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January 21, 2022

  

 mins to read

App Design Cost: What to Expect From UI/UX Design Vendors

Eleken is a team of SaaS product designers, so it’s our main duty to develop outstanding UI/UX design for projects of different sizes and shapes for a variety of different industries. But when someone asks us to evaluate app design cost, we feel like a magician with a crystal ball.

Clients are like: “Tell me the cost of something that doesn’t yet exist, figure out how it will look, and how to make it effectively solve our potential users’ problems”.

And we are like:

It’s difficult to understand all the complexity of a design challenge that you are about to solve before you even start actual work. On the other hand, we clearly understand that the matter of budget is super important for each product owner, therefore the question “How much does it cost to design an app?” is natural and even obvious. 

In most cases, app design price depends on the number of hours a designer spends to design it. However, price formation is far more complex than just counting hours. 

There are different approaches to cost evaluation (as all projects are different), and in this article, we will figure out:

  • What goes into the cost of UI/UX design and influences the price
  • What are the two basic ways to estimate the cost
  • How we charge at Eleken
  • How you can reduce the budget

Let’s start!

What the UI/UX design cost may include

When we want to buy a car, we can easily learn its exact price just by looking at a price tag, but we rarely think about how much it costs to design and produce that car. The situation with app design is quite similar: clients have some budget allocation and expect to receive an app prototype within this amount, but they don’t know how many design iterations and tests the project would go through before designers come up with a suitable solution.

what clients think they pay for when designing an app vs what they actually pay for

Price formation is a completely individual thing that depends on numerous factors. Below are the most important of them.

  1. Experience

Let’s imagine you want to design an app and there are three vendors on the market that offer UI/UX design services:

  • Agency “A” is a well-known design studio with a great track record full of world-famous companies. People choose them because of their bold decisions, fresh look, and extraordinary ideas. The price for their services will be $200,000 (just a random number used as an example)
  • Agency “B” is also a popular company on the market with numerous successful cases in their portfolio. They create high-quality, effective, and more traditional designs. Their app prototype cost will result in $170,000 (again, a random number)
  • Agency “C” is a young design studio that appeared on the market a few years ago. Their portfolio is not as vast as of the above companies, though, they also have a professional UI/UX design team that creates solutions of high quality. Design of a mobile application at the “C” agency will take about $30,000 (a random number). 

All three agencies provide UI/UX design services and as an outcome, you will have your mobile application designed. Still, there is a huge cost range between them. 

The first point that influences the price is experience. You pay more for the higher guarantee that you will get an effective design solution. Experienced designers might cost more, but they work faster and their quality of work pays out eventually. In case you have a limited app design budget you can opt for less experienced design agencies.

  1. Complexity of design project and feature set

Not all projects are the same, and there is no one-size-fits-all design process. Still, design is definitely much more than “drawing” in Figma. It consists of many steps and depends on many variables that are difficult to foresee. 

Depending on the project, the number of steps needed to complete the scope of work may differ, consequently, the number of hours that the designer will spend doing your project differs as well. And that’s one more thing that makes the cost to design an application vary. 

Below is the list of the most common steps of the product design process that may influence the project’s price: 

  1. Research 
  • Market research
  • Competitor analysis
  • User research
  • Analysis of latest trends
  • Best practices selection.
  1. User experience design
  • Sketches
  • User flows
  • Customer journey maps
  • Wireframes
  • Prototype
  1. User interface
  • Mood board creation
  • Illustration/animation creation
  • UI mockup samples
  • Final UI mockups.
  1. Branding
  • Initial logo research
  • Samples creation
  • Logo finalization

In some cases your design team will have to undergo all the above-mentioned stages, in others they can omit some. So, the second thing that affects the cost is the process that your team has to undergo to come up with a suitable design solution.

  1. Overheads

Though, when we need an app design we expect to pay solely for UI/UX design, we shouldn’t forget about such things as office rent, work station, bonus pay, and so on. As well, at design agencies, they charge for PM, QA, and account management bloating your budget. So, the third point that influences your budget is the ongoing expense needed to effectively operate a business.

Approaches to app cost estimation

It’s not a secret that web design agency pricing differs from company to company. The two most popular ways of Price Cost Estimation (PCE) are quantitative and qualitative approaches.

  • The quantitative approach pays attention to the future product’s feature set, and the processes that will go into production to foresee what variables and resources, needed to create the final result, will influence the price.
  • The qualitative approach takes into account previous projects and their cost to estimate the price. By looking at processes, design specs, and other resources that were used to design similar products, we can roughly figure out the cost of our current project.

And here comes the question: “If there are the defined approaches on budget estimation, why can’t design agencies give the exact answer about the average cost to design an app?” 

Well, first of all, not all projects are the same. Secondly, the design process is not a stable thing that consists of a strictly defined sequence of steps. It’s time-consuming, iterative, and changeable.

The most accurate information about the cost to design an app we can give you is based on our own experience. So, let’s see what you pay for when you hire Eleken. 

How we charge at Eleken

Eleken designs exclusively SaaS products and works on a time-based retainer pricing model, which means you pay a fixed fee for a set amount of time and receive a full-time UI/UX designer working on your project remotely. That’s why the application design cost depends on the amount of time needed to perform a scope of work. 

To better understand our principle of work, think of Eleken as a software-as-a-service product. 

  • We are a subscription-based service. You can buy a monthly subscription and have access to product designer/s working exclusively on your project from Monday till Friday, 8 hours per day during the whole month.   
  • We have a free-trial period. People can use our “product” for three days free of charge to feel all the advantages of this collaboration and decide if Eleken satisfies their needs. 
  • Our clients can prolong, cancel, upgrade or downgrade their subscriptions. Similar to SaaS services, the trial period helps clients decide whether to buy a full monthly subscription or not. As well, if needed, they can add more designers or downsize the team.
  • It’s up to our clients how effectively to use our design services. Here we can again compare Eleken with a SaaS product. For example, when two different people subscribe to Netflix, one of them watches just one movie during the whole month, and another watches TV series every day. But they both pay the same price for a subscription. Similarly, when you hire a designer at Eleken, it’s up to you what they will do during the subscription term.

Now, let’s see what influences the project duration by analyzing what design processes are included in app design at different stages of product development (based on our experience).

How long it takes Eleken to design an app

And again, we start with a statement that was already mentioned (not once): All projects are different, all products are different, and their time to design depends on numerous variables. The steps to design an MVP from scratch, and the steps needed to redesign an application can’t be completely the same, therefore they can’t be done in the same time period.

The second point is that we don’t estimate a specific deliverable (wireframe, moodboard, user flow, and so on) but the process you need to undergo to create a suitable design solution.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at two projects we’ve worked on and see how long it took us to design them. 

Ricochet360

Ricochet360 came to us for a product redesign. It’s a cloud phone system and CRM platform, and as you may guess, CRM platforms are usually bulky, complex, have a lot of functions, and integrations. Our task was to simplify the product, make it intuitive, and easy to use for sales teams.

Not a one-week task, right? 

It took our designer two months to complete the scope of work. Here are the steps of Ricochet’s design process:

  1. Visual concept validation. We created several variants of one screen with different typography, colors, and buttons, and our client chose the one that served us as a direction for further designs.
  2. Design audit. We analyzed the existing product to identify the flaws of the current design and develop a plan on how to fix them.
  3. Screen restructuring. During the third phase, common for redesign projects, we disassembled old screens on basic elements to understand what steps users take to complete tasks, and what elements we can add to make it easier for them to achieve the desired results.  
  4. Designing new screens. Based on visual concepts approved with our client at the beginning of the redesign process, our designer created final mock-ups.

Key points that influenced our work speed were effective communication and the fact that Ricochet360’s team came to us prepared: they defined objectives, had a clear product vision, knew what they wanted to refine in their product.

CRM redesign example
Ricochet360 “Add a new lead” page redesign

This way, the cost of Ricochet360 app redesign was equal to the sum of two monthly subscriptions.

Gamaya

Now Gamaya, a data analysis platform, is our regular customer that keeps returning for additional design services. But when they came to us for the first time for a product redesign, Gamaya didn’t have a clear understanding of what exactly they needed: a complete UI/UX overhaul or just refreshing the visual part. For that reason, we turned to the design thinking method:

  1. Empathize. We conducted research to better understand the product, the user, and the market.
  2. Define. Based on the research, we analyzed the current Gamaya’s product to understand what needs to be refreshed and refined.
  3. Ideate. We brainstormed various solutions to highlight opportunities for innovation and understand what Gamaya’s team expects to get as the result.
  4. Prototype, test, and implement. We used the UI component library to reduce the software development time and adapted our design to this library. As well, we thought out a convenient UI for a mobile app.

It took us almost a month to ideate and create a concept to find the right direction for further design solutions. That’s why our first collaboration with Gamaya was equal to the sum of three monthly subscriptions. 

Now you see, that two projects with the same task (to redesign) can have two completely different design processes and can’t last the same amount of time. Thus, the time needed to perform the scope of work depends on:

  1. Type of project
  2. The level of preparation of our client

Finally, it’s important to mention that the way our agency works doesn’t suit every design project, but it perfectly fits the clients we serve.

5 ways to reduce your budget

Dealing with UI/UX design for more than six years already, helped us understand how our clients can reduce the cost to design an application. 

  1. Define the scope of work before hiring designers. Don’t neglect the discovery phase. When you understand what you want to achieve with the design, have a rough plan of actions, and a vision of a future product you will save time (and consequently, money) needed to design an app. Otherwise, a design team will have to spend time developing and offering you a variety of concepts to choose the right direction, before they can start actual work.
  2. Prepare all the content and visuals beforehand. Designers are not content creators, you have to take care of copy, texts for inputs, images, videos, and the like. 
  3. Be involved in the design process. Communicating and providing feedback on time helps designers work faster and more effectively. If your team has to wait several days for each approval, the whole process will take twice as long as it can. Share your opinion about each aspect of the project as soon as possible.
  4. Hire professional product designers. The more experienced and involved a designer is, the less you're going to pay, as it takes less time for experienced designers to cope with design challenges.
  5. Hire Eleken. Eleken is a team of experienced SaaS product designers. We don’t charge for PMs, QAs, or account managers. As we are a remote team, you don’t have to pay for office rent, work equipment, additional compensation – we care about all these overhead costs. You only pay for the actual design. 

To sum up, we want to say that though it’s impossible to tell the exact sum of a mobile app design cost, if you want to have a clearer understanding of how to define your budget, take a look at our article How much does it cost to hire a designer.
Need help with designing your SaaS application? Contact us.

Kateryna Mayka

Author

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