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Mobile App UI Design Cost: What Should You Take Into Account?

Sep 26 min read

Adam Kozłowski

Head of Design at Ideamotive. More of a craftsman than an artist - with a pragmatic approach to clients' goals.

Why is good design important? As a rule of thumb, every dollar spent on UI design returns tenfold or even a hundredfold! Who could resist such an occasion? This article will guide you through the process and pitfalls and prices of the mobile app UI design. 

 

You will learn:

  • what is the application development process;
  • how mobile app UI design works;
  • what are the costs of UI design;
  • what are the challenges and pitfalls in UI design and app development process
  • Finally you will get tips on design and development cost optimization.

What is the Mobile App Development Process?

This process will differ in various companies. It may be tempting to omit some steps or spend less time on research and testing. It's up to you. However, later in this article, you will read about ways of optimization that we advise according to our experience. But first, let us look at the basic and hopefully universal mobile app development process.

 

What came first? Well, it depends. It's great to prepare your brief on the basis of earlier market research and business analysis. On the other hand, if you don't have assets and possibilities to conduct such research, you can start from an initial brief, and hire a web development agency to prepare the needed analysis.

 

Anyway, the brief will tell your subcontractors, what you would like to create, why you want it, and what should be done. It is, however, only brief information. Your chosen software-house will want to run some workshops. It means they will schedule a meeting. Their designers and architects will work with you and investigate the possibilities and requirements important for the choice of technology, design process, and general outcome of the business.

 

More data will be available thanks to in-depth analysis and market research. Then it is possible to describe application requirements and the project scope. Only then you can schedule the work properly. Such an analysis is crucial for finding the right tools and provide an appropriate approach to your project.

 

Answering 'what, why, and for whom' questions enables tailoring the development process to your needs. Basically, the work should be broken down into at least several steps. However, depending on the complexity, budget, time frame, and industry characteristics, it can have even over a dozen major steps divided into sub-steps and tasks.

 

Before your team starts coding, you should concentrate on starting the UX design process. User experience is something more than just nice-looking graphics. It's about how users feel about the application on every step of the user's journey. This part contains, among others, users' research, wire-framing, and prototyping. Accordingly, a UI designer will work on the visual part of the app. Finally you will get a high-definition UI design.

 

Back and front-end developers will now be able to work on the two sides of the application. Together with Quality Assurance specialists, they will make sure that the app will be free of bugs and runs smoothly. Developed and thoroughly tested applications can be deployed, and later finally released to the market for end-users. The last thing we shall mention is the post-production service and user support (that should also be planned as part of the UX).

What is Mobile App UI Design?

This stage of app development (the visual design) is about communication. The user interface is the point of interaction, in this case, between the user and the mobile application. Good UI design must be functional, reliable, usable, and only then pleasurable. When you don't know how to design a mobile app UI, you can simply hire an expert designer to do so. The cost of such a service will differ depending on a whole catalog of variables. Here we will go through the process of the UI design process and see how much it cost.

Research

The user interface design starts with research and the identification of users and the context in which they will interact with the application. User personas with corresponding User-flows and research will tell you about their needs and problems. 

Estimated cost: 800-6,000$.

Information Architecture and Low-fidelity design

According to usage scenarios and knowledge about users, a designer can now design the complete app structure. Screen by screen covering all navigation possibilities of an app. Each screen is now filled with simplified content that will set the features and allow easy and effective iterations. This early preview is a great way to validate your app idea and apply changes with minimal cost and effort. 

 

Subsequent iterations involve mockups and prototypes of high and low-fidelity. Fidelity in this sense means the level of advancement of details and functionalities. Think about visuals, content, or interactivity.

Estimated cost: 800-12,000$.

 

Example of mobile app low fidelity design

High-fidelity Mockups

High-fidelity mockups are more advanced. Sometimes they are even interactive. They are much closer to the final product and have most of the components. They can also be used for tests with end-users participation and to present to stakeholders. 

Estimated cost: 400-6,000$.

 

Example of high fidelity mobile app design

Prototypes

The well-designed interface should be consistent with artifacts of the corporate identity and a stylebook (if you have one). At this stage, UI designers will choose the most appropriate graphic solutions including colors, fonts, icons, and other symbols. While mockups are used mainly to present the visual aspects of the UI, prototypes are simulations of interaction. Looking at them you may have the impression that the application already works. If you remember the presentation of the first iPhone — that one was performed with a high-fidelity prototype, which not many knew on that day. 

Estimated cost: 1,600-12,000$.

 

Mobile app prototype based on high fidelity designs

Testing

You can use either only high-fidelity or only low-fidelity mockups and prototypes, or both, or a spectrum of mockups and prototypes. It all depends on your needs, the complexity of your application, and your budget. Mockups and prototypes will be used for testing on users and stakeholders. Their feedback will be crucial in making the application even better and the User Experience extraordinary. 

Estimated cost: 800-6,000$.

 

We end up with the cost of the UI design between 4,400 and 42,000$ depending on variables like the complexity of your application, the costs of the workforce in your country, etc.

Only now you can hand over your application's User Interface design to the team of front-end developers.

What Are the Most Common Pitfalls and Problems in UI Design?

As you can see, the user interface design is a complex process. Therefore, there are many things that can go wrong and result in a delay in development and a financial loss.

  • One of the most common pitfalls in any kind of project is the neglect of the need for thorough research and analysis. Such an approach towards your project will result in major changes in later stages of development, that will be more difficult and expensive to implement. You will not know for whom you design and may end up designing for yourself instead of your users and customers.
  • Your application will be at risk if you fail to gather the skilled and experienced team. If your specialists don't complement each other and don't have previous experience in your industry and/or the type of application you want to create, I don't have good news for you.
  • Your team will find it difficult to deliver the vision if they won't get along with each other. Potential for misunderstanding occurs mainly between different types of specialists like marketing vs design, or design vs development.
  • It may be tempting to use stock images in your application to save money. As a result, it may be hard to distinguish between your UI and one of your competitors. By the way, keep in mind that intellectual property is a serious thing, especially if you want to make a profit on your application.
  • Low accessibility means that it is difficult to use the application for users with disabilities, the elderly, or with older, low-end devices. Those people may constitute an important part of your customers.
  • Branding inconsistency may cause your users to feel a little insecure about the User Interface and less likely to use it again. Moreover, people aren't very observant and may overlook the fact that the application they use was delivered by your company.

How to Optimize the Mobile App UI Design Cost and App Development Cost

According to UX Planet, it's 10 times cheaper to solve a problem at the stage of design, than during development and, moreover, it is estimated to be 100 times cheaper than working on a released software. To help you, we have prepared this short list of tips for your design and development teams.

  • Don't break the rules — as in software development, there are golden rules and the best practices in UI design too. Your interface doesn't need to be the most original in the world. It's all about the User Experience, not art.
  • Don't skip the previous steps — market research and users' analysis are crucial. Without them, you will base your decisions on intuition and your own subjective opinions.
  • Don't skip tests — you may think your UI is the best thing that has ever happened in application development, but only tests will prove your point.
  • Choose an experienced team, consisting of experts who have done stuff like this before (regarding type of product, market, or industry) — they will help you make better decisions and simply know how to do their job.
  • Use more cost-effective subcontractors and designers, e.g. from Central Europe, where you will find well-educated and highly experienced specialists for a reasonable price.
  • Choose effective tech stack — while this one might seem unrelated to the UI design, you should know that every technology has its limitations. The tech stack will set the boundaries for your designers' creativity. For example, with React Native you get the possibility to reuse and share up to 70% of code for iOS and Android.

Summary

Designing your web app User Interface is more complex than people think. Fortunately, thanks to the guidelines featured in this article, you can save money and still keep the highest quality. Of course, if you want to get the most of your UI design you can hire a mobile app design company. However, if you need to cut expenses, you might be interested in hiring particular specialists for certain tasks. So if you want to gather your personalized team of specialists like web designers, developers, etc. you will find them in our expert network.

Adam Kozłowski

Designed the first website around the year 2004 and since then worked in various fields of design like branding, advertisement, and product design. Currently focused on UX/UI and consulting for a robust approach to results-focused applications.

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