/hour). The lowest price is in India ($10-80/hour).

app design cost


3 Steps to Estimate App Design Cost

Based on the information above, it becomes easier to estimate the cost of your app design as now you have all the necessary things to consider.

Here’s a breakdown by steps, so you can better understand the expenses involved.

Define what design services you need

The first step in estimating app design costs is to clearly define the scope of design services you require.

Defining your business needs is key here. If you need to design an app from scratch or to improve the existing design, or you simply need an audit. Make this clear at first.

Them, you can approach the next step and consider the various aspects of your app, such as:

  • Do you need UI or UX, or both?
  • Do you need designers to conduct product discovery?
  • Do you need custom visual elements or branding?

This initial clarity will help you communicate your requirements effectively to potential design teams.

Determine the complexity of the app design

Evaluate the complexity of your app's features, functionalities, and interactions. An MVP for an e-commerce app will likely have a lower design cost compared to a feature-rich e-commerce platform or a social networking app.

The same with custom app design, branding elements, and complex animations. If you need all these features – it’ll take more time and money. So, list all of the things you want to include in your app and it’ll help you estimate the app design cost better.

Choose the right design team

Research and evaluate outsourcing companies that provide product design services, design agencies or freelancers based on their portfolios, expertise, and client reviews. Reach out to potential candidates to discuss your project's requirements and to obtain detailed quotes.

Remember that experience and track record often justify a higher cost, as they contribute to the quality and efficiency of the design process.

How Uptech Makes App Design Cost Estimation

Our approach to calculating app design cost includes several steps:

  • Defining the client's goals and needs;
  • Defining the complexity of the project; 
  • Determining the scope of work;
  • Figuring out if we can cover the scope;
  • Time & Money evaluation of the project;

After these stages, the collaboration starts. A classical approach to app design consists of 2 phases:

  1. Discovery
  2. Design

A separate specialist is responsible for each phase. The average cost of each specialist is $50/hour. Let’s try to calculate the cost of a medium complexity app design that takes 2 - 2,5 months to complete. 


app design cost

So, it'll cost you approximately $13K to bring your medium complexity app to life. Keep in mind that some professionals may work part-time at the end of the project, or if you have a Business Analyst/Product Manager on your side, the price may be lower.  


How Much Does It Cost To Design an App? 3 Examples with Prices

Simple App: Doctor Appointment App

Designing an app with 3-5 simple screens and UI kits instead of custom design takes less time and, of course, money. Our Dribbble shot of the Doctor Appointment app is just that case. There are 3 basic screens: Login, Calendar and Book an appointment. Also, we didn't make illustrations on our own and used ready-made UI kits. 

Designing a mobile app with such functionality is usually worth around $4 000.  

app design cost for simple app

Medium App: Instagram

If you want to build a social app, like Instagram with medium complexity features, like:

  • Login/Logout;
  • Profile;
  • Chat;
  • Photo/video upload.

You should engage a UX&UI designer. There won’t be many screens and complex logic, but still you need to invest some time in designing the user flow and make all the features user-friendly. How much does it cost to design an app like Instagram? Well, the cost starts at $8 000 and may reach $15 000. 

app design cost for medium app

Complex App: Yaza

Yaza – a real estate app for sharing and recording video home tours, is a great example of a complex app. When we worked on a design for Yaza, our main goal was to fix some interface difficulties and issues. We started with the UX design to create a CJM and build a prototype based on it. After several iterations of testing and hypothesis validation, we improved the prototype. Then we tested different UI solutions to find what works best. As a result, we designed a user-friendly app with 9+ screens and features for 2 roles: real estate agents and home hunters. 

Yaza isn't just a good-looking app. Its design is based on user behavior, user testing and in-depth research. It all adds some dollars to the final check. This type of mobile app design cost starts at around $20 000.

app design cost - complex app

Ways to Optimize App Design Cost

If the final check doesn't match your expectations, there are 2 ways to optimize app design cost:

Prioritize features

Implement only the necessary features to test the key hypotheses. You may include other elements in the next app version.

Simplify design

Use UI kits. They cut the designer's resources and app design price as a result.

Note, there may be a situation when you're in lack time and need to get the app ready. Try to stay calm, consider every decision, and be flexible.

app design cost


Summary

App design costs may be totally different. It's a compound process that depends on the project's complexity, the scope of work, and most importantly, the client's needs and goals. Keep in mind that apart from the technical and design sides, there's a discovery process included. The prices of app design vary in the market, and you're free to choose the one that suits you best and remember, there's always an option to reduce the budget.

We at Uptech realize the importance of a personal approach to each client. We don't use templates. We try to pick the best solution for our clients to satisfy their specific needs. 

If you need help with designing the app, contact us. We'll be happy to discuss the details!

 

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