Mobile App Design: Everything You Need to Know

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Andrew Stelya

    01 Jun 2016 - 7 min read

    Have you ever given some real (business-minded) thought to something so fundamental to app success as UI/UX design? If not, it’s about time! If you have, here’s some more food for thought. Let’s dive deep and explore just what mobile app design is and how to go about doing it.

    The right thing to do before going forward would be to address some of the most frustrating questions that occur about professional mobile application UI/UX design.

    Great design is critical to the overall success of your application. It makes the difference in getting more traffic, converting users to leads (and then to customers), and increasing ROI. The better the design, the more users feel engaged with your app.


    6 Stages of Mobile App Design

    Every mobile app has to make it through a series of steps on the way to the final product. The “software development life cycle” is the same for every mobile application, regardless of the application’s category or target user: planning, analysis, design, development, implementation, and testing


    Planning: Without the perfect plan, calculating the strengths and weaknesses of the project, development of software is meaningless. Planning kicks off a project flawlessly and affects its progress positively.


    This step is about analyzing the performance of the software at various stages and making notes on additional requirements. Analysis is very important to proceed further to the next step.


    Design: Once the analysis is complete, the step of designing takes over, which is basically building the architecture of the project. This step helps remove possible flaws by setting a standard and attempting to stick to it.


    Development & Implementation: The actual task of developing the software starts here with data recording going on in the background.


    Once the software is developed, the stage of implementation comes in where the product goes through a pilot study to see if it’s functioning properly.


    The testing stage assesses the software for errors and documents bugs if there are any.

    Why should I pay fancy designers if developers can do the job?

    Yes, most developers can design your application; yet, professional designers have so much needed experience and knowledge. Great design isn’t about drawing several images, it’s about the big picture.

    Is it really that hard to ‘draw’ several pics in Photoshop (or another tool)? Design seems easy; yet, it’s a skill to master for years. While It’s quite easy to work with Photoshop or any other tool, a professional should be able to do more than that, like: ‘feel’ all the latest trends; grasp the idea of the application to transform it into an attractive design; have a deep understanding of mobile usability and a feeling of aesthetics.

    What can make app design cost more or less?

    The price depends on many factors, such as app complexity, project size, designer’s level and geographical location. The general rule is, the more features the application has, the more it costs.

    What do I get when the design is finished?

    When the design of your app is ready, all the pics, images, screens and icons are packed into PSD (or .png) files and sent to you. Hiring a designer to do icons or screens only isn’t a problem, too.

    Average Application Design Cost

    Even a professional cannot tell how much this or that application will cost at a glance. To estimate the price, the designer should do what’s called decomposition: a breakdown of the design to estimate the price of each logical step of its workflow.

    The design is divided into two fundamental parts – user interface (UI) and user experience (UX):

    1. The UI part is about creating the visual style of the app and preparing all the necessary pics and images in Photoshop or any other tool. That’s where most people think design begins and ends. But design is not just how it looks.
    2. The UX part focuses on app’s usability. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of time but it definitely takes a lot of effort.

    In the table below, you can see how long each app design stage may take. Note that the more complex the application is, the more time it takes to design the UX part:

    Design stagesHours
    Design for a simple appAverage appComplex app
    UI (user interface) design1487210
    UX (user experience or interaction) design728200

    Designers, both companies, and individual freelancers, charge by the hour, meaning the cost depends on the time spent. Depending on the region where your design partner is located, here’s how much it costs to design a mobile app:


    • $10-20/hour – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh
    • $25-45/hour – Eastern Europe
    • $40-60/hour – Western Europe
    • $65-130/hour and up – United Kingdom
    • $150-200/hour and up – United States

    Therefore, your average app design can cost you between from about $2000 up to $35000 and more. The quality ranges from poor to world-class, bear that in mind.

    Get consulted and obtain a detailed design estimate by top-notch UI/UX designers

    Why is app design so expensive?

    Yes, it costs a lot because even the simplest applications are quite complex. Plus, count extra costs: salaries, benefits, office maintenance, etc. Industry plays a role – not only the design but also all the stages of app development include multiple costs.

    It’s worth it, though. Check out this small cute animation Reinvently design team made for an on-demand delivery app:


    Cool, right? Things like this make your user go wow, that’s awesome!.

    And then they show it to friends, and you get your much-appreciated attention. Nothing markets better than a good-looking problem-solving product.

    Application Design Cost and User Experience

    Great applications share one similar feature – they provide excellent user experience. Investing in UX is the best decision for success. Why? Competition doesn’t give you a chance to fail. If users find the application difficult to interact with, what will they do? Right, they’ll abandon it.

    An investment in UX design returns tenfold. Actually, design can have an ROI of 10,000%. Even if you need to save, focus on the upper part of the regional price range. Hire designers who have great UX portfolios and charge at least $15/hour.

    Ask for UX design examples and references. Spend some time installing and using applications the designer worked on to see whether his/her designs are good from user’s standpoint.

    Mobile app usability schemes, or flows, as designers call them, may be quite complex and sophisticated:

    mobile UI UX scheme

    The UX scheme for our client Vegaster, the complex on-demand guide, and booking for Las Vegas. See the success story.

    The Cost to Design a Mobile App for Android and iOS

    Although application design costs for Android and iOS may not differ much, there’re several points to pay attention to. Designing for iOS is usually pricey. App Store applications tend to be more lucrative than Play Store ones. That’s why designers wind up the price tag. They also charge more because of the Apple’s strict design guidelines.

    iOS application design

    It’s pretty standardized. As strict design guidelines are in place and the range of iOS devices is limited, designers know how their designs will work and look on this or that iOS device. They can be ‘pixel-perfect.’ Also, the iOS application design is easy to test and fix. Estimating iOS app design isn’t very complex.

    Designing Android apps

    It’s a bit tougher and segmented. Designing Android apps has been less controlled over the years: it wasn’t until 2015 that Google launched app approval process in Play Store. UI/UX designers weren’t obliged to follow any guidelines, and many apps were… designed lazily. Make sure your designer is very aware of Play Store design guidelines.

    Android devices are numerous, the operating system is fragmented: different companies, versions, custom features, etc. Making an ideal design to fit it all is quite impossible unless you focus on a limited range of Android OS versions or even specific Android devices for your app design.

    An Android app design can cost you more or less, depending on your goals. If you want to cover most versions and devices, it’ll take 2-3 times the time (and money) than the iOS design. Meanwhile, focusing on the latest Android devices will cut the price by 10-15%.

    If you’re designing for iPhone only, you’re likely to pay from $500 up to $10,000 and more. The price depends on app’s complexity, size and designer’s hourly rates. Making your application look nice on iPhone 6 Plus and iPad, will add 25% to 50% to the app design cost.

    Bottom Line

    App design is an important part of your application’s success. If the design is bad (unattractive logo, low-quality images, bad usability, not touch-friendly), the application won’t be popular and thus have low traffic, bad reviews, and abysmal ROI.

    Invest in design well. Hire a professional who knows how to make things beautiful and usable. It’ll likely cost you, but it’s the best investment in your application.

    There's a Better Way to Manage Your Mobile Business

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