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How much it costs to design a mobile app in 2019


Marketing Manager

How much it costs to design a mobile app in 2019 - Qubstudio

This is the most popular question about mobile apps. It’s similar to asking ‘how much does a car cost?’. You’re going to receive a ridiculously broad price range. But once you start figuring out what exactly you need in a car, you’ll get closer to a realistic budget. That is the ultimate goal of this article.

What is mobile app design?

Mobile app design is something your users and clients will actually see. An essential part of product development where your product gets a system for functionality, usability, engagement, and all other aspects of user experience. During mobile app design, it’s critical to consider mobile hardware, operating systems, specific monetization funnels, user behavior, and notification systems.

ROI in app design

By the end of 2020, the total revenue made with mobile applications is anticipated to hit $189 billion per year. Comparing to $61 billion spent in 2016, when the market has already been established. Due to the tech progress, increasing internet accessibility, there’s no reason why this market is going to go down.

According to research by InVision even with this growth, 24% of apps are only used once, and 57% of apps get uninstalled during the first month. 27% of business app users forfeit apps because of poor UX. 71% – leave because of intrusive push notifications. 41% – because of ads.

How much it costs to design a mobile app in 2019 - ROI_infographics (1) - Qubstudio

These are indicators that there’s still a chance of failing on such a prospering market.

Nowadays, to get the highest ROI from a mobile app, you need to get users to install, use and stay with the app. User retention is what can make or break your mobile app ROI.

How much it costs to design a mobile app in 2019 - cover_00 - Qubstudio

Recently, we wrote a long-read on how to measure UX design ROI. If that’s what you’re into, you’ll love reading it. If not, there’s a ton of more fun things to be doing for 20 mins. Netflix, for example.

What makes the cost of designing an app?

The prettier icons and buttons, the more expensive?
Not really.

When we talk about mobile app development and design, it all comes down to the mobile app design process, time scope, and budget. On a high-level, to make a profitable mobile app, you’ll be investing in design, development, and marketing.

A failed design might lead to expensive fixes at the development stage, and faulty design + buggy development would guarantee a marketing budget drain.

The design part is responsible for how certain functionality solves a particular problem, how users achieve their goals, and how the business reaches its ROI.

To design the right thing for the right people to solve their problems effectively design process involves a research phase, UX design, and then the visual design.

UX research

UX research includes, but isn’t limited to: What will be your unique value proposition? What will be your secret weapon that won’t let competitors with more resources quickly steal your idea? How can we solve a user problem better than your competitors? And much, much more.

Typical time range: 3 – 8 weeks

Deliverables: use cases, user behavior scenarios, and user stories, competitors and market research, workshops with stakeholders.

Tools we use: user personas, value proposition canvas, user, and stakeholder interviews, workshops.

UX design

How logical and smooth will the screen transitions be? How to minimize drop off rates, during onboarding and sign up flows? How to maximize engagement and purchases? How to align the app with a marketing strategy?

Typical time range: 4 – 8 weeks

Deliverables: UX strategy, wireframing & prototyping, informational architecture, etc

Tools we use: InVision, Sketch, Figma, Photoshop

Visual Design (UI design): the actual visualizations, mood boards, story maps, user flows, style guides, etc.

How will your product communicate with users? How users should feel? Which story will the product tell the user screen-after-screen?

At this stage, pay attention to the following price-forming factors:

  • Level of details. If you want to get a fully-clickable prototype for separately for IOS, and Android – this will take more time and cost. To save the budget, you can design an all-purpose mobile app.
  • Interaction uniqueness. If you rely on industry standards like eCommerce or booking design, it’ll cost less. However, if you’re doing an entertainment app, you’d probably want to drive more emotions. This will require more unique interactions, creativity, and time.

For example, working on Go-To-U (one of the biggest E-Vehicle European Startups), we knew that users will use the app while driving. So we used the dark UI on purpose to minimize distractions on the road and still utilize app benefits on the Go.

With attention to details like this, major brands create apps that people get used to. Which, obviously, increases user retention.

Another critical stage in mobile app visual design is its marketing support. To attract users to install the app, we need to bring consistency and visual appeal on social media and app marketplaces like Google Play and AppStore. In a hectic startup environment, there’s often no time for it, so it’s rational to take care of it at the design stage.

‘Hey, I need to transform a website into a mobile app. How much does it cost?’

This query might surprise you in terms of pricing. A mobile app is different from a desktop one. That’s because people percept mobile apps differently. First, it’s the mobile screen size and touch screen functionality. Second, it’s the environment. People use smartphones in a more distracting, dynamic environment, and it kinda limits the perception ability. Therefore, not all tasks can be transferred to a mobile version. The big screen is still more convenient to process complex information.

To solve this challenge successfully, we need to ‘hack’ users’ behavior beyond the app. If it’s a B2C type, you’d want to know what they’re doing in their free time, when they’re going to use the app. If it’s a B2B type – learn their daily workflow as precisely as possible. In both cases, the Customer Journey Map will come in handy.

These factors make the app transformation a unique process where both you and your UI/UX design agency will have to dig deeper to get the business insights.

So what do you take into account when you try to estimate how much does app design cost?

App Design Cost by Country

Ok, let’s come back to the money talk. Time, scope, and budget. And the country.

Is it worth investing more to design locally in the UK, USA, and other countries with top-notch economics? Is it safe to design mobile apps in India, Indonesia, and other Asian countries? Are East-European countries as qualified and cost-effective as they claim?

Let’s find out.

The US-based Design Companies:

This one is tricky as the economies and infrastructure across the States vary. They would typically charge around $120 – $275 per hour. Something around $20k for a mid-complexity app design would be a good deal here.

The UK and Western European Design Studios:

These UI/UX design studio would charge between $75 and $250 per hour. Quite a big range that would mostly depend on how many big brand names that the studio has in a portfolio.

Eastern European Design Agencies:

These are prospering markets of Belarus, Poland, and Ukraine. Agencies in these countries are going to charge between $25 and $65 per hour. If you’re in a time zone that’s comfortable to work with EET, that’s where you can discover many high-end agencies at a reasonable price range. That’s a convenient time zone for all more expensive European Countries, Israel and the East Coast States.

Asian Design Agencies:

An Indonesian or Indian app designer would be happy with $13 – $25 per hour. As with all other options, do consider the time zone difference, language barrier, ability to deliver on time, and work in the portfolio. Though we don’t belong to this group, we believe it’s still possible to find a bargain with design agencies in Asia if you’re on a budget.

App design cost by the complexity

Let’s briefly go over the key features so you can roughly estimate how much your app may cost in various scenarios. Executing a simple app design of around 4-5 key feature pages would take about 100 hours.

A medium complexity app of around 6-9 key feature pages would require roughly 200 design hours.

The more complex apps that have 10-15 key feature pages are up to take around 400 hours of designing. Now, except key features, don’t forget the sign-up flows, dashboards, user profiles, cabinets, ratings, reviews. The right UX strategy will help you know for sure, which features will bring value to users and which aren’t worth an investment.

iOS vs. Android app design cost

There’s a difference in IOS vs. Android app development cost because different technologies are used. Typically, the design costs are more or less the same with iPad designs being a bit more expensive.

Development for an Android app would cost more, and marketing cost per install will be significantly lower. Android apps won’t require updates as frequently. IOS users typically have higher purchasing power and lifetime value. IOS is cheaper in development, and that’s why it is often a first-go with MVPs.

Pricing a mobile app redesign

So you already have an app but want a change? The redesign pricing will depend on factors like app size/complexity and reason for the redesign. The ‘why’ behind the redesign determines the amount of change needed.

Typically, we get app redesign requests when a company has rebranded, the design becomes outdated, or the app needs new audiences (location, targeting).

Whatever the case, here are a couple of tips to reduce costs on the app redesign:

  • Collect user feedback (the more, the better);
  • Provide brand guidelines (in case you’ve rebranded);
  • Collect marketing analytics;
  • Think of high-priority features;
  • Provide references to apps your new target audience likes (well, or at least you do).

This way, a UX design agency can understand your situation faster. And thus, spend fewer hours discovering your app. Doing a professional UX review would still help avoid the flaws and drop off areas in the new app redesign. But coming prepared would save both vendor working hours and time on the calendar (which sometimes is even more expensive).

Regarding the cost, it all comes down to time and material basis (UX/UI designer hourly rate). Once you know what and why you need to redesign, you’ll definitely have a higher chance to succeed. Moreover, you’ll be able to measure the redesign ROI.

The right question to ask instead

Well, we’ve come down to the question you should be asking yourself instead of ‘How much does it cost to make an app?‘ and ‘Why is mobile UX so expensive?‘.

The real question to ask yourself now is ‘How much does it cost to start a business?’. Indeed, you need a strategy to monetize your investment put in the app design, development, and marketing.

Are you going to transfer the existing business into an app? That might end up being less expensive. Will you have a web version based on the app? How much and how soon are you going to make money on your app?

These are all questions to address before investing in building an application. Once you’ve decided to start designing your app, think of both how to make more income and how to reduce maintenance costs.

Another important business value of design is that by starting with good UX design, you’re likely to avoid many risks on the development and marketing stages.

Here at Qubstudio we combine your business knowledge, our industry experience, design expertise, and branding to create a product that’s positive marketing ROI ready. Not sure how to answer some of the questions above? Let’s talk. Already answered those? Let’s estimate your app design then. Drop us a line today.

Expert contributed this article:

Leo - Marketing Manager

Marketing Manager

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