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How Much Does it Cost to Design a Mobile App

Mobile app design costs

Wondering how much does it cost to design a mobile app?

At a time where digital consumption is shifting more and more towards optimizing functionality in the mobile experience, having a mobile app in either the Apple app store or Google Play has become a fundamental pillar in any business’ strategy for customer engagement and eventual revenue growth. With technology, user design, and user experience rapidly advancing to meet the wealth of experiences offered through mobile development, companies are no longer bound to the static conventional design frameworks of decade-old mobile applications, be it iOS or Android. 

As a direct result of the seemingly limitless boundaries in mobile application development, the cost associated with its design varies greatly. Needless to say, not only do lower-end mobile app design costs imply that you’re getting a simple app design, but it is also indicative of a subpar final product that may very well have a negative impact in impacting digital spaces. Although it will be more expensive, the higher end of the cost spectrum is the sweet spot since you are almost guaranteed a solid foundation for high-converting app post-development. This is almost a given for complex apps where failure is simply not an option. 

Design Thinking In Contemporary Mobile App Design

Before diving into the actual figures associated with the cost of mobile app design, it is imperative to first tackle the various phases that constitute this type of digitally-centered project. 

Needless to say, the complexity of the tasks required for each phase, its inclusion/omission, and the resources used (or lack thereof) will all play a vital role in estimating each one’s cost within the mobile app design process. 

With that as our backdrop, proper construction of a compelling design for a mobile application cannot commence without first centering its efforts on the need to come to a clear and succinct understanding of the problem to be solved. While this may be an initial step within the design process, it impacts the entirety of mobile app design by helping to focus ideation and iteration phases on solving relevant user issues.

This phase can be summarized in a two-word concept: design thinking. 

In contemporary product design, this framework represents the golden school of thought that permits one to zoom in on one’s needs in order to help make the solution be as helpful as it possibly can. To be more concrete, it utilizes a user-centered approach to problem-solving which values the following:

  1. Understanding a user’s needs, wants, pain points, and behavior: Central to the design thinking framework is a deep interest to obtain and analyze key data/information that will help provide insight on a user. This covers all inputs that will be useful in conditioning the solution proposed in the design process, including pain points, user behavior, needs, and expectations. 
  2. Questioning assumptions and refining hypotheses: Too often, product developers begin to develop a solution for a particular user segment based on the assumption that they already know the problem. Design thinking seeks to interrogate and scrutinize these presumptions to encourage greater homogeneity between the solution proposed and the real problem experienced. In doing so, one may discover problems that were not originally as apparent as they seemed. 
  3. Prioritizing ideation and concept validation in the solution-creation process: Here, design thinking seeks to use insight gathered to recontextualize and reframe the problem to be solved (if initial hypotheses are not correct) and improve the quality and impact of the solution being developed.

In summary, design thinking permits one to qualify unknown, poorly-defined, or imprecise hypotheses in an effort to improve a product or service.

Benefits of Design Thinking In Mobile App Design

A mobile app design steeped within the design thinking framework affords a plethora of advantages: 

  • Reduction in project risk: By its very nature, design thinking is an iterative process. It calls for constant analysis and refinement of prototypes to ensure that innovative solutions answer the problems expressed by users. By leveraging a framework that values constant improvement, design thinking reduces the chances that a new product or idea will fail once it is launched.
  • Allows the mobile app to stand out among its competitors: According to data retrieved by Think With Google, the average mobile phone user has 35 apps installed on their phone. With statistics shared by Forbes indicating that the number of mobile apps in the world had risen to 8.9M as of the first quarter of 2020, the app development scene is getting more and more competitive. In the dog-eat-dog world of mobile apps, design thinking allows you to create a ‘made-for-you’ solution for a specific target audience that, in turn, increases the chances of your app securing its presence in the industry.
  • Multidisciplinary approach to user interface/UX design: Design thinking requires the input, analysis, and feedback of multiple profiles across varying disciplines in order to arrive at a definitive conclusion. These include UI/UX designers, software developers, product owners, business analysts, and project managers, among others. The expertise afforded across all facets of the design process will assist greatly in building a holistically-sound final prototype.
  • Aids in generating business and revenue: While design thinking is primarily a product-driven framework, the insight it provides regarding the product’s users can be exploited across the business for revenue gain. When used correctly, this information can lead to a shift in business strategy to capitalize on new information unearthed about a company’s target market.

The Fundamentals of Design Thinking

The design thinking framework can be divided into five distinct phases which seek to optimize the iterative customer-centered principles which characterize its scheme.

Credits: MAQE

Let’s take a closer look at each one of these phases: 

Empathy

Empathy constitutes the very foundation of any successful mobile app design initiative. As a designer or product owner, your cognizance of your user’s needs, wants, expectations, and pain points coupled with the sensitivity you show towards them is what will drive design choices that either make or break your Android/iOS app. In doing so, one approaches their target market from a place of humility, setting aside preconceived notions and assumptions to gather factual insights about them.

Credits: Nielsen Norman Group

Consequential to empathy being a launchpad for design thinking is user research. Without research, it is impossible to gain insight into your target market. 

With that in mind, there are several empathy-building techniques that one has at their disposal, such as: 

  • Empathy Interviews: Interviews have long since been effective methods of data collection. In the design process framework, the interview is tweaked to obtain maximum insight.  

Whereas the traditional interview is usually structured as a fairly close-ended conversation where a list of pre-determined questions defines the scope of the session, empathy interviews are much more free-flowing. 

Instead, they should have an open-ended conversation feel. Emphasis should be placed on asking non-binary questions which provoke extensive answers. Also, storytelling and non-verbal cues are key elements that provide you with insight regarding your user. 

  • Immersion & observation: As the name suggests, this consists of taking note of insight on your target market while they are in a given environment. 

This is customary in user testing where users are brought in to interact with a product. 

During that time, they are usually recorded or photographed in order to then analyze the results of the user test and combine it with analysis conducted of non-verbal cues in order to come to a conclusion. 

  • Extreme users: Conducting user testing with extreme users is another way to build empathy for a given audience. 

Extreme users are those profiles that occupy two opposing ends of the market segment spectrum which require far more or less input to execute a specific task. 

While it occupies a precarious position among empathy-building methods, extreme users are known to help pinpoint unknown or inadequately-defined problems that an average user may have difficulty qualifying in a user test. 

Define

Following the empathy phase, design thinking is characterized by the need to clearly frame your problem. User experience (UX) design all hinges upon the need to solve concrete problems, ideally in a user-centric way. 

This is where the definition phase of design thinking comes into play. Following the compilation and analysis of insight conducted in the empathy phase, one then synthesizes their findings into a clear and cohesive problem. 

In order to do this, designers usually divide their findings into clear categories which help to organize thoughts. 

One common way to do so occurs in the empathy phase by way of an empathy map similar to the one shown below.

Credits: Game Storming

This empathy map separates insights based on entry points (what, how, why, feelings, emotions) which then make it easier to group and define them into a clear problem statement.

Ideate

Having conducted the necessary analyses and defined the problem statement, ideation involves examining said problem statement in-depth to develop solutions. 

This phase enables a team to enter into uncharted territory and devise an innovative, groundbreaking way to address a particular problem. 

Since this phase deals with idea generation, teams can choose from a slew of techniques to either draw inspiration from or to create them. Brainstorming is the most common one. However, there are many more techniques.

For example, bodystorming is a way to bring about ideation through an actual physical experience.

Credits: Medium

As opposed to visualizing the customer experience, this technique forces the design team to physically act out the customer journey as if the product already existed. 

The logic is that physical movement will allow the team to feel more connected to the project and, consequently, enhance their ability to generate solutions.

Prototype 

Prototype 

Prototyping is a phase noted for its experimental nature. It also constitutes the stage in which a scaled-down version of the mobile app design is selected and fleshed out. 

There are several facets to prototyping. However, universally, most teams will create some type of representation of the product that may range from a rough sketch to an interactive digital prototype. 

Credits: Pinterest

Usually, these prototypes will be fleshed out in the most interactive way possible to allow for user testing.

Testing

At this stage of the design thinking framework, the mobile app design which was previously developed is tested to gauge how effective it is in satisfying the central problem statement.

Central to this phase is user testing.

This is crucial to fire-test your created design to ensure that it holds up to the needs of your users.

How to Design a Mobile App Step-by-Step

Having laid the foundation upon which the framework of mobile app design should be developed, the design process itself also constitutes a series of steps that a team must follow in order to build the mobile app. This enables the design team to be adequately guided throughout the length and breadth of the project and maximize productivity. 

Prior to diving into the various tasks which make up these steps, it must be stated that mobile app design is not a one-size-fits-all field. For that reason, some projects may deviate from the following guide. That said, this step-by-step breakdown of the mobile app design process does dictate the general flow for most projects of this nature to maximize cohesion between product design and its users’ expectations. 

  1. Fusing Mobile App Vision & Business Strategy
  2. Mobile App Research
  3. Market segment analyses
  4. Mobile app ideation
  5. Mobile app design
  6. Mobile app testing & validation

Fusing Mobile App Vision & Business Strategy

From inception and even before commencement of the actual process, the design of a mobile app has to be centered in purpose: in other words, a design team must be clear on why the app is being built. If not, then the entire team lacks a concise vision to guide throughout the development of the mobile app design, something which can jeopardize the success of the project. 

The vision of a mobile app design is linked and subsequently conditioned by the overall business strategy. This is because the former usually has a direct impact on the overall success and revenue margins of a business: for that reason, there is no room for error. 

Usually, when designing a mobile app, a company already has a predefined value proposition, brand image/voice, and series of goals which, based on their efforts, they aspire to make a reality. Therefore, in most cases, the design team does not need to bear the added weight of determining these crucial elements. 

In any case, mobile app design lays at the intersection of (1) a clear vision that dictates the app’s purpose and (2) the business strategies that act as precursor KPIs regarding what the app will do for the business’ ultimate goals. 

One of the most common ways to illustrate the connection between the two is by way of a Lean Model Canvas featured below:

Credits: UpMetrics

This canvas allows you to create a visual of the various elements which make up app vision and business strategy.

Through annotating these elements, you then allow for better planning and idea generation throughout the design phase.

Mobile App Research

Having clearly shown the correlation between the mobile app vision and the overall business strategy, research then constitutes the cornerstone upon which decision-making in mobile app design must be based. 

This involves both user research and quantitative and qualitative market research (market dimensions, market size, competitors) respectively.

Research is essential to the creation of a compelling mobile app design that gives you an edge over your competitors.

The type of research you conduct will depend largely on the context needs of your mobile app design. In some cases, you may feel the need to emphasize secondary sources such as reports and studies to gauge the size and scope of the market.

In other instances where information is not readily available, you may have to resort to primary methods of investigation such as interviews, surveys, questionnaires, and contextual inquiries, among others.

Market Segment Analyses

Having compiled the necessary information, the mobile app design team then begins conducting various sets of user analyses in order to draw insight as it relates to user expectations and UX/UI design. 

These analyses will serve to create a design experience that satisfies the needs of potential users.

One of the most common ways to achieve this is to segment markets into clearly categorizable groupings. These may be done based on geographics, behavioral, psychographics, and demographics.

Then, with those market segments, teams usually employ a technique such as building user personas that aim to give a rundown of information about these segments which may prove useful in the design process.

Interestingly enough, a design team can also use an empathy map to arrive at similar conclusions. 

Once again, the mobile app team will decide which analysis techniques and tools are the most adequate for the specific needs of the project.

Mobile App Ideation

Once the respective analyses are conducted to help contextualize the project, the mobile app design team then goes about coming up with possible ideas as to how the design will appear.

In doing so, the team then approves or disapproves of key design elements which may or may not appear in the final product. 

Consequently, the design team can choose from multiple ideation techniques to generate ideas during this phase. 

The most common one is comparative brainstorming where team members sit individually and come up with ideas which they later compare and contrast in a group setting.

Credits: Clix Marketing

That said, there are other techniques such as journey mapping which allow team members to prepare a visual design of how they envision the customer using the mobile app.

Credits: Medium

Once again, with a plethora of techniques at their disposal, it is up to the design team to determine the one(s) which will be most adequate in designing their mobile app.

Mobile App Design

After all the preparatory work is completed, this is where the meat of the design phase comes into play. 

Based on the ideas generated previously, a product sketch is usually done which seeks to concretize the design concept which the team has envisioned.

Credits: Pinterest

Low-fidelity wireframing is a popular choice as they can draft out a basic sketch or template of what the mobile application is supposed to look like prior to more in-depth design work so that changes can be made ahead of time and not when the project is already far advanced. This design will be a sketch of the minimum viable product (MVP).

Credits: Justinmind

Once approval is granted for the final design, the product team can then proceed to upgrade these low-fidelity wireframes into high-fidelity ones which give a more realistic look and feel to what the mobile application is supposed to look like.

Mobile App Testing & Validation

This phase is where the design produced previously is fire-tested to see how it holds up against the target market segments.

Usually, high-fidelity wireframes are then converted into interactive models which are presented to users for user testing. 

The results of these user tests are then analyzed to improve upon the existing design. 

For this reason, mobile app design is considered iterative since its cyclical nature is underscored by the desire to constantly improve on the final design.

How To Design A Mobile App Cost Guide

When it comes to the average cost of app designs, there is not a one-size-fits-all price list. It is based mainly on budgetary constraints which will, needless to say, impact the techniques used in the various phases of mobile app design. What’s more, the cost associated with each phase will also be influenced by how much of the design’s development process is outsourced and how much is done in-house.

As is the case with most product owners or digital project managers, your schedule does not permit you to be integrally involved in the carrying out of tasks done in the design phase. Therefore, in all likelihood, it will be easier for you to outsource a mobile app design team to get the job completed.

At first, you may feel inclined to begin your search for talent on a job board or freelance server. If you are like other recruiters, you may think that it is a financially wise decision to contract a freelancer in India or Eastern Europe (such as Ukraine) at a low hourly rate of $20/hour and build a team that way to get your project completed. 

If that’s the case, you are doing yourself and your mobile app design project a huge disservice.

Freelance platforms and job boards make up some of the most high-risk spaces where you can source team members. 

Their nature as communities that require minimal entry requirements or quality control causes them to be a breeding ground for ill-reputed service providers who spam job postings and attempt to fool businesses into believing that they are the right fit for the job.

Save yourself the hassle by sourcing talent through DevTeam.Space.

Leverage DevTeam.Space Teams For Mobile App Design 

DevTeam.Space is a specially-vetted community of top software developers bolstered by an agile AI process that enables recruiters to collaborate with mobile app design specialists for the best app that they can secure.

We partner with the best professionals in software development across the world (including the USA, Western Europe, and Australia) who specialize in mobile app design projects for various business types including startups.     

All of these specialists have been given a chance to impact positively on top-level digital projects through DevTeam.Space on the merit of their knowledge, experience, skills, and drive to maintain the high standards for which this community is known. 

What’s more, these professionals are further supported by an agile AI algorithm which simplifies the task of outsourcing to make project management a seamless process:

  • Align distinct phases of the mobile app design process to set milestones that make it easier to manage tasks throughout all stages of your design.    
  • Access weekly reports and daily work overviews that record completions and updates related to milestones.
  • Identify possible setbacks that may creep up in the design process to correct them.

DevTeam.Space also grants you the freedom to partner with both individual design specialists and complete mobile app design teams.

Once the design is complete, you don’t have to go far to develop the app: simply connect with DevTeam.Space-approved software developers/development team who specialize in mobile app development and you’re well on your way to the finish line.

Final Thoughts

This guide provides you with a breakdown of the design phases associated with a mobile application design. 

As indicated, determining the cost associated with each phase is highly subjective and dependent on the techniques used, phases included (or skipped), and your budget restraints.

However, what is true is that connecting with shady professionals via job boards and freelance platforms for $20/hour is not an expense that you should ever willingly assume.

Instead, DevTeam.Space can put you in line with experienced, high-quality mobile app designers who can nail your design in one shot.

Take a few minutes to complete our DevTeam.Space questionnaire. An account manager from DevTeam.Space will reach out to you as soon as possible with a mobile app design pricing estimate so you can get started.

Remember that you can also get in touch with us to find out about app development costs (be it iPhone iOS or Android apps) associated with your project.

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