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Custom Design for an Application: How Much Does It Cost?

How Much does It Cost to Design an App?

Design is probably the second most essential aspect of software development after programming itself. Expenditures on designing services make up a significant portion of the required budget. But they are worth every dollar spent.

Since early 2018, when total revenue from the digital software market industry amounted to almost $216 billion, a significant surge has happened. As of 2022, total revenue equals more than $437 billion, with a projected growth of as much as $564 billion by 2026. It means that spending on software development and, respectively, application design is a promising investment decision.

So, how much does it cost to design a mobile app? As with most things in life, the short answer is, “it depends.” Let’s review what factors impact the cost and what software development format is optimal.

Software Development Stage: Designing the Application

Let’s have a look at all software development phases before focusing on designing:

  • Market research and planning.
  • Defining requirements and goals.
  • Designing and prototyping.
  • Programming.
  • Testing.
  • Deployment.
  • Support and technical maintenance. 

App design is defined as a methodology combining both user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) approaches and elements. It is the third app development phase, and it defines the way users will perceive the future app. It includes stylistic choices like colors and fonts, types and sizes of buttons and widgets, mechanics of interacting with design elements, etc. If you’re looking to make an app for your business you should ensure you know about the development phases, because if you don’t you might have unrealistic expectations in terms of the time it takes to develop an app, and also how much work goes into the process.

Good design improves software usability overall, makes functionality more accessible,  and enhances user experience. Statistics reveal the significance of proper design: over 20% of users delete apps if their icons deteriorate the home screen’s appearance.

How Long it Takes to Design an App

The design phase also comprises several steps that contribute to the final terms.

Step Description Average Hours
Analysis Marketing research, consideration of a project’s strengths and weaknesses, creating sets of early design ideas. 20-40
Planning In-depth polish of ideas, focusing on vital design decisions and determining exact goals to achieve. 10-20
UX Design This subtype is intended to provide an appealing experience to mobile app users, and it includes the creation of sketches and UX wireframes. 35-55
UI Design This subtype is the practice of solving users’ problems with the help of visual clues. It also finishes the designing stage overall and includes mood boards, UI mockup sample options, and finalized UI mockup creation. 50-150
Testing Verifying the received design against valid metrics, best design practices, and pre-planned goals. 5-20

Naturally, these stages intersect with prototyping, programming, and other phases. So do not use these calculations to estimate the entire project length, but only to understand how many hours it takes to complete the designing stage only. Also, your app may require prototyping to see what the design decision will look like before all the programming is done.

Cost to Design an App: Types of Software

Depending on the software type, the cost of custom mobile application design may vary significantly.

Native Apps

When designing an application for Android or iOS, developers are given toolkits and guides. The latter includes recommendations and obligatory requirements to design that dev studios have to comply with.

This situation makes it especially difficult to predict the terms and, therefore, the cost of designing a native app. It is so because some designers may have difficulty meeting both the client’s and the platform’s requirements.

In contrast, since some design decisions are already defined and there are plenty of examples available, native app visuals may be completed within days.

But other things being equal, native apps are less costly to design than hybrid apps.

Hybrid Apps

Cross-platform solutions are well known for having a single codebase while being capable of operating on multiple devices and via the web. In the design context, it is important to know that hybrid apps offer complete customization without any restrictions imposed.

This way, designers have to meet clients’ requirements only. But, since there are no obligatory requirements, choosing the most appropriate design decision may take a while. It is also likely that the concept would be adjusted multiple times in the process. There may also be difficulties in making all the visuals consistent.

So, it is not a rule of thumb, but a hybrid app design will be the most expensive.

Web Apps

Digital programs stored on a remote server and run via a web browser also have a specificity to consider. They also offer great customization options but do not support extensive functionality, unlike the other two types.

As a result, designers are not required to create loads of different pages and make up distinct concepts. The major portion of the work is determining a consistent design decision and applying it properly to multiple web pages.

From this perspective, the cost of designing a mobile app that operates via a browser is the lowest.

Cost Factors for Mobile App Design

Besides the app’s type, several more factors impact the final price.

Design Type

Take a pause and answer these questions before reading further:

  • Is your idea innovative or inspired by another software?
  • Do you already have a basic design concept, like a brand identity design?
  • Do you need to create a design from scratch or improve and transform the existing one?

Now, you may already have an insight into how a design type and the level of customization affect a final price. Naturally, the more unique and innovative you expect your app to be, the more challenging the fulfillment of your request is. And creating a clone of a popular app is always cheaper than developing a one-of-a-kind product.

App Complexity

The average cost to design a mobile app depends on how complex each page is. Extensive functionality like push notifications, credit card payments, integration of multiple APIs, etc., all these elements require extra effort from designers. Specialists should design not only each of the features but also develop an interface that would enable access to them in the most convenient way possible.

A broad range of opportunities offered makes it complicated to fit all the windows, buttons, and icons on a page. And choosing the most appropriate design decisions here may take a longer time.

Type of Team

When it comes to app designing, you have to choose between an in-house team, a local dev agency, an outsourcing dev agency, and a bunch of freelancers. All these options have pros and cons that complicate the determination of their impact on the final costs.

But as a rule of thumb, having an in-house team is just irrational for a single project. At the same time, local agencies' and freelancers’ prices may significantly fluctuate but are still rather high. Hiring an outsourcing agency is likely to be your best call.

mobile app

How Much Does it Really Cost to Design an App?

Let’s review how much each of the design stages may cost, considering the number of employees needed to complete the work and their approximate wages:

  • Analysis. $1,000–2,000.
  • Planning. $500–1,000.
  • UX Design. $2,500–6,000.
  • UI Design. $3,500–9,000.
  • Testing. $800–2,400.
  • Total. $8,300–20,400.

These estimations are valid for custom, medium to high complexity mobile app design performed in one of the European countries. See the table below to see how wages of UX/UI designers vary by their location.

Region Average wages
US $50–$120
Canada $40–$110
Eastern Europe $20–$50
Western Europe $40–$65
Asia $10–$40
Africa $15–$30

How to Calculate an Average Cost to Design an App

Let’s summarize all the bits of information and define the steps to calculate average expenses on an intended project and tips for saving your budget.

Technical Complexity

The way app complexity affects mobile app design cost is detailed previously, but you still have to consider this metric in your calculations. Try to have the functionality well-planned before ordering services. It will remove the need to revise some design concepts, lowering the costs. Also, you may just calculate that every design element, depending on its complexity, may take an extra 5–10 hours of work.

Number of Pages

This variable is the simplest one. The more pages you need to be designed to have all the functionality represented properly, the higher the final cost will be. You may compute the number of unique pages and elements on them to determine the approximate design price.

Contract Type

It concerns not only the mentioned work formats. Costs will largely depend on the type of team chosen and their workflow. A number of team members, extra services, cost of shared meetings per hour, etc. All these and more are typically mentioned in a contract, which gives you accurate price estimations.

Deadlines

The cost of mobile app design may also be impacted by tight deadlines. Agencies may either hire freelancers to perform some parts of the concept or ask their team members to work extra hours. In both cases, the cost per hour of design will rise.

Design Scope

Once you have ideas and goals set, you may write a scope design statement. These will include the limitations, project needs, technical requirements, resources, budget, etc. This way, all the nuances with a contractor will be set, and you will have the volume of work agreed and the approximate budget estimated. Do not forget that extra requests, additional design decisions, concept changes, etc., are charged separately.

Designing a Mobile App: Benefits From Outsourcing Your Project

The most vital decision you should take is to whom to entrust your software development: freelancers, an in-house dev team, or a full-cycle mobile development company. Without further ado, let's reveal why outsourcing developers is a superior choice.

Lower Cost

Perhaps, it is an essential benefit of outsourcing design agencies for the majority of investors. While local teams’ app design costs are high, in-house designers are even more expensive, and freelancers tend to overestimate volumes of work, outsourcing specialists typically offer fair rates. They are the most cost-effective option.

Ongoing Support

Any other contractors and in-house specialists tend not to pay this aspect enough attention. But you will probably enjoy the customer-centric support an outsourcing design team will provide you. They have experience communicating with clients, so keeping you up to date and understanding your requests will not be a problem.

High Expertise

Other things being equal, the cumulative expertise of outsourcing agencies is probably the highest compared to other contract options. In-house specialists may excel at improving the existing design, but they would not have much experience with other apps to bring best design practices to a brand-new concept.

If you choose an outsourcing agency specializing in your niche, be sure that you will get the best outcomes possible.

Superior Project Management

Unlike, for example, freelancers, outsourcing design teams have all the project management and communication processes well-established. It means that they are likely to meet deadlines and have their workflows synchronized.

Final Thoughts

In essence, you need to consider multiple nuances to determine how much it costs to design an app. To perform basic calculations, you need to plan the future project well and pay attention to the type of team you intend to hire and all the extras.

While prices for design may fluctuate broadly, hiring an outsourcing design team may be your most cost-effective decision regardless of the project.

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