Mobile apps

How Much Does It Cost to Design an App in 2023?

Tech Researcher

Novikova Darya

Tech Researcher

Chief Design Officer and Partner

Kravchinskaja Maria

Chief Design Officer and Partner

September 26
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Let’s admit it, talks about expenses are among the most heated debate in the context of mobile app development, app design costs in particular. But with so many new trends and factors to consider, it can be difficult to know how much your next project will cost. 

In this post, we’d like to shed light on the topic of app design cost, discussing the key nuances that influence pricing. Plus, we’ll explain ways to estimate and, most importantly, reduce the cost of app design.

6 Factors that influence app design cost

Each app development company has its specific circumstances that can make expenses higher or lower. In this section, we’ll explain the top six factors you should figure out to precisely estimate your app design cost.

Mobile app design cost

1. Your current app design situation

The starting point of your development journey plays a pivotal role in determining the cost of app design

Scenario 1: You’re designing a completely new mobile app from scratch.

When you're starting from scratch, this often entails more extensive design work and investment upfront. You'll need to go through the entire path, from conceptualizing the app’s design during the discovery phase to defining user experience (UX) and a user interface (UI). Each stage demands careful research and execution, which involves additional effort and translates into higher app design costs.

Scenario 2: You’re planning a redesign of an existing mobile app.

In contrast, when you're considering a redesign of an existing mobile app, you may already have certain design assets and functionalities in place. Components such as brand identity, user flows, and some UI elements might be reusable or upgradable, potentially leading to cost savings.

However, app redesigns aren't always so straightforward. Everything depends on the reasons behind app redesign. Simple aesthetic enhancements may not incur dramatic expenses while modernizing the whole user journey can still involve some complex design work.

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2. Specific industry

Mobile app design cost is often defined by the industry in which the app will operate in. Each domain, whether it's banking or gaming, comes with its own set of unique design standards.

When designing a banking app, you must prioritize security and create a clear user-friendly interface without distracting graphics so that users can easily handle sensitive financial transactions. On the other hand, inventing designs for entertainment (such as streaming app) or gaming apps shifts towards more captivating visuals and immersive animations.

app design cost based on the app type

Another non-obvious but important factor is competition in a particular industry. In highly competitive sectors like gaming, social media, or e-commerce, your mobile app design needs to be exceptional to stand out. This might involve innovative custom solutions to meet evolving user expectations and gain a competitive advantage.

“The cost of mobile app design can also be influenced by the nature and novelty of the industry or app type. If it's something radically new, designers will require significantly more time to study the field, understand how it operates, find solutions, and test them. For example, designing an e-commerce app is much straightforward because there are many established scenarios and examples.”

– Maria Krawchinskaya, Chief Design Officer and Partner at SolveIt

3. Complexity of features

The more features your mobile app will have, the higher app design cost you should expect. As a metaphor, let’s compare your app design to painting a Renaissance picture.

app design cost depending on app complexity

MVP / Simple mobile app

Think about building an MVP or a simple app as making a black-and-white sketch. It should be clear, minimalistic, and user-focused. Such design often excludes fancy details and prioritizes only essential features that are required for app launch and gathering user feedback. 

Designing an MVP is usually straightforward, but if the app has special requirements, it might require a more intricate and slightly pricier design. Nevertheless, it usually remains budget-friendly thanks to focusing on the essential features and screens.

MVP / Simple app design cost: $5,000 – $10,000

Medium-complexity mobile app

In painting terms, the design of a medium-complexity app can be compared to adding the first colorful layer on the canvas. Such apps include more features, advanced interactions, and a more polished design.

Medium-complexity app design cost: $15,000 – $20,000

Complex mobile app

Applying even “more layers of paint” is typical for a more complex app. It has a wider range of features, extensive third-party integrations, intricate animations, and a high degree of customization. In this case, app design costs skyrocket even higher.

Complex app design cost: $20,000+

4. Platform and device compatibility

Each platform comes with its own set of design guidelines and screen sizes that should be followed for smooth app functionality. In most cases, it involves creating separate components and screens that may have variations for different platforms which slightly increases the design cost. In rare cases, if you design each element separately for several platforms, it's still quite fast and therefore not that cost-increasing. Plus, if you opt for cross-platform development, then the design will indeed be unified.

Beyond platform-specific design, you should pay closer attention to device compatibility. Users access apps on various devices, including smartphones, tablets, and sometimes laptops. As such, your app's design should be responsive and adapt to different screen sizes and orientations. At this point, designers need to develop a range of various layouts which can add up to the final cost of designing an app.

5. Type and location of your design team

Who will design your app? Are you working with an in-house team, outsourcing your design, or hiring individual freelancers? Where is your design team located? In fact, the type of design experts you hire matters as they have different hourly rates.

mobile app design team rates

In-house design team

In-house designers offer the unique advantage of being fully integrated into your company’s ecosystem and culture. Since they are in close collaboration with the rest of the team, in-house specialists quickly catch your brand’s vibe and develop a cohesive design approach. However, maintaining an in-house design team can be costly, as you have to cover salaries, benefits, and design software expenses. 

Average hourly rate: $40 – $80

Outsourcing design team

Outsourcing your design needs gives you access to a wide spectrum of design expertise and allows you to adjust the cost to design an app. This approach is less costly as you typically pay for the app design services without additional expenses related to in-house teams. Additionally, outsourcing experts possess experience working with various clients and industries, being capable of bringing fresh perspectives to your project. So in case you are looking for experienced designers at a reasonable price, outsourcing is the best option, because it has the best cost and quality ratio.

Average hourly rate: $25 – $65

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Freelance designers

Hiring freelance designers from Upwork or Fiverr can be a viable solution for businesses with tight budgets. However, it's important to recognize that freelancers may not offer the same level of commitment as in-house or outsourcing teams. Managing multiple freelancers is time-consuming and requires effective coordination. Freelancers might also have limited access to the needed design tools, which can affect project efficiency and the overall app design cost.

Average hourly rate: $15 – $35

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Design cost dependency on the designers’ location

The hourly cost of a designer significantly depends on their location, with rates ranging from as low as $20 in regions like Asia and Latin America to as high as $150 in North America. 

This location-based disparity can lead to substantial differences in the final design cost of a mobile app, potentially resulting in cost savings of several thousand dollars for a project depending on where the design team is situated.

Average hourly rates of app designers depending on the region:

  • Central and Northern Europe: $50 – $125 
  • UK: $40 – $105 
  • Eastern Europe: $40 – $60 
  • North America (USA and Canada): $50 – $150 
  • Latin America: $20 – $50 
  • Asia: $20 – $50

6. Level of design customization

Customization and branding directly influence the aesthetics and user experience of your app. While extensive customization can result in an eye-candy and unique product, it’s not a cheap pleasure. Crafting tailored graphics, animations, and branding elements can extend the design timeline and pricing. Make sure you can find the right balance between your customization ambitions and budget constraints.

How to estimate app design cost?

Let us guess, as a business owner, you probably expect to know an exact straightforward number to the question ‘how much does it cost to design an app’. But after getting a vague diapason ‘from $3,000 to $20,000’, it becomes clear that there’s no rule of thumb and you have to take this estimation into your own hands.

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Self-guided way: Estimating project scope and using a formula

Begin by defining your app's scope and requirements in as much detail as possible. Consider the complexity of features, the number of screens, desired animations, and any other specific design elements you plan to implement. The more comprehensive project brief you have, the more accurate your cost estimate will be.

To calculate a rough cost of designing an app on your own, use the following formula:

App Design Cost = Hourly Rate * Number of Design Hours

  • Hourly Rate: Take an average hourly rate of your app designer. Remember that the rate can vary widely based on their experience and location.
  • Number of Design Hours: Estimate the number of hours required for the project based on its complexity and the expertise of the designers you hire.

For example, if you estimate that your project will require 100 design hours and you're working with a designer charging $50 per hour, the design cost would be $5,000.

Remember that this formula provides a rough estimate and may not account for all project-specific variables. Make sure your budget can accommodate potential adjustments and unforeseen changes during the project.

Streamlined way: Requesting quotes from app design agencies

Reach out to reputable outsourcing agencies or freelancers to request quotes for your design project. By analyzing your detailed project scope and unique requirements, industry professionals will be able to provide a breakdown of app design costs. This approach gives you a real-world estimate from experts who know the design industry inside and out.


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Lifehacks on how to cut app design cost

If your dreams of stunning design are being shattered by financial reality, here are some ways to reduce app design cost.

How to reduce app design cost?

Tip 1: Prioritize essential features

When it comes to cutting app design costs, prioritizing key functionality is a nice strategic move. Instead of trying to pack your app with every possible feature, focus on things that are integral to your value proposition. 

Adopt an MVP approach which entails designing and developing the bare minimum features required to meet users' immediate needs. By doing so, you can bring the product to market faster and at a lower initial design cost. And you won't end up in a situation where you wasted resources and created design for absolutely unnecessary features!

Tip 2: Opt for cross-platform development

Considering the creation of a mobile app for multiple platforms? A cross-platform approach can be a smart cost-saving move for the app design. Since cross-platform development allows you to write code once and deploy it on iOS and Android with minimal modifications, you can create a single set of design assets that work seamlessly on both platforms. Thus, a single codebase not only reduces mobile app design costs but also streamlines the time-to-market.

In fact, cross-platform tools like React Native and Flutter offer a vibrant community of developers and a wide range of pre-built components, further accelerating the design and development process while keeping expenses in check.

Tip 3: Outsource your app design

If the question of hiring developers for your startup is relevant to your case, we recommend you reach out to specialized outsourcing providers like SolveIt. This is a win-win way to bring high-quality expertise, including designers, to your company.

Outsourcing agencies usually offer competitive pricing, as they have established workflows and expertise in designing a wide range of apps. Moreover, by tapping into a global pool of design talent, you’re not limited by your location. Outsourcing ensures flexibility and freedom to choose offshore designers, for instance from the Eastern European region, who possess excellent skills without overhead rates.

Bottom line 

Understanding the factors that influence the cost of designing an app, implementing cost-saving strategies, and accurately estimating expenses are crucial steps in managing the budget for your mobile app design in 2023. 

Whether you're a startup with a groundbreaking idea or a seasoned business looking to expand your digital presence, our SolveIt team will be happy to help you embark on your app design journey with more confidence. Don’t hesitate to reach out!