App Design Cost: What Goes Into It and How You Can Maximize Your Investment

ADC: hands and tablet with sample app designs

How much does it cost to design an app?

Depending on various factors, estimates range from $3,000 to $30,000 or more. This investment typically comprises about 30% of your entire mobile app development cost.

In most cases, you’ll be paying for app design on an hourly basis. This means that you’re not paying for a finished product but for the time invested, just like when consulting with any other expert.

Therefore, the more time it takes to design your app, the higher the cost will be. But before you think about skimping on your mobile app’s design, consider the following app statistics:

  • 94% of people’s first impression is based on your app’s design.
  • Good UX design can boost a website’s conversion rates by as much as 200%.
  • 38% of users will stop using a mobile app with a poor design.

Simply put, design plays a crucial role in the success of your app. In the case of many of our clients, a well-crafted design prototype alone was enough to have them raise multimillions of dollars in funding.

Yes. It is possible to maximize outcomes while minimizing design costs. However, it is essential to understand the factors that influence the cost of mobile app design to achieve this goal. This blog aims to do just that.

Read on to gain valuable insights as you navigate through your exciting app development journey.

5 Key Factors Influencing App Design Costs

#1 App scope and complexity

The complexity and scope of an app are among the most fundamental factors affecting design costs. Each feature adds another layer of design complexity, increasing the amount of design work required and, consequently, the overall design cost.

Depending on the number and complexity of the features you want to include, your mobile app can be categorized as follows:

App Complexity Estimated Design Cost
Basic $3,000 to $8,000
Simple $8,000 to $30,000
Complex $30,000+

🚨Note that the figures mentioned are approximate costs, and the actual amounts can vary significantly based on your specific project requirements.

Basic app

A basic app is often designed to perform a single, straightforward purpose or provide essential information without complex features. It typically has a clean and user-friendly interface, a limited set of functions, and caters to a specific purpose. Some examples are:

  • Calculators
  • Flashlight
  • Weather forecast
  • Notepad

Estimated design cost: between $3,000 and $8,000

Simple app

These are moderately complex apps with a broader range of features and often require more extensive development than basic apps. They may have multiple screens, interactive elements, and user accounts or profiles. Designing these apps typically takes more time and effort due to the need for a more intricate user interface.

Some examples are:

Estimated design cost: between $8,000 and $30,000

Complex app

These types of apps require design teams to invest additional time and expertise in creating a cohesive and visually appealing user interface (UI) for multifaceted functions. Complex apps take things up a notch when it comes to feature richness and user engagement. These apps are known for their:

  • Advanced features like real-time messaging, multimedia content creation, data analytics, and intricate in-app purchase systems.
  • Immersive user experiences with detailed interfaces, multimedia content, multi-user collaboration, and augmented reality.
  • Additional components like user account management, syncing data across devices or platforms, scalability for handling large user bases, extensive customization and personalization options, and robust security measures.

Examples of complex apps include:

  • Multifeatured social media platforms like Facebook
  • High-end video editing software
  • Massive multiplayer online games
  • Over-the-top apps like Netflix
  • Comprehensive e-commerce platforms like Amazon

The development of complex mobile apps typically demands a substantial investment of time, expertise, and resources due to their intricate nature and the need to meet high standards of functionality and security. This complexity inevitably leads to increased design costs.

Estimated design cost: $30,000+

#2 App platform (iOS, Android, Cross-platform)

Your choice of platform influences your app’s design requirements and, consequently, its cost. This is because each platform has unique design guidelines, conventions, and user expectations.


iOS tends to emphasize a minimalist, clean, and standardized visual design. Designing for iPhones ranges from $3,000 to $10,000 for entry-level models that don’t necessitate retina display-specific designs. However, for newer models, there’s a 25% hike in UI/UX design costs due to retina display requirements. Meanwhile, designing for iPads, with their distinct challenges, can inflate costs by 50%.


The Android platform allows for more customization and offers greater flexibility in terms of design elements. However, its design and development tend to be pricier due to the need to accommodate various solutions and formats.

Designers need to adapt continuously, and the multiple platforms demand greater effort and resources, thus increasing the Android app design cost.


Cross-platform apps, also known as hybrid apps, are designed and developed to run on multiple operating systems and platforms, such as iOS (Apple), Android (Google), and Windows (Microsoft), without the need to be completely rewritten for each platform.

Cross-platform development tools offer a cost-effective approach by allowing developers to create a single app that functions as iOS and Android apps. However, these solutions may not fully leverage platform-specific features, potentially affecting the overall user experience and design.

Our article on native and hybrid apps can help you figure out the platform that is best for your mobile app development project. I encourage you also to check it out.

#3 User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) Design

The quality of user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design plays a significant role in determining app design costs. High-quality UI/UX design often translates to a higher mobile app design cost but also significantly contributes to the app’s overall success.

Users are more likely to engage with an app that is aesthetically pleasing, easy to navigate, and free of frustrating obstacles. This positive user experience fosters engagement, user retention, and favorable reviews.

UI design involves the aesthetics and visual elements of the app, such as layout, color schemes, icons, and typography. A well-designed UI not only makes the app visually appealing but also ensures that the user can interact with the app comfortably and intuitively.

UX design, on the other hand, focuses on the overall user journey within the app, emphasizing usability, efficiency, and satisfaction.

Thorough UI/UX design requires research, wireframing, prototyping, and user testing to ensure that the app delivers a seamless and enjoyable user experience. I encourage you to read our article on UX design to learn about the principles of designing for a great user experience.

#4 Team Type

Choosing the right design team plays a crucial role in the success of your project. Typically, your options revolve around three main choices: in-house teams, outsourcing, and freelancers.

Each of these alternatives comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and the right choice depends on the unique dynamics of your project.

In-House Teams

In-house design teams consist of full-time employees who work exclusively for your organization. They provide a high level of familiarity with your brand, goals, and specific project needs, fostering a deep understanding of your vision and alignment with your company culture.

However, in-house teams often come with higher fixed costs, including salaries, benefits, and office space. They may also be less flexible in terms of scalability, leading to overstaffing during slow periods or understaffing during peak project demands.

Additionally, in-house teams might lack certain specialized skills or experience, necessitating the hiring of additional talent for specific tasks.

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Freelancers are typically a cost-effective choice, especially for short-term or specific tasks, as you only pay for the work they do. They often offer highly specialized skills, allowing you to pick experts for particular aspects of your project.

Freelancers provide a high degree of flexibility in terms of project timelines and can work efficiently and quickly on tasks. However, their availability may vary, and coordinating multiple freelancers or integrating their work into a cohesive design can be complex and require effective project management.

Too much reliance on freelancers may lead to difficulties in maintaining design consistency and long-term project oversight.


Outsourcing design services can be more cost-effective as it avoids the overhead costs associated with in-house teams. It also gives you access to a global talent pool, allowing you to choose experts in specific areas of design to suit your project’s needs.

Outsourcing offers scalability, enabling you to adjust your team size based on project requirements, and often results in a faster project start. Moreover, outsourced teams can bring fresh and diverse perspectives to your project, potentially leading to innovative and creative solutions.

That’s why it’s important to outsource your mobile app development to the right provider. Choose an app development company that can provide you with all the benefits of outsourcing while functioning as an extension of your in-house team.

What does such a provider look like? Look for these 5 green flags in a potential development partner.

#5 Custom vs. Pre-Designed Elements

Another factor affecting app design costs is the choice between using custom design elements and pre-designed templates or assets.

Custom design elements are tailored specifically for your app, creating a unique and branded appearance. While custom design ensures a one-of-a-kind look, it requires more time and expertise, leading to higher design costs.

Conversely, pre-designed templates and assets offer ready-made design elements that can save time and money. These resources can include pre-designed icons, UI components, templates, and even color schemes. Using pre-designed elements can streamline the design process, as designers can leverage these assets rather than creating everything from scratch.

This can be a cost-effective approach, particularly for smaller projects or when working within tight budget constraints. However, it may result in a less distinctive and personalized app design.

Appetiser Baseplate: Get the best of both worlds

At Appetiser, we understand how crucial speed to market is. We’ve developed a Baseplate, a comprehensive collection of standard libraries and components that we’ve compiled from the invaluable lessons learned from designing and developing countless app projects.

This multimillion-dollar investment enables us to expedite the custom app design process and bring native apps to market faster, outpacing all our known competitors by over 50%. The results: mobile apps that maintain a superior level of quality and substantially reduce costs for our clients.

Case in point: Good Empire.

ADC: Good Empire app screenshots

Thanks to our in-house Baseplate technology, it only took us a mere four months to launch this app. This helped them raise further capital from investors and allowed them to get users on board faster — resulting in some massive marketplace traction out of the gate.

Check out Good Empire’s case study to learn more.

How To Make the Most Out of Your App Design Investment

1. Start with clear objectives

What exactly do you want your app to achieve? Whether it’s boosting user engagement, increasing conversions, or providing a valuable service, having well-defined goals will serve as a compass for your design team.

Your objectives will help designers make informed decisions about the layout, features, and overall look and feel of your app. When everyone is aligned on your app’s purpose, the design process becomes more focused and effective.

2. Put your target audience at the forefront

This can be achieved through user research, surveys, and usability testing. By understanding your users’ needs, preferences, and pain points to maximize your design investment you can create an app that resonates with them, increasing the chances of your app’s adoption and success.

Additionally, a user-centered design approach can help you avoid costly redesigns and updates in the future. When you design with your users in mind from the start, you’re less likely to encounter significant usability issues or user dissatisfaction, which can lead to additional expenses down the road.

3. Focus on simplicity and clarity

Complex designs can be more time-consuming and expensive to implement. Reduce development costs and minimize the risk of technical challenges by opting for straightforward design elements.

Clear, straightforward design elements also tend to age better. Trends come and go, but timeless simplicity remains relevant, saving you from the need to update your design frequently.

4. Be consistent with the design elements

This means maintaining uniformity in design elements across your app, including color schemes, typography, navigation menus, and the overall user interface.

Consistent app design minimizes redundancy and streamlines the

mobile app development process. It minimizes the need for reinventing design elements, making coding more efficient and reducing development hours.

Design consistency also leads to faster decision-making, saving time and costs in the design and approval phases. Furthermore, it eases long-term maintenance, ensuring predictable updates and improved user experiences that can boost user retention and potentially increase revenue.

5. Improve iteratively

Iterative improvement in app design is like a continuous journey, not a one-stop destination. It’s all about listening to your users, taking their feedback to heart, and making small but meaningful tweaks to your app’s design. By doing this regularly, you keep your users happy and engaged.

The beauty of this approach is that it’s not just about making users smile – it’s about saving you money in the long run. Fixing issues and making gradual improvements early means you’re less likely to face costly and massive redesigns down the road. It’s a win-win, keeping your users satisfied and your budget in check.

One powerful approach to making the most of your app design investment is by focusing first on creating a design prototype of the highest quality.

The Key to Long-Term Success

Investing in a well-designed app can yield substantial returns in terms of user engagement and business success. While it’s tempting to cut corners and go for the lowest price, prioritizing quality in your app design is often a wiser choice.

Remember, a well-crafted app not only attracts users but also keeps them coming back, helping you build a loyal customer base.

Before starting your app design journey, research, plan, and budget carefully. Seek advice from experienced professionals to align your vision with budget constraints. Striking the right balance between cost and quality can turn your app idea into a standout success in the competitive app arena.

All the best on your mobile app development journey!


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