How Much Does It Cost to Design an Application?

4 July 2021 Writer: Lera Grechanik 519 views

Talking about the costs in web and mobile development it should be always kept in mind that it depends on a lot of things, entailing the design process. There are a lot of tasks to be performed including user research, competitor audits, user experience design, interaction design, web and mobile app interfaces design, graphic design, app icon, and logo design. In one of the previous articles, we have already covered the topic related to the cost of an app. Today we would like to have a closer look at the cost of app design, not development. To make it simple, we will be talking about the cost of the app’s look and vibe. But before we jump straight to the point, let’s check the aspects of design to be considered and why they are that important if you want to create a high-quality app.

What does the cost of design services consist of?

Design is not about a nice picture, it is about problem-solving. Regardless of the app, you are building, any app does one single thing in general - it solves a certain problem of the end-user. 

Good-looking screens are not enough if you want the app to be useful and do its job. To create a working design the designer should possess some skills, including the ability to understand users, their pain points, their goals, and their needs by analyzing business processes. The design process we follow here at Celadon can be divided into several steps. 

Research

There are three things we start within our research:

  1. users and their needs, 
  2. common practices for solving business challenges, 
  3. competitors.  

User research is conducted first. It is done with the aim to understand the users, for whom the app is developed. We try to figure out who they are, what goals they set, and if they can achieve them with the help of the app to be developed. For whom the app is created in general? Will it be a solution for regular users or some software for your employees? In this step, we also dig deep into your business to figure out how to help users in achieving their goals with your app in the most efficient and easy way. In the end, the industry analysis comes.  We conduct research on your competitors to check how they cope with similar challenges. We analyze the features they have implemented and try to figure out which of them are must-have ones and what user needs are covered. This step involves the UX holes in the design as well.

Having all this data in hand we can offer the design covering the needs of the users and being 100% adapted to your business and its needs. It can increase sales, grow the user base, make the interaction between the users faster, and so on.

If this information is provided in full, the professional designer can start creating the concept screens just for you to get the feel of the app.

Do not concentrate on the competitors and the apps they have developed. Think about the users first, the target audience you are working for, and the strong points of your app. Pay attention to the question of how to cover their needs and make them happy with your app.

  • Estimated time: 20 to 40 hours
  • Deliverables: Use cases, realistic behavioral scenarios, user stories
  • Tools we use: User personas, A/B test results, investigative user studies, interviews

UX design

During the next step, the team structures the ideas to be able to deliver a promising design with a delightful UX or user experience. 

Here our designer creates a scheme which is called a user flow diagram. It shows the path the user takes when he interacts with the product. The high-level structure of the app is mapped here.

 User flow diagram. Source: dribbble.com

Wireframing goes next. At this stage, the team gets the image of the products cleared and it becomes sharper. In two words, a wireframe is just a representation of the screens and the way they all will exist together on pages of the app. 

Low-fidelity wireframes simply show where the elements will be placed on the screens. It is done to check if the navigation flows logically from step to step. 

When the customer approves the navigation scheme and the screen representation the team proceeds to a more precise vision of the end product. In this step, the developers can start implementing the core features and basic elements.

Wireframes. Source: dribbble.com

It often happens that creating wireframes and iterating again and again to create the most efficient user experience takes more time than was initially estimated. However, working with wireframes saves the clients money in the end. But how does it really work?

  • There’s always a risk that the budget and time constraints will be exceeded, so wireframing decreases this risk down to zero. The secret here is that the developers can start working when the final design was not approved. This approach helps when you have a strict release date. In this case, the development starts as soon as the wireframes are approved and the additional details will be developed and implemented later.

  • Inherent risks are that very point that always exists. In case the requirements change, the risks grow. If we are working using the wireframes-related approach, all the necessary changes can be done within a couple of minutes. The exception is a screen that was completely designed previously. To make a long story short, wireframes allow to cut development costs on changes. 

 Our team at Celadon works on wireframes altogether. Anyone from the business analysts, developers, designers, project managers, to the client works together until there’s an agreement on the wireframe. Such an approach allows us to detect misunderstandings that can occur during the development process in the most efficient way.

But there’s another step that a designer takes before starting to work with UI itself.  And this step is prototyping, breathing life into bare wireframes. For example, wireframes are static and can't perform an animation. But the prototypes do! There they can try the app of a kind, click some buttons, send forms, work with managers, and other UI features. 

  • Estimated time: 40 to 160 hours
  • Deliverables: Wireframes of app screens, user flow diagrams, interactive prototypes
  • Tools we use: Sketch, InVision, Principle, Overflow

UI design

UX design is about problem-solving, it is clear. But what UI is for and what it does? In two words, it's all about communication. UI allows the user to know more and more about the product when he travels from screen to screen. Feel and look of the product are the things UI designer works on. He picks colors, shapes, selects fonts, and designs typographic communication.

Visual design. Source: dribbble.com

The designer works on the user interface and how it will look in the end. Add here the functions that will be performed during the interaction between the user and the app and you will get a brief idea of what the UI design is about.  By the way, the design systems are also created here. The design system is simply a collection of reusable elements, created according to the guidelines of certain standards. A collection like that can be assembled to create any number of apps in the future.

Design system. Source: dribbble.com

Branding is closely connected to visual design, they are interrelated. Visual design works with the Product style, including an app’s logo, mobile app icon, and screens. In case the design was done well and corresponds to the high-quality standards, it also illustrates the brand identity. That is why it does not really make sense to ask about the exact price of an app’s logo and so on. Logo on its own is just one of the components, just a part of the overall design. In Celadon, we include this price into the total cost of the app to be developed.

  • Estimated time: 80 to 320 hours
  • Deliverables: Final product design including app logo, icons, and screenshots for app stores; a design system
  • Tools we use: Sketch, Photoshop, Illustrator, InVision, Principle, Pixate, After Effects

How much does it cost to design an app?

The thing which is critically important to proceed with the app development cost calculation is the complexity of this app. Another thing to be kept in mind is the number of platforms the app will be designed for. Add here the level of the designer’s experience and you will have a more or less complete picture of the situation in general.

We create native mobile apps for all iOS and Android mobile devices, watchOS and Android Wear, and also Apple TV and Android TV here at Celadon so one point out of the list is closed. Of course, if the app does not require complex animation or some sophisticated features, the development time and the cost will be less substantial. But there’s another factor which seems to be not that important. However, it has a huge impact on the cost of the app. And this factor is the team’s location. So how does the total price depend on the team location? Let’s have a brief overview. 

1. App design cost by country

To provide you with clear and up-to-date data regarding the cost of app development in different countries we have conducted profound research and have analyzed the hourly rates of 100 companies in the US, the UK, Germany, Ukraine, and India. 

These figures were collected with Clutch, a source providing clear ratings and reviews of IT teams. The figures, dated June 2021, clearly show that: 

  • The United States. Almost 42%  of US-based agencies charge $150 to $200 per hour, 29% charge $100 to $150 per hour. Four of the agencies we analyzed don’t disclose their hourly rates. 
  • The United Kingdom. 31% of agencies in the UK charge $50 to $100 per hour, 29% set the rate around $100 to $150 per hour.
  • Germany. 37% of companies charge $50 to $100 per hour, 27% request $25 to $50 per hour, while 23% want $100 to $149 per hour. So in comparison with the previously mentioned rates, the difference is really huge. 
  • Ukraine. 61% of Ukrainian design studios request $25 to $50 per hour, 24% charge $50 to $99 per hour. 
  • India. 40% of Indian companies we checked charge $25 to $49 per hour, 35% set the price less than $25 an hour.

Read also: Why Belarus Should Be Your Top Choice to Outsource

2. Custom design cost by project complexity

All the applications can be divided into three types, and the cost of each type varies. So the types are 1) basic, 2) middling complexity, and 3) complex. 

The estimated price was calculated based on a $50 per hour rate because this number can be considered an average according to the statistics we have provided earlier. To make the matter clear, we would like to explain in two words what indicators can be used if you want to define the app’s complexity on your own.  

  • A number of platforms you’re developing it for. The more platforms - the more complex the app will be. 
  • Is it a minimum viable product or MVP or a completed app? 
  • Functionality and its overall complexity.  For example, if the app includes non-standard functionality and AR functionality, it is considered to be complex. Apps, designed for a specific niche, will also be considered complex.
  • The needs of the end-user. For example, apps for healthcare are in most cases complex because the needs of the end-users are sophisticated ones. 
  • Design customization level
  • Number of user roles in the app

1) A simple app usually takes 100 to 160 hours to design, so the price starts from $5,000.

2) Middling complexity apps take 320 to 640 hours depending on the complexity level. So the estimated price is around $16,000 and higher.

3) Complex apps take around  1000 hours and cost $50,000 and up.

The figures we have provided are the average ones so they can vary greatly depending on the area your development team will be located. But location is not the only thing that matters, of course, especially if we are talking about freelancers. A design studio, as well as a freelancer, offers a mix of quality, approaches, specialists, and processes, and all these factors also have an impact on the end cost. 

So, now you have all the information about our approach to design at Celadon and about the things we charge the customers for. You can always learn more about our work and the products we have created over the past year. All the projects can be explored on Cases. In case you have any questions after exploring our experience or want to get more information about the estimated cost of the app you are about to deliver, feel free to contact us.

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