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App Design Cost: How Much Does it Cost to Design an App?


This is how calculating, breaking down and researching your UI design prices effectively can save you between 41% and 90% on your app design cost

They say it pays to do your research, which might be doubly true for app design costs in a global economy. Since we at Specno are South African-based, our clients have the benefit of high-quality assurance coupled with favourable development costs.

Just how much will it cost to design your app, though?

How Much Does it Cost to Design an App Prototype (MVP)?

The short answer is that it can cost between R150,000–R300,000 to complete the app design phase for an MVP of a new app. The scoping and requirements of the product as well as its complexity can impact app design time. One could perhaps almost break it down as: the design on a simple app is around R150,000, while a more complex app is closer to R300,000.

This is based on a mostly South African app design team, which is (compared to top Google results for other regions) about 41% more cost-effective than a US-based team, and up to 90% most cost-effective than UK teams.

See what startup support you need to make it big. Also see the benefits of cross-platform vs native app development and how to choose an app developer.

App Design Cost Breakdown

We recently identified 6 distinct Steps in the app design process – see our blog post on: How to design an app. Using those as a guideline, we create a simplified 4-Sprint timeline to plot out design costs against. In the interest of a simplified view, all apps require:

Sprint 1: Strategy & Planning
circa R37,500 – R75,000
Identifying and defining the app’s purpose and functions, commercial objectives, user personas and user journeys, as well as designing the system architecture and mapping out the flows.

Sprint 2: Low-fidelity design
circa R37,500 – R75,000
Rapidly testing ideas by mapping out the system flow and creating low-fidelity/flat UX wireframes for testing and feedback.

Sprint 3: Final UI Design
circa R37,500 – R75,000

Collating feedback into full UX wireframes, performing style tests and finally creating the UI design of all content, navigation, layout and design on every screen, including states and enhancements.

Sprint 4: Prepping Assets for Development
circa R37,500 – R75,000

Creating and exporting all the UI assets – icons, buttons, imagery, as well as the code needed to generate those – style guides and documentation to hand over to the development team for roll-out.

Total MVP app design cost = R150,000 – R300,000.

Note: Favourable App Design Costs in South Africa

Because we operate globally from South Africa, Specno can offer extremely competitive design and development costs anywhere in the world. 

If you compare our uppermost threshold of designing a complex app MVP with the top Google results for app design costs in the US and UK, the difference in value becomes quite clear:

  • US cost of designing a complex app – R516,977 ($30,000)
  • UK cost of designing a complex app – R3,200,666 (£150,000)
  • SA (Specno) cost to design complex app – R300,000 ($17,400, £14,000)

It could be 41% more cost-effective to have your app designed by Specno in South Africa, as opposed to the US. 

And, from the UK perspective, it might be up to 90% more affordable to have your app designed by Specno in South Africa instead.

Also, see why investing in software is a good idea in our roundup of the impact of digital transformation on South African businesses.

App Design Cost Variables

All products are unique. Each has its own requirements and challenges. This is why app most designers and developers can’t make too many generalised promises around app delivery timelines and costs.

Here are some variables that will impact how much it costs to design an app:

Scope and special requirements

It’s much easier and faster to start design on a tested, proven and validated app concept. Which can make it a little more affordable. That’s why Specno offers a Concept Validation service, where we help you thoroughly research and test any new product concepts before investment. In short, we’ve found we can start designing faster on a concept that we’ve already validated.

Discover why it’s a good idea to validate your app idea first. And discover the framework for testing your product concept before development with app idea validation. Also see the steps to validate your mobile app idea and all you need to know about selecting an app developer.

The complexity of the app

It’s hard t express what makes one app more complex to design than others, so a simplified way to look at it is to categorise apps according to the type and amount of features it requires. Here are some comparisons with potential features and relevant app complexity:

Simple Apps

Mid-Level Apps

Complex Apps

  • A single, straightforward function or purpose

  • A limited number of screens or pages

  • Basic navigation

  • Limited user input

  • Basic data storage

  • Limited integration with external systems or services

  • Basic security features, such as login or authentication.

  • Multiple functions or purposes

  • More advanced navigation, such as nested menus or dynamic navigation

  • More advanced user input

  • More complex data storage

  • More extensive connectivity, such as integration with external APIs or services

  • Advanced error handling and user feedback

  • More complex security features, such as encryption or multi-factor authentication
  • Many functions and navigation

  • Advanced user input, voice and facial recognition

  • Advanced connectivity and real-time data exchange

  • Advanced error handling and user feedback

  • Advanced security features, such as biometric authentication

  • Support for multiple languages and localization

  • Support for various device types and platforms, including wearables and IoT.

The resources needed

Apps with a large number of screens, complex navigation and inter-relatedness might require a bigger team or more time to complete. To move even faster, discover the benefits of low-code development.

Testing and optimisation

The quality. clarity and brevity of feedback and sign-off from stakeholders will impact turnaround times, which brings down app design costs. If a key stakeholder is unavailable to sign off on designs, for example, that delays the process, which can make things more costly.

Whom you choose to work with

It should go without saying that working with an agency VS a freelance designer is in most cases faster and more preferable. At Specno, for example, we’ve built dedicated design and development teams, to allow us to test ideas more rapidly and deliver work faster. See what you need to build an app development team. Also see just what skills you need in the ideal startup team

Note: Cost Breakdowns Based on Specno App Design Costs

It’s important to note that the guide times shown here are based on the internal Specno turnaround, delivery timelines and costs. We’ve created an entire team of dedicated and driven designers and developers, based in South Africa and are therefore able to turn around extremely high-quality designs and finished products at a level and cost that’s ideal for funded startups and corporates.

Naturally, we can’t vouch for anyone else in the industry but ourselves. And to get the full picture of timelines and options for launching a new product, see our guide to how long it takes to create a new app, an in-depth exploration of new app development and what you need to know about Android app development.

Get Us to Design Your App For You

There’s a lot that goes into designing an app that actually works the first time, and that’s why we at Specno spent years developing the best app design team for usability and user experience – proven to give you better user engagement and retention.

To get your app designed beautifully with an immersive user experience, contact Specno now.
(You’ll get a response immediately.) 

You might also be interested in…

This page only looks at the UI design of a new product, you still have code, stage, test and roll it out. For an idea of how much to budget for that, see our guide to  app development cost. And then see exactly how long it takes to validate an idea and how to run some key validation experiments. Also see how to increase app engagement. Also see how we helped bolster engagement and conversions on SA's No 1 digital job management system, ServCraft.

See the right way to plan and design your app architecture in our post: how to design app, discover how long it takes to design an app, and get the complete picture with our overview of app design. Also see these signs you need a UX audit, the 8 instant business benefits of a UX audit and a breakdown of the UX audit process.

Then learn to calculate your app engagement rate and explore 9 critical causes of low app engagement, get on top of your product's profitability with an in-depth look at optimising your app conversion rate, and get the full picture of what's required for best-practice app development with our guide to the optimal app development process, 9 vital things you need to know even before you start developing an app, see how long your product will actually take to build in our guide to app development time and take a look at the future opportunities in mobile app development.

Plus: Did you know you can build 3 times faster? See how long it takes to build a low-code app and get the right price with beneficial low code development cost.

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Specno Team