Nearly every day someone asks What does a mobile application cost? and How long does it take to make a mobile app? The answer is not so simple, especially when one takes into account the process for creating any application from concept to deployment.
To illustrate pricing and development let’s talk cars. Everyone knows what a car is, and how much cars typically cost. If you do not, you most likely will not be reading this article since you do not have internet. Cars follow a similar process for creation: concepting, illustrating, digital prototyping, product development, testing in lab, testing on the road, then delivery and distribution. The end result creates a spectrum of cars: mass-produced (Kia, Toyota Camera, Honda Civic) to limited edition (Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, Bugatti). Let’s further define:
Mass-Produced, Packaged Solutions
Like a car from the production line such as a Kia, a mobile template “packaged” solution can be feature-rich but may lack the customization your brand requires. Such mobile templates are readily available online for prices ranging from $20-5,000. These packaged solutions are typically great for small businesses such as restaurants, nightclubs or non-profits. In short, such solutions are created for “quantity over quality” without thinking about the user experience of your customers.
Moving further into the middle tier you’ll find premium solutions such as a $40,000 sporty Lexus. Within this tier one starts to invest more time on user experience design, aesthetics and custom functionality of their mobile application. Wireframes, rapid prototypes and analytics are introduced to the mobile application process and the result is an increase in user experience, user satisfaction and organic virality of the application.
Limited Edition, Custom Solutions
For larger brands (or venture-backed start-ups), customized development may be the solution which is needed to meet business goals or IT/security requirements. These are the Rolls-Royce equivalent of mobile apps, the 3000+ man hour applications which display the epitome of best practices, functionality and aesthetics. The process of developing these applications doesn’t even consider development until thoroughly vetting the user experience, functionality and responses from user testing. Multiple prototypes, design iterations and collaborative conceptual workshops are held. Ideas are shared, criticized and improved upon. Additional systems are implemented such as CMS or CRM systems, advanced analytics are reported from user-tracking and award-winning applications come to life. Timeframes for customized solutions typically start at 8-10 weeks and increase as application complexity increases.
What Does Visual Design Cost?
When referring to the price of visual design, I’d like to use a different example from a story I once heard.
Many years ago, a woman was walking on the streets of Paris when she saw a famous painter sitting with his easel. She approached the artist and told him that she was a fan of his work. With slight hesitation she asked “Could you paint something for me? I’d gladly pay you!” The artist agreed and with his hand he added one, simple, brush stroke to the blank canvas. “That’s beautiful,” she replied. “How much shall I pay you?” The man looked at her and said “1,000 dollars”. The woman, shocked, asked “Why so much? It only took you a minute?” He replied with a smile, “Yes, but a lifetime to learn how and where to put it.”
For visual design you’re paying for talent and skill. With crowd sourcing today anyone can find a logo for $50 or $100 – and if that’s your budget it’s a great solution. However, even if a designer can make you an award-winning logo in an hour, or 40 hours – you pay for the skill the knowledge that designer has attained over their many years of experience.