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Design An App Online To Hit
Millions of Downloads

Design An App Online To Hit Millions of
Downloads
Design An App
Online To Hit Millions of
Downloads

When Instagram was launched in 2010, it looked like it was: a startup photo-sharing app made by 13 people. And today, it’s a revenue-generating machine with roughly 1 billion active monthly users.

Instagram 2011 app design versus nowInstagram 2011 app design versus now.

Of course, Mark Zuckerberg bought Instagram because of its true potential, not app design. However, today, you can’t present even revolutionary ideas with a bad interface. Users will simply leave your app if its flow doesn’t look usable.


So, how do you design an app that will attract new users and strengthen your brand’s image for the existing ones? Stay with us, and we’ll examine different approaches, from a total DIY to hiring and agency, so you can pick the best for you.

How to develop an app step-by-step

The fun fact about app design is that the process is the same for a 5-screen weather app and 30-screen music composing platform. Yes, each step will vary in length, but you still have to go through all of them if you want a high-quality design. So, what do you need to do?

#1 Set your goals

There are around 30,000 apps released in the AppStore monthly. So, how do you pass the first impression test and make your app settle in your customers’ phones? 


You need to establish the mission of your mobile app, so you can reflect it in the design. Here are some questions that might help you do this:


  • How will you make your mobile app design appeal to users?
  • How can you solve users’ problems with your app design?
  • What features can make the interface of your app better and more convenient?
  • How accessible is your app design for people with disabilities?
  • What is your platform of choice: iOS or Android?


Depending on your answers to these questions, you can set the guidelines for your interface. This will help you understand the vision of the final product and communicate with designers more efficiently.

#2 Perform UX research

Now, you start to work with a UX designer. This specialist utilizes user personas, A-B tests, and investigative studies to create a virtual user. Then, they run a test with these virtual users and understand their behavior in your app.


The result of the app UX design is a user flow chart that displays every path that a user takes while on the app. Understanding users’ behavior and paths across your app will help you build a clear and intuitive interface with no dead ends.

UX design process.

#3 Start on UI Design

You’ve built the foundation needed to design your app at this stage. Now, it’s time to pick wall colors and window styles, and the app UI design will help you do that. This process consists of three main steps.

• Wireframing

A wireframe is a skeleton of the cool app design. Here, a designer sketches the primary elements of each screen and develops preliminary layouts. They can draw a simple structure on the paper or use wireframing software and tools like Axure or Invision.


A thorough wireframing stage decreases the number of revisions. Rearranging the elements on the sample takes way less time than redrawing the whole screen. Plus, once you approve the wireframe, a designer has only to fill it with content, which speeds up the app design process.

A wireframe transformed into the interface.

• Mockups

Now, a UI designer turns a wireframe into a mockup. They create interface elements, add a logo, colors, images, and draw custom icons. If you want to speed up this process, you can transfer the sample designs to your developer team and start building an app along with creating its UI. 

A mockup of a live music tracking app.

• Finalizing

Once you’ve approved a mockup you like, a designer adds finishing touches to your app. For this stage, they can collaborate with other experts, like motion designers, visual effects designers, or illustrators. The goal here is to create a unique app flow and minimize users’ frustration.

Want to learn more about working with a UI designer? We’ve got a detailed review of their roles and duties here

#4 Test and deploy

At this stage, the developers’ team code, assemble and perform alpha and beta tests. You can still add changes to the design based on the reviews from the QA team. Once devs are satisfied with the tests, time to deploy your app to the iOS or Android stores and market it to your target audience.

The way it works at Awesomic

Awesomic allows you to add unlimited team members into your app design process. This way, once you get your first mockups, you can transfer them right to your developers team. They can communicate with Awesomic designer directly and work on app development while the designer improves visuals.

This will help you speed up the whole process and avoid missed deadlines without losing the quality of designs. Join Awesomic today and explore its possibilities.

How long does it take to design an app?

App development goes beyond stacking blocks together and applying drop shadow. Let’s look at the duration of its main milestones to see how much time it will take you to design an app.

Step
Simple app
Mid-size app
Complex app
Project scope
Less than 1 week
2-3 weeks
3-4 weeks
UX research
2-3 weeks
3-4 weeks
4-5 weeks
App UI design
2-3 weeks
3-4 weeks
5-6 weeks
Alpha testing and development
6-7 weeks
14-15 weeks
18-20 weeks
Beta testing and deployment to iOS and Android stores
1 week
2 weeks
3 weeks
Post-launch support
Ongoing

As you can see, app design processes are only a part of the whole development cycle. Depending on the complexity of your product, it can take from 4 to 11 weeks. 

Remember, you only have a couple of seconds to impress your user. So make sure to invest all of this time in a good app design.

iOS VS. Android design guidelines

Choosing between app design for iOS and Android is like choosing between a car and a motorcycle. Both of them will transport you to the desired location, but they go about it in different ways.


The style guides for iOS apps are covered by Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). On the other hand, Android uses Material Design as its main guide. These principles establish the look of all visual elements in the app:


  • navigation panels
  • drop-down menus 
  • controls and selectors
  • buttons
  • window sizes
  • tap target size
  • fonts and their hierarchy
  • use of colors and white space


And while apps in iOS and Android can feature almost identical interface and UX writing, they will still have visual differences like these:

Main visual differences between iOS and Android app interface.

So, which system should I choose?

Ideally, a cross-platform app design should be your best bet. These apps have a unified design for both platforms, cost less than developing two native apps, and can simply reach more audiences. 


However, cross-platform apps also require a more complex code, which increases the time needed for update and maintenance. So if you want to design an app online for only one platform, that’s okay. You can use our cheat sheet to understand which one is better for you as a starting point.

Choose iOS if…

  • You market your app in the US


The USA is the only country in the world where iOS devices dominate Android.


  • You want to shorten time spent on design


With Apple, you need to consider a limited number of screens when designing an app. This reduces the overall design and development time.


  • You need long-time support


Apple supports iOS updates for iPhones and iPads for 5-6 years on average. So if you create an app for a certain OS version, you get 5-6 years before a major remake, compared to 2-3 years on Android.

Choose Android if…

  • You market your app globally


Almost 70% of devices worldwide are operated by Android.


  • Your app requires frequent updates


If your app is new, you’ll need to fix bugs, which may require multiple updates per day. Play Market reviews an app within a few hours, whereas with AppStore, you’ll wait a few weeks only for a release.


  • You design widgets for your app


Every Android app has one or two widgets, so you can easily access its core functions from the main screen. Apple started to use widgets only recently, and they’re still pretty raw.

Can I design an app myself?

If you’re a DIY person, you can avoid hiring an app design company and use app design websites. They allow you to create an app from scratch and publish it in iOS and Android stores. Just take templates and arrange them together until you are happy. No coding skills required.


Sounds a bit too good to be true, right? Unfortunately, app makers have a lot of drawbacks. And some of them can not only cost you money but make your app dangerous to use.

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Dubious quality of code

An app maker doesn’t require any coding skills, but it still generates code to make your app something more than just a bunch of mockups. You don’t get to see this code, so you don’t know how structured it is. 


As a result, you might spend hours making minor changes to the interface. Or, your code might carry different vulnerabilities, which is dangerous.

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Limitations from the official stores

Apple’s latest guidelines update states that apps designed by app generator services will be rejected unless they upload the app themselves. So you can just abandon this idea right away if you want an app for iPhone or iPad.


Android allows third-party apps in the Play Market but doesn’t offer them support. This means that you will have to hire a specialist and pay them or work as customer support yourself and waste your time.

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This isn’t a single-person effort

Сreating a good app design goes beyond just a pretty picture. You need to analyze your target audience, know their behavior, and understand the design principles like visual hierarchy.


In an app design company, those are the responsibilities of UX and UI designers. An app maker doesn’t offer you that, and if you haven’t had experience with app design before, you can spend months arranging blocks with no positive results.

The way it works at Awesomic

Awesomic’s Ultimate subscription allows you to work with two designers at the same time. So you can double your output on a single project or work on other deliverables for your app, like logo or icons.

You’ll get your first concepts and drafts in 24h, which is much faster than working with app design agencies. Explore our trial week for only $7 and discover more Awesomic functions.

Who can design an app for you?

If you’re aiming for a cool app design that your users will love, you need someone who specializes in creating such interfaces. To find an expert like that, you can choose one of the three scenarios:


  • sign a contract with the app design agency or company
  • hire a freelancer with specialization in app design
  • work with flat rate design platforms like Awesomic


Each path is different and has its own ups and downs, so let’s see which one will fit your request best.

Sign a contract with the app design agency

Mobile app design requires multiple steps and processes done simultaneously. So, delegating them to a team of experts seems the best option, and many companies do this.


For example, a carsharing app Turo hired a design agency for UI improvements. The result was a simple interface which took a load from the support staff, and which users appreciated. Besides, here are some more reasons brands choose to work with app design companies:

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Relevant expertise

A design agency usually has some sort of vetting process. For example, they only hire designers past a certain level of experience. This helps weed out low-quality employees and keep the designs consistent.

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Up-to-date knowledge and resources

A high-level  agency usually has specialists in different niches who easily navigate modern trends and design principles. They can create a modern and quality app design, following the glassmorphism trend, which looks awesome on bezel-less smartphones.

An example of a glassmorphic app interface.
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Better time management

Outsourcing your app design to a creative agency helps you focus on revenue-generating areas of your business and promote its growth. An app design company will estimate the main milestones for you and ensure the deployment process will happen on time.

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Well-thought working algorithm

A reputable app design agency won’t skimp on any processes required for quality app design. They will perform extensive market research, UX analysis, and user testing to ensure that your app UI design will be impeccable.

Costs

App design agencies rarely list their pricing because it’s calculated based on the client’s needs. But they do have a minimum project size: for instance, at the Ramotion agency we’ve mentioned earlier, it equals $25,000.


Some agencies estimate the app design cost based on the app’s complexity. For example, here are the median costs in Yalantis IT consulting company, based on the $50/hour national average in the US:


  • Simple app design — 40 hours of UX design + 80 hours of UI design = 120 hours = $6,000 and up
  • Medium complexity app design — 100 hours of UX design + 120 hours for UI design = 220 hours = $11,000 and up
  • Complex app design — 160 hours of UX design + 320 hours of UI design = 480 hours = $24,000 and up.


Bottom line: outline your budget before and add a buffer to it. This way, you’ll have more options to choose from when an agency sets the estimated costs.

Things to consider

Delegating the tedious processes like hiring and screening surely seems exciting. However, working with a design agency is far from ideal and has certain drawbacks:


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Agencies set their prices per project and rates per hour, which are usually higher than the market average
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You still have to screen and compare the agencies and their reputation, which takes time
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A designer will require your time and resources to onboard them, which still won’t guarantee they will click with you
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You will communicate with a designer via the middleman (a project manager or a team lead), which increases the chances of miscommunication
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Agencies set their working hours, which might not suit your schedule

Hire a freelancer

Websites like Upwork or Fiverr host even highly specific creators, like below. And if you’re looking for a regular app designer, there are plenty of candidates waiting for you.

A highly specific gig on Fiverr.

Freelance websites are free to use and offer you a lot of features to organize your hiring process. Here are the main of them:

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Portfolios available at a glance

Freelance websites are highly visual and allow you to quickly scan a candidate’s portfolio or compare several experts to choose the one that fits your vision.

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Advanced filter system

If you want to delegate your app design to a candidate with a specific skill set or from a certain location, you can use website filters. They will help you weed out the unfit candidates and speed up your search.

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Option to hire a team

Some freelance websites allow you to create a team of professionals you work with. This facilitates the working process. For instance, you can simultaneously work with an app designer and a QA team to test your interface for bugs and issues.

Costs

If you’re paying a freelancer per hour, calculating the cost is pretty easy:


cost of 1 hour x number of hours = final app design cost

Typically, freelancer hourly rates are higher than the national median. Still, you can see some patterns for different countries:

Hourly rate
USA
Canada
Germany
Finland
Japan
Junior app designer
$50-60
$35-45
$45-60
$40-60
$35-50
3D animator
$70-100
$60-80
$70-80
$65-90
$50-70
Motion graphic designer
$120-150
$100-120
$85-100
$95-110
$75-90
*based on the Awesomic research on Clutch.co and Ziprecruiter in February 2022.

Now, say you need a mid-size food delivery app. Based on Awesomic’s research, the design process for such an app usually takes 6-7 weeks or 240 to 280 hours. So, here’s how much a mid-sized app may cost you if you hire a designer from any of these countries:

  • USA: $15,000 — $37,500
  • Canada: $8,750 — $30,000
  • Germany: $11,250 — $25,000
  • Finland: $10,000 — $27,500
  • Japan: $8,750 — $22,500


Aside from that, websites like Upwork and Fiverr allow you to buy a complete project from a freelancer. A candidate sets their price broken down into three tiers. The higher the tier, the more screens and features like an app logo or custom icons you get in the pack. On average, the price varies from $500 for a test screen to $2,400 for a 15-screen app that you’ll get in 14 days.

An example of a Fiverr app design gig.

Things to consider

Hiring a freelancer instead of an app design agency seems like a win-win situation. But in reality, it has more downsides that can completely undermine any positive experiences:

 

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The design quality on freelance platforms is lower compared to agencies or flat rate platforms because there’s no screening process for candidates
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Some freelancers might lie about their skills to get a project with a higher pay
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Some freelancers intentionally extend the working hours or create an illusion of work to paid more
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A freelancer might disappear amidst the process and leave you with missed deadlines
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A freelancer can sell a you a design made in app builder without any preliminary research or even plagiarize other’s work
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Try Awesomic

Awesomic designers

Finally, you can try to design an app online by subscribing to flat rate platforms like Awesomic. These websites combine the fast-paced, gig-based approach of a freelance website with a dedicated working environment of an app design agency.


However, when compared to both of them, Awesomic actually has more advantages:

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AI-powered matching process

Awesomic’s algorithm can match you with a perfect designer in minutes. No more browsing freelance websites for hours and comparing candidates’ skill sets, especially if you need two designers at the same time.

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Thorough selection of candidates

Awesomic has certain rules for selecting the candidates. For example, they only allow designers with at least 3 years of experience, and test their English level. This way, you won’t have any problems working with them.

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24-48h turnaround time for most projects

Awesomic gives you daily updates on tasks, so you can quickly complete even urgent projects. For instance, here’s what the Awesomic team created in only 3 weeks. Our design helped the client to successfully pitch an app and get funds.

mobile app screens with interface and/or navigation
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Clear communication

You connect and communicate with the designer directly, without managers and other middlemen. Plus, you can choose between 24/7 chat and a 30-minute call session.

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Unlimited free revisions

Awesomic allows you to make as many revisions as possible until you’re satisfied with the final design. And those revisions are included in the subscription plan, so you’re not paying any extras.

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Cheaper than hiring a freelancer or agency

You pay only the fixed price for a subscription, without hidden fees. And even the most expensive plan with two designers will cost you less than $30,000 per year. It’s equal to a minimal budget in some agencies.

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Team integration

You can add unlimited team members into your online cabinet and connect a designer to a developer team. This way, you can implement the design in real-time and see how it performs.

Costs

Flat rate platforms usually have from 2 to 5 subscription plans with a fixed fee. Awesomic, for example, has three:


  • Light — for those who need graphic design services, POS materials, presentations, and case studies
  • Pro — for those who need app design, UX and UI design, marketing design, motion design, brand visuals, etc
  • Ultimate — allows you to hire two designers and replace an entire design department

If you want to learn more about Awesomic’s pricing and services, click here

Final words

It’s a matter of seconds whether your app will pass the first impression test. A cool app design is a sure way to win a user’s attention, and there are several ways of creating it. You can try working with an app design companies or a flat rate platform like Awesomic. 


Hiring an agency is like riding a municipal taxi. It can adjust to your schedule but has limited features, which you either accept or upgrade to a more expensive tier.


Working with Awesomic is like driving a Tesla. It’s fast, comfortable, and responsive. Plus, Awesomic’s daily update function is like an autopilot: it can easily get you to the right place once you set the route. So, are you ready for an exciting app design journey with Awesomic?

FAQ

How do I design a good app?

App design consists of the several steps:

Market research — analyzing the competitors and collecting data about the niche you want your app to occupy.
User research — crafting the portrait of the average user, analyzing their needs, and creating a user persona for tests.
App UX design — main paths a user takes in your app, and the flows from point A to B.
App UI design — creating wireframes and mockups using prototyping tools and software like Axure, Figma, or Sketch.
Final design — adding interactive elements, animations, and gestures to bring a unique touch to your app.

When you start doing UI design, you can connect with a developer team to implement your final frontend and backend concepts.

How long does it take to create an app?

The whole process, from performing user research to deployment, may take from 3 to 9 months, depending on the complexity of your app. The app design process is only one of the steps. Depending on the number of screens and features you want in your app, the design stage may take 3-4 weeks to 9-10 weeks.

How much does app design cost?

An app design cost depends on the approach you take:

A designer with hourly rate: from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on the app size.
A designer with pay per project: from $800 to $2,500, depending on the app size and the number of screens.
Flat rate platform: only the cost of the subscription plans, regardless of the number of requests.

Can I design an app for free?

You can create an app using website builders, but it will certainly not be free. First, you’ll spend a lot of your time on these websites. 
Also, the “free” version of app makers might have limited functions. Finally, official stores don’t offer support for apps designed with third-party services, so you will need to hire the support team and pay them.

How many screens should an app have?

There’s no hard limit to the number of screens in the app. However, the more screens you use, the more device memory is needed to render them and ensure a smooth flow without lagging. 
So make sure to perform thorough UX research before designing your app. It will help you define the essential features and see how many screens you need to display them.

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