What Does It Cost To Design A Mobile App?
Let's consider different ways of accomplishing this and how much it really costs to design a mobile app.
Why Pay Designers If Developers Can Do The Job?
Yes, developers can assemble a UI using system guidelines and libraries that are ready for it. However, professional designers have broad expertise in the architecture of mobile applications, common user experience patterns, and a knowledge of how people using mobile apps. The professional UI design is not about drawing several images. It's about the big picture.
As a designer with 10+ years of experience and an engineering background, I'm confident that it's a lot to cover in just one of these areas. So it's better not to look for a jack of all trades if you want to do it properly.
Is it really that hard to draw sketches and images of the app?
The design process seems easy, and almost all the time, everyone has an opinion on it. However, it takes years to master a set of skills that make it possible to design usable and easy-to-understand apps. I'm not talking about knowledge of software like Photoshop, Sketch.
It's more about the experience of working on tasks of different complexity daily, paying attention to details, and understanding a project as a whole. Also, communicating solutions to clients and customers, getting feedback on how things work, and analyzing that.
Planning the whole design process is also, and it's a big part of a successful design process and a result.
Since the industry is growing so fast, a good designer should constantly learn new things, pay attention to trends and emerging technologies.
So, yeah, the design process nowadays has many things to cover, especially if it's about the design of applications.
How To Define an App Design Price?
The price depends on many factors, such as complexity, project size, which platforms will be covered (i.e., iOS, Android), designer's level of expertise. The more features the app has, the more it costs. The complexity of these features impacts the price.
What Do I Get As a Result Of Design Work?
Usually, it depends on the designer. The simple answer is that you get everything that you need to pass it to the developer. There are many ways of how it can be done, and mostly it depends on the level of the designer.
All the screen images, icons in PNG or SVG if you got lucky. Also, you can get a source file to, let's say, from Sketch or Photoshop that you can pass to a developer.
Essentials for the development stage
If you have a tight budget for a design or the whole development process, you'd probably need only the essential information about the design that's enough for the coding stage.
In most cases, it depends on a developer or development team that will be working with the design. So they can have specific requirements of what they need.
Often, it can be a well-organized design source file, icons in SVG format with correct shapes, an essential style guide with colors and text styles, a user flow diagram where you and a developer can see how everything should work.
The full package might consist of screen images, fonts used in the design, scalable icons in SVG format with correct shapes (e.g., can be used for creating an icon font), and other graphics assets like illustrations and animations.
Along with exported assets, you can get a style guide with information about colors, text styles, design principles, a library of components, and user experience guidelines of how these components can be used.
You can get some working prototypes made in online software (i.e., InVision, Marvel) to see how almost all user interfaces interactions work. Moreover, in most cases, you can collaborate there with the team even during the development process.
As the bonus of this package, the designer might ask for access to the test environment to go through your test app and send you feedback with things that should be fixed from the design point of view. A quality assurance specialist can do it, but it's useful to get feedback from a person who designed the app. So he can pay attention to details in a much broader sense.
So, What's the Actual Price?
It's usually hard to tell how much an application will cost at a glance. To estimate the price, a designer should break down the design process into several steps taking into account information he'll get from you.
The total price can be based on design stages.
Let's highlight the most common stages to simplify things here in this article.
Wireframes - black and white sketches that help map functionality, show the navigation, how features would look like, how information or content will be shown on screens. Usually, it doesn't have too many details, but it helps to visualize the ideas.
UI design - the visual appearance of the app. That's where you get the designed screens in the form of mockups or screenshots of your future app. Most people think that this is the only thing they need from a designer, but that's not quite right. Application design is not just how it looks.
UX design - how the app works. The work on this stage is focused on how people use the app. It covers the navigation, different states, and dialogs, ensuring that the app is simple to understand and use, seamless experience, visibility of essential functions, and application parts. This stage includes testing the design and user flow by creating an interactive prototype and/or testing the test version and improving the user experience.
The easiest way to calculate the design price is by using an hourly rate of a designer.
However, some professional designers have a flat rate, which sometimes is easier to work with for both parts.
Therefore, the average app design can cost you from $2000 to $30,000 and more. Usually, it's around 15% of the total development budget. The quality ranges from poor to world-class. By quality, I mean all the design stages and what an end product you will get.
But what if I already have wireframes or even UI design that I need to fix by a pro?
Sometimes, you already have design materials that you can pass to a designer. So he doesn't need to start from scratch the whole design process. Of course, in most cases, that will mean that the design price should be lower. Still, there are cases where a designer's wireframes or other design materials aren't appropriately crafted or can't be used to achieve a desirable result.
One of the cases like this is that the wireframes can be made and sent to a designer as images which helps to understand the idea, but it doesn't mean that he has to spend less time designing a user interface. Most of the time, the designer should re-create those wireframes and re-check the solutions from the design point of view. It has to be done because it might be the case that the wireframes were created by people who don't have a certain level of experience in the design or development area. So it leads to poor user experience in the end, and nobody will be happy about this work.
As a rule, it's much easier and less time-consuming to design from scratch than re-do someone's work.
Of course, there are exceptions, and each case can be negotiated individually.
Why Is The App Design So Expensive?
The process of creating even a simple application can be quite complex.
All great applications have one thing in common - they provide a great user experience. Why is it important? If a user of your application finds it difficult to use it, they'll stop using it. It's just as simple as that.
Actually, design can have an ROI of 10.000%. So even if you need to cut costs on the design, focus on the UX and look for designers with excellent expertise in this area.
Are the prices for Android and iOS apps different?
The price of application design for one of these platforms can vary due to strict guidelines, platforms differences, and basically how the market works. Design for iOS apps is usually more expensive than the design of Android apps. iOS apps, in fact, are more lucrative.
Take into consideration that you might need to take care of many screen sizes. It usually complicates the design, and you can add approximately 25% to the original price.
To have your app support tablets, you should account for up to 30% app design budget.
Adding support for the landscape mode will increase the total app budget by 15%.
If you're going to create an app for iOS and Android platforms, whether it's a cross-platform solution or two native apps, this aspect should also consider this. The cross-platform app will cost 25% more, and two native apps can cost 50% more because native apps are designed and built strictly for each platform individually.
How Using a Design System Can Impact The Application Design Price?
Design systems are becoming more commonplace. If you use one of the publicly available even paid design systems to build your app, it can save your costs on design. Yes, in many cases, you'd need a User Experience designer to help you assemble the design for your app and customize things for specific features and navigation of the app. However, most of the solutions taken from a design system are well thought ahead of time. So you can use it to build and validate your ideas fast.
The only problem with design systems is that there are not many complete packages on the market these days.
A massive advantage of using design systems is that you have a structured approach in your app design, and you can change even the smallest parts, and it will be applied everywhere else in the app. Forget endless revision, consistency problems, back and forth communication problems.
Here are some of the design systems that can cover most of the functionality cases of an app.
Nightfall: Dark Mode Design System for iOS
Nightfall is designed to make your design and development process much faster and delightful. It consists of 50+ templates covering 10 different topics for most of the cases that mobile apps have. 330+ Components. Available for Sketch. You can check it out here.
12 beautiful handpicked screens for free. Download and try it.
Task Management App - Sketch UI Kit
This UI kit includes 28 iOS mobile screens to help speed up your workflow. Check it out here.
App design plays one of the critical roles in your application's success. A bad design with a poor logo, low-quality graphics, bad user experience, not touch-friendly, will not be popular and get bad reviews, which leads to abysmal ROI.
The prices can vary depending on the location of a designer. Still, usually, it's not the most crucial factor that impacts the price, especially in the new era of location-independent professionals. So you actually, you can find a designer from eastern countries and their prices will be high as in the west.
Sometimes, it's not about the location but the level of expertise. So don't be scared and run away. First, try to figure this out. Some designers have high standards and prices, but there are cases where they will adequately review your project and offer a fair deal or possible ways to work on the most essential and complicated part within your budget. So it works well for both of you.