How Much Does It Cost to Design an App?

Mobile apps – these are certainly what made phones ‘smart’ 30 years ago. Now, we have pocket devices with even more powerful computing capabilities. The creation of apps has become a bustling marketplace year after year.

If you’re looking to make your mark in this dynamic industry, you’re on the right page. Read on to better understand the idea of app design cost.

Having an app that can either entertain, help or educate your audiences is likely to keep profits skyrocketing. Data shows a steady increase in mobile app downloads, with predictions of 181 billion downloads by 2026.

With such projections, researchers predicted the total revenue of the app development market to reach around $400 billion in 2024.

Graph of total revenue in the app market worldwide by the segment, in billion USD

Source: Statista

With a total of 26.3 million developers in the world just last year, startups are faced with the problem of how to choose a partner designer.

Adding up to that are the factors and processes that drive the total app design cost. From the conception of your ideas down to software updates, each step affects your balance sheets. It’s crucial to know how to estimate the cost of a mobile app design.

Let’s get started.

What Factors Determine the Cost to Design an App?

Whether you’re running a seasoned app company or a startup, developers have to make efforts to ensure the following: 

  • A reasonable timeframe for development and launching
  • Zero bugs, errors, and any other issues
  • Users are willing to pay for your app, in-app purchases, and/or a subscription

Each application software has a unique purpose, set of features, and target audiences. That’s why the total mobile app design cost also varies. While there are quite a few factors that affect your expenses, there are also things that you can do to manage both these determinants and your expectations better.


Logically, a more complicated app will lead to a higher app design cost

With a basic app that has limited features and functionality, developers need less time. Complex applications often contain more features, advanced algorithms, and powerful integrations. 

Actionable insight: Consider whether your app needs features like live chat, payment gateways, third-party app integrations, or customized add-ons, as these tend to ramp up overall expenses.


Your chosen platforms – iOS, Android, or both – will considerably shape your app design cost. Designing for only one platform is considerably cheaper; however, targeting users of both platforms ensures you have a bigger customer base and larger profits. 

Here, the main reason for a higher mobile app design price is the programming languages for these two operating systems. This means designing for both platforms simultaneously may require separate teams or developers with cross-platform skills, which can inflate costs further. 

The choice between native or web apps also impacts the budget. Since native apps – where mobile apps fall under – are defined as those built for certain device types, they’re more expensive to develop. 

Actionable insight: Take time to analyze your target audience. For example, if your intended users would benefit from an on-the-go app, opt for mobile-only software. You can justify cross-platform development later should you think your audience tends to use your software across all devices.

Design Elements and User Experience

The cost of app design also depends on how recognizable your brand is within the app. Your app should be consistent with your brand's look and feel. This includes logos, colors, and fonts. 

One key factor here is the user experience (UX), which is the overall flow and ease of navigation. Part of UX can also be impactful visual aesthetics, too. These include the user interface (UI), animations, and in-app interactions, which developers may meticulously design.

Actionable insight: Your app should be well-structured, meaning users can simply navigate. Doing so provides users with a positive experience. While giving them such ease, you should also focus on staying true to your brand. Balancing this may incur costs, but satisfaction and user retention can make it worthwhile.

Team Type

Whether you hire freelancers, an in-house team, or outsource to an app development agency will affect the overall cost. Here’s a quick list of these team types’ cost levels, pros, and cons for you to weigh your choices:

  • Freelancers 
    • Cost: Low
    • Pros: This tier has the most flexible rates for startups with less complex app needs. Note that there are freelancers who have diverse skill sets that can help with sudden changes in development. 
    • Cons: Due to the lack of supervision, quality can be unpredictable. Moreover, potential timezone problems may cause challenging communication and updates.
  • In-house Team 
    • Cost: Mid to High
    • Pros: Since this will be your team, there’s the potential for excellent collaboration and more control over the project. 
    • Cons: The cost of hiring and maintaining an in-house team can be steep due to overhead expenses such as office space, equipment, and training.
  • Outsourced Agency 
    • Cost: Mid to High
    • Pros: Here, you’ll access a company’s broad professional skills and resources. They can even offer an all-in-one solution, from idea conception to post-launch updates.
    • Cons: Can be more expensive than hiring your team. Timezone complications might also occur when working with overseas agencies.

Actionable insight: You should define your desired work quality of work and the level of control you wish to maintain over the project. Regardless of who you hire, don't forget to check portfolios and reviews to see whether you’re speaking with the right professionals.

Team Location

As mentioned, geography can also affect the overall app design cost due to time zones. More often than not, developers in North America and Western Europe charge higher compared to those in Asia. 

These discrepancies are often due to differing costs of living and market standards. 

Actionable insight: Choose a partner developer that’s able to align with your time zone. Remember, while an agency or freelancer may be overseas, they can bring fresh perspectives to your projects. Ensure you clarify some information about your target audiences, including their potential expectations, needs, and values.

Your average mobile app design cost depends on these factors – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s still the steps of the process that set the base prices.   

App Design Cost Breakdown

While various components make up the actual mobile app design cost, understanding them can be easier as you see the price of each element. Take these – all while considering the factors mentioned above – to get at least a rough estimate of how much your total spend will be.

Pre-Design Costs: Market Research and Concept Development

Market research lets you have a view of your demographics and some information about them. These bits of info, in turn, solidify your knowledge of your target audience’s wants, needs, and behavior, which you can later use as the foundation of your app’s concepts.

As shown in the table below, there are around 800,000 market research analysts in the U.S., with the population growing at a fast rate.

Table with info about market research analysts in the U.S.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most industries make use of market research, highlighting the potential increase in demand and median pay in the following years.

This usually takes 6–7 weeks, depending on how large the sample population is. If you expect one researcher to work on your project for at least 40 hours per week, the average could start at around $1,500/researcher for one entire research process. However, keep in mind that not every software development contractor conducts this type of research, so you might want to consider services of a specialized market research vendor.

Once you know about your audience, you can now conceptualize your app. This includes drafting its primary features and user journey. This is when you want to start working with software development specialists. In most methodologies, this stage is called the Discovery Phase. It includes close interaction with business stakeholders for understanding the business logic and offering the best solution in terms of the app experience.

Overall pre-design costs: Market research starts at $1,500 per researcher, Discovery Phase - $10,000-$15,000.

Core Design Phases: Wireframing, Prototyping, UI/UX Design

This is where the concepts are brought to life. When researching the idea of app design cost, you’ll see the use of terms like wireframing, prototypes, and mockups. The core design phase starts with wireframing, similar to blueprints of architectural structures. 

In wireframing, you lay out the structure of the app and determine the functionalities for each part. This usually comes as the easiest core design phase, which doesn’t require heavy designing. All it usually takes to create a wireframe is the following: 

  • Content blocks, such as placements for logos, artworks, or text descriptions
  • Navigation menus
  • Buttons

After finalizing these on a piece of paper or sketching app, developers then put them into prototypes, which turn the blueprints of navigation into actual app interactions. You can usually do the wireframes on your own, but they often come in a package with prototyping and mockups. 

While prototypes have the actual interactions, mockups are where the UI/UX design shines. Here, designers discuss with you the colors, fonts, and images of the app, showing its complete visuals. To make sure that your users get the best experience, you might need to start from working with a business analyst who helps you create requirements for UI/UX.

Wireframes can cost you anywhere from $2000 – this also depends on whether the freelancer or agency you hire charges per hour. For example, you might need to hire both the designer and the business analyst for 20 hours per week each. Prototypes start at $4,000, while mockup designs range from $3,000 to $15,000. 

Overall core design costs: Starts at ~$7,000

Post-Design Costs: Testing, Revisions, and Final Touches

Regardless of whether you outsource only UI/UX design or the app development and deployment altogether, you need to perform the quality assurance phase. Developers typically test apps for bugs, compatibility issues, and performance loopholes. These issues cause apps to lag, one of the top reasons people uninstall their apps. So, while visuals and the intended experience might be appealing, the most important consideration is for all your ideas to perform seamlessly before the app gets out there on the market.

You need to ensure that your app undergoes all kinds of tests, such as:

  • Performance and function
  • Security
  • Installation
  • Device compatibility
  • Usability

That’s why testing costs can start at $5,000. The only test not within the scope of developers is usability, which real test users should take. However, agencies sometimes handle this part as well.

To reduce the costs of testing an app, you can ask the agency to start testing during the development’s early stages. Sometimes professionals call it “shifting left”.

Making necessary revisions and fine-tuning to ensure optimal user experience can require an additional $1,000 to $2,000. Wrapping up with final touches to perfect your app might entail a further $500 to $1,000.

Overall post-design costs: $5,000+ depending on complexity

Maintenance and Updates

Though not traditionally part of the design process, maintaining the app and rolling out timely updates keeps the app functional and relevant. This can incur a recurring cost of about 20% of the total app design cost annually.

Custom Features & Design

Additional features such as push notifications, geo-location tracking, or third-party integrations will increase the price of the app. Of course, you need those to fit well into the overall UI/UX, and if you need custom design, this will increase the cost as well. 

Pricing for these vary widely depending on the nature of the feature and the complexity involved in its integration. It could range anywhere from $1,000 to $30,000 and higher, depending on the complexity, whether or not you need business analysis, the number of features, and so on.

To give you a quick look, here’s a quick app design cost calculation if we were to base it on a really basic app: 

  • $1,500 (Pre-design) + $7,000 (Core design) + $6,500 (Post-design) = $15,000
  • $15,000 (Design) + $7,500 (Post-design) + 8*$3,000 (eight custom features) = $46,500

Remember, these figures are mere estimations and can fluctuate based on various factors such as project scope, timelines, and the expertise of your design and/or development team.

How Does the Design Process Affect an App Design Price?

As previously mentioned, this is the longest part of the core design process, which means it also affects the overall cost to design an app.

There are two primary cost-driving factors here: UX and UI, the cornerstones of an exceptional app design.

UX design focuses on the interactive component of the design process. This is the main reason you do your market research, hence its effect on the mobile app design price

With knowledge about the users and their needs in mind, developers then draft wireframes and make prototypes. The mockup is then tested by real users who provide feedback about your app. 

On the other hand, UI design gets into the detailed visual and interactive aspects of the app. This phase is where the prototypes and mockups come to life – all with the help of a style guide established by you and your partner developer. 

It’s the overall design, including the setup of buttons and icons, that makes UI quite a more expensive part of the process. Whether you hire animators for better transitions, buy stock photos, or have your creative team provide you with content, it’s going to cost you money. 

Both UX and UI design play off each other, forming a cohesive aesthetic and functional identity for your app. That’s why it’s only vital that you understand how these two affect your total mobile application design cost.

Tips on How to Save on App Design Costs

There’s no need to be intimidated by the cost to design an app. With a few simple tips, you can save a significant amount of money and avoid unnecessary costs.

  • Prioritize the key features; you can build on them later.
  • A well-researched project can save redesigning costs and ensure clarity as you relay information to your partner developer. 
  • UX matters, so Invest in good interactive design from the beginning. It pays off by reducing troubleshooting costs later.
  • Cheaper isn’t always better.
  • Opt for agile development, which lets you test features, fix bugs, and make improvements more affordable over time.
  • Optimize for maintenance. The better the initial design and development are, the lesser you need for pricey updates and bug fixes later. 
  • Evaluate your in-house capabilities. For some, in-house design may save costs, but outsourcing can offer superior quality and speed.
  • Use generic and reusable elements in design where uniqueness is not required. This can reduce the graphic design time and cost.
  • Keep the design and functionality intuitive and straightforward. Complex features can drive up costs without necessarily increasing user engagement.

Each of these strategies can help reduce upfront and long-term costs. They can grant your developer more time to prioritize important tasks, including crafting better UX. 

How to Choose the Right Partner for App Designing?

Selecting the right partner developer influences three things: how much it can cost to design an app, the length of the process, and the resulting product quality.

To choose the right partner for your app design journey, you can start by looking at the track record of whom they’ve worked with. Doing so lets you see what they’ve done for their clients so far – all transparently presented in their portfolio.

A versatile mobile app development partner can work on every step of the design process. At Intellectsoft, we use the Agile approach to software development. This means you enjoy more transparency and on-time delivery from start to finish. 

If you have other software needs, we can help with those, too. Be it hybrid TV apps, software on wearable devices, web apps, or even IT consulting, you can rely on Intellectsoft. 

We take pride in having serviced companies from a diverse set of industries, including the following: 

  • Construction
  • Fintech
  • Mobile Health
  • Travel and Hospitality
  • Retail and Ecommerce
  • Insurance

Remember, a successful app is not simply functional; it must delight users with its aesthetic appeal and seamless operation. Intellectsoft has been recognized for consistently achieving this delicate balance, making us a great choice for your app design partner.


How much money does it cost to design an application?

An app design cost range may vary from $5,000 to $40,000+ and depends on multiple technical, aesthetic, and business factors. These include the app complexity, your chosen platforms, the exclusivity of design patterns, and whether you outsource only UI/UX or the entire development process. For a more specific estimate, contact us and we will provide the details.

Can I create an app for free?

While there are platforms that allow you to design basic apps for free, these lack the required customization features. Investing in the mobile application design cost can enhance your app's UX and revenue potential.

How much do UI UX designers charge?

The app UX/UI design cost varies based on the complexity and uniqueness of the design. The key here is to find an agency that can do more than just the UI and UX of your app. Check out Intellectsoft’s services to learn more.

Is it expensive to publish an app?

The Google Play Store and Apple App Store have fees for publishing apps. However, these are relatively lower compared to the average cost to design an app. At the time of writing, Google Play charges a one-time of $25, and App Store charges a $99 yearly fee. However, you might want to consider additional marketing costs to increase the downloads of your app.

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