The Top App Design Companies
With the growing number of hours spent on mobile and a projected 260 billion app downloads by 2022, apps might just be the fireworks businesses need to make their brands sparkle. After all, their purpose is to reach customers and reinforce brand visibility. But how do you choose a partner to design the perfect firework show for your business?
Our team of experts has conducted an evaluation of some of the most accomplished app design companies resulting in a carefully assembled list of the best and a guide to make your decision process easier. Read on and discover the answers to high-level questions about app design and development.
2020's Leading App Design Companies
Average Hourly Rate
Boston-based DockYard is a digital product agency that specializes in mobile and web application development consulting and custom software. Its comprehensive service suite not only brings efficiency, engagement, and elegance on the table but makes the engineering of brilliant digital ideas possible for world-class companies such as Netflix, Apple, and Harvard.
New York, NY
Blue Fountain Media is a New York-based digital agency focused on the mobile presence of brands. By blending imagination, expertise in web design and development, integrated marketing solutions, and branding, Blue Fountain Media delivers digital experiences to take their clients to the next level.
Savvy Apps is a creative agency with offices in D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, Seattle, Raleigh, and Philadelphia and a team of experienced talent that will “enable you to move at the speed of the digital”. As an award-winning agency, Savvy has helped companies such as Levi's, Toyota, Motley Fool and many others to create, design, and grow across Android, iOS, and web.
Based in Kyiv, Ukraine, Idealogic is a full-cycle development firm that prides in innovation, mobile web development, design creation, Blockchain, and STO development solutions. With a team of over 50 designers, software engineers, project managers, and business analysts, Idealogic will surely help your business keep pace with the latest technologies to help you realize your vision for the business.
Alphonic Network Solutions is a web and mobile app development company that creates customized digital solutions for iOS, Android, and the web with over five years of experience in web solutions and numerous applications for Android, iPhone (iOS), and iPad. Alphonic’s team of ‘enthusiastic masterminds’ delivers effective communication and interactive solutions that will most definitely boost your company’s profitability.
New York, NY
Fueled is a New York-based, award-winning app design outfit that creates fast, attractive, engaging, and easy to use mobile apps and websites. The creative team of Fueled has worked with businesses of all sizes across many industries and has built a wide range of products aimed at accelerating growth and making sure their clients reach.
New York, NY
Lounge Lizard is a web design company with headquarters in New York strongly driven on creating award-winning websites, custom web applications and enterprise mobile applications with the sole purpose to generate high conversion rates. The digital strategies of Lounge Lizard are an excellent tool for clients to win, retain, and engage customers across the Internet, Social Media, and Email.
New York, NY
Founded in 2012, Big Drop Inc. is a full-service digital agency from New York with an exceptional creative workforce fully equipped to work with start-ups, SMB’s and Fortune 500 companies. The multi-cultural team of Big Drop carefully considers all aspects of a company’s brand with the sole purpose of elevating it and communicating its message to the world.
Redwood City, CA
Founded in 2008, Y Media Labs is a digital design and development studio with over 300 top-notch creators that will transform your business by making a difference for your customers. Y Media Labs has worked with both startups and Fortune 500 and has introduced the best and most innovative digital solutions available on the market to help them own the leadership position in their industry.
Hudson Integrated is an award-winning digital marketing agency with locations in New Jersey and New York City that is highly experienced in digital strategy, creative direction, and agile development. Hudson Integrated is recognized nationwide for their “user first” approach and comprehensive online marketing planning that offers clients customized and scalable applications to dominate existing and conquer new markets.
Founded in 2007, Five is a mobile design and development agency promising to generate returns for their clients through building outstanding digital products. With Rosetta Stone, Marriott International, Accuweather, and Penguin Random House as part of their client portfolio, Five offers world-class products that optimize customer engagement and retention.
San Francisco, CA
As a full-service digital design and development company Blue Rocket is one of the leading app design outfits in San Francisco. With imagination, teamwork and a strong focus on users, Black Rocket provides services in product strategy, design, along with launch and post-launch services for companies of all industries and sizes.
Bachoo Design Studio engineers the digital space to perfect human interactions. The Ukraine-based team is primarily focused on digital product design, mobile, web, and cross-platform applications. They come up with radical designs and game-changing solutions based on extensive market analysis, data research, and strategic product thinking.
How We Selected the App Design Companies on Our List
Everyone knows a good partner is hard to come by, especially one that can peek into the very soul of your business and create cutting edge design for a razor-sharp app. Designing an enjoyable, scalable, and maintainable digital product to present your story to an audience with maximum efficiency is a meticulous process. App design has many challenging aspects, which is why adherence to standards is necessary if not, paramount.
Consequently, in our ranking of the app design companies, we looked at the experience and skill set of app design teams, their proficiency, and technical diversity but most importantly, their mastery of the app design process.
We strongly recommend that you look at completed projects of at least three or four app design providers and evaluate their expertise, before closing the deal with a potential partner. A brand new agency might promise fresh ideas but nothing beats experience, right? So, make sure they have been present on the market long enough to have gained the necessary knowledge about the ways of the digital world. Downloading some of the apps to appraise the quality of their work firsthand will give you clues on that.
Another thing we looked into was whether the app design agency offers à la carte and/or full-service jobs. A firm that provides separate services instills more confidence that they have the resources at hand to handle each task professionally. And finally, for the sake of originality and innovation, we avoided agencies that just remix their work.
An Established Process
The very purpose of an established design process is to put the best version of an original idea into the hands of people. Being an iterative process, app design and development explores a concept’s potential by challenging assumptions with the ultimate goal to engineer game-changing experiences. So, here are the stages that best app design companies usually go through:
Product Strategy and Ideation
This stage focuses on creating a plan of the product’s features, investments, marketing goals, etc. which will help determine the type of the product, mobile app, web or SaaS or the whole package. Basically the product strategy defines the ideas behind the app or how the client wants it to work for the target audience. Assessing the ambition of the project is what triggers the formation of ideas and concepts.
The best app designers tend to take their time and let the idea roam free for a while before they actually start working on it. Asking questions such as “Is it technically feasible and financially viable?” or “Has it been done already?” are all part of the brainstorming process which gives way for the idea to take on multiple shapes before coming to life.
Thorough user research sets the roadmap to reaching customers. Figuring out the needs of users and their preferences about color, themes, functionalities, and features is essential for the app to serve its purpose. UX design firms are particularly good at this, so if you are eyeing an app design agency that also specialized in UX design, rest assured that your project is in good hands.
User research is also an integral part of the idea validation process. And since original ideas are usually based on a hypothesis of what could be appealing to customers, a deeper understanding of what attracts users will shape the idea and transform it into the best version of itself.
Project specification or spec is a form of declaration of what the app does and the way it is accomplished. It is the blueprint that contains the functional and non-functional requirements of the app so obviously, it is a mandatory part of the app design process.
For web or mobile app design companies, the spec is the contract that instructs all involved parties what needs to be done and how. Specs are written for external and in-house projects and are vital because they represent the conscious and calculated act of initiating the design.
A wireframe or lo-fi mockup is a simple pencil sketch derived from the spec serving as a diagram or a visual blueprint of the app. Wireframes show how the app will be structured. Usually, a team of UX designers and information architects is in charge of this phase.
A solid app designing company will use the wireframing phase to discover inconsistencies in navigation, missing sections of the app, and other elements that might have been overlooked in the spec production phase. And since wireframing marks the first step to designing, its purpose is to settle any inconsistencies and get a better look at the bigger picture.
With the spec and wireframing in place, a prototype of the app can finally be built. This is a clickable dummy of the product or a first version and reflects the app’s interface architecture and main features. The prototyping phase is used by mobile app design companies to test the app, see how it works for users, mark issues or unclear flows, and is ideal to pinpoint what other work needs to be done to optimize the results.
Visual Design & Style Guide
Visual design refers to what people traditionally think of when the word designing is mentioned. It outlines the appearance of the app built on top of all the experiences and functionalities established in previous phases. Visual design is what app designers refer to as the visual framework of the app — the story it will tell and how it will leave a lasting impression on the user. iOS and Android have rules, conventions, and expressions to lean on for visual design.
Style guides, on the other hand, set the standards on aligning the app with the brand’s personality — typography, imagery, color scheme, UI elements, etc. Style guides are also the foundation for the user interface in app design and development.
A Varied Skillset
Hiring one of the leading app design companies can make all the difference in the world for your product. First and foremost, they are not just equipped to address a wide spectrum of needs but are also powered by a team of professionals from various disciplines who understand and complement each other’s work. Our deep dive into the qualities and skillsets of the best led to the following conclusions:
A top app development company must also possess excellent UI/UX skills. An app must own elements to make it stand out from the fray and engage users. Knowing the importance of exquisite user experience and interface, mobile app design companies that do not have in-house experts usually hire UX design firms.
Creativity is the hallmark of outstanding app design. Companies that stick to the cookie-cutter approach will just not do. A team that does not think outside the box cannot possibly achieve app design greatness.
Reputable agencies tend to offer an after-care service which includes consultations and technical assistance. This is the key to a long-lasting partnership and perpetual attention to helping your business grow.
Outstanding analytical skills to meet customer demand is an area where a mobile app design company should excel. Taking that extra step to analyze the needs of the users and satisfy their expectations is the ‘multipass’ to success.
Before choosing a web or mobile app design company to develop your project it would be a good idea to carry out the necessary research, consider testimonials from past clients, and ask questions. A reputable agency would be more than happy to provide reviews from previous clients saying good things about them. Moreover, being an open book about testimonials usually means the agency has a proven track record and is confident that what they have been and are striving to deliver the best possible results to their clients.
Depending on the app development services offered, app design agencies can have fixed or hourly rates. And since we’ve “been there and done that,” our impression is that overpaying an app does not necessarily mean state-of-the-art quality. Then, firms whose rates are too low tend to produce low quality if not disastrous apps which sooner or later will need rebuilding, resulting in additional costs. This is why we were very cautious about this part of the ranking and opted for agencies that know how to maintain a penny-wise balance and be open for cooperation with both startups and large corporations.
How to Choose the Best App Designing Company for You?
We hope that the table we’ve provided along with the insights into our ranking, and the behind-the-scenes info have all been helpful so far. To further assist you in the decision process, we have outlined five key points for you to consider. These will make it easier to choose the right partner for an aesthetically pleasing mobile app design.
Set Your Goals
First, you need a plan of action for your app. Try to answer questions like: What features will the app have? What would be its purpose? How will it communicate your brand? Will it offer a solution to a problem? You will be discussing this with the potential app design agency so you need to outline the app’s goals, features, outcomes, and convey your desires. After all, the app will be an extension of your business and the platform created will be a visual representation of your brand.
Define Your Target Audience
Whether you like it or not, your target audience dictates the app design. So taking an in-depth exploration of rival apps will give you an idea of what users find trendy and enjoyable. Researching potential customers and even looking through reviews of competitor apps will help get to know your audience better. Of course, the web or mobile app design agency will also conduct UX research to find out your customers’ needs and preferences.
Jot Down Your Ideas
You probably already have some ideas of what a top app design should look like. Maybe you have a concept where the logo should be incorporated or some other visual preferences. Perhaps there are visual features or special functions such as buying, booking, or tracking working progress you would like to be integrated. Whatever it may be, jot them down so you can discuss them with the app design company. After all, designing begins from the moment the idea is born.
Consider What Additional Services You Need
While you might only be looking at app design, it might turn out to be a starting point of a multidimensional investment. And once you decide what services you need, it would be wise to opt for a company with a wide range of digital services and full-stack capabilities. Who knows, app marketing, AI or IoT development might be your next investment, and having a partner who is knowledgeable of your design means fewer technical problems. When it comes to web or mobile app design companies it is preferable for the app development to be executed by the same team that did the design.
Define a Budget
Having a clear picture of how much you are willing to spend and being open with the potential partner is probably the best way to begin a partnership. Also, defining your budget will help you eliminate candidates that are out of your price range. If you are a startup you’re most probably on a tight budget and maybe choosing a more affordable outfit would be wiser. Thing is, no matter how cool the idea is or how wonderful the opportunity might seem, resources will determine the quality of the design.
Questions to Ask App Designing Companies
We’ve also prepared a short list of essential questions to ask your potential partner before signing on the dotted line.
How much will it cost to design an app and how many revisions are included within the price?
This is the most important question. While the price will vary depending on the design, our research indicates that the hourly price is around $150. So depending on the complexity of the app a basic app would cost around $5,000, a bit more complex or medium design app could reach up to $20,000 while high-end apps would go beyond $20,000. Normally, the top app designers would have done the initial phase of the designing process right, so there would be no need for revisions. That said, the very nature of the process sometimes calls for changes so make sure you know how many of those are included in the quote.
How long will the app design process take?
This too depends on the complexity of the app. With the planning stage, analysis, and actual design process, it could take between 2 to 3 weeks for a simple app and up to 10 weeks for a high-end app with more features. In any case, ask the app design firm for some time frame.
How and how often will we communicate?
Good communication is the backbone of every outsourced job and app design is no exception. Ask the agency their policy and the communication channels they use (email, telephone, chat, etc.), and agree on a schedule of regular updates so that you are always in the loop.
Will I own the final design?
Before signing a contract, make sure you have discussed the app/design ownership with the agency since this will save you a lot of headaches later. In some cases, the app designing company might want to retain rights to a certain code used in your app. Either way, have it all in writing.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is mobile app design?
This is the act of designing mobile applications and includes user interface and user experience. The designers are in charge of selecting the style of the app (color, font selection, etc.) Mobile apps are characterized by optimized usability, accessibility, and engagement.
What are the latest app design trends going on right now?
Bigger screens, elements such as storytelling and branding with custom illustrations, buttonless UI, swiping and easier navigation options are just some of those. Experimental but fresh palettes and layouts, scalable typography and animations, and 3D graphics are also among the trends announced by top app design companies for 2020.
What is onboarding and why is it so important for mobile app design?
Onboarding is the process of familiarizing the user with the app and guiding them through the app’s interface. It’s like a first impression or better yet, a business card of the app. Onboarding is all about showing the app’s usefulness and functions, but also for getting login details which can later on be used by businesses to collect user’s profile information which would be useful for pitching personalized content and notifications. Many app design companies use onboarding as a way to facilitate direct communication between the client and their users.
What’s better, a mobile or web app?
The growing use of mobiles worldwide brings about a dilemma as to what type of app is a better investment. If the market you’re going for demands mobile presence and if you are aiming to deliver content that will be shared between users — a web app or mobile-friendly website is the way to go. Then, if you need to say, access your user’s phone storage as your partner in crime, most app design companies would advise you to offer users a seamless UI and UX that feels more like gaming. A mobile app, therefore, would be the most logical choice.