How To Design An App: Everything You Need To Know

5min read

How To Design An App: Everything You Need To Know

Wondering how to design an app? In this article, we explain everything you need to know to create the best app design possible, from the application design process itself, through modern approaches and trends, to mobile app design tips. If you already know a thing or two about designing mobile apps, you can consider this article to be a refresher.

How to Design an App

There are many different ways to design an app, but they all follow a similar series of steps. Understanding these steps can help you transform your application from an idea into something tangible.

How to design an app from scratch in 2020

1. Goal Setting

Before you hire a mobile app design agency or create the first mockup, you should figure out what you wish to achieve. It helps to answer the following three questions:

  • What exactly should the application do?

Examples of possible answers: play local MP3 files, allow users to book an appointment, take selfies enhanced with free and premium filters, etc.

  • Who is the target audience for the application?

Examples of possible answers: young music listeners, existing customers, all smartphone users, etc.

  • What are the most crucial functions and features of the application?

Examples of possible answers: folder-based playback, appointment scheduling, live filter, etc.

set goals before the mobile app design process starts

Resist the temptation to create an application with a lot of features, especially if you have limited experience with mobile app design. You can always add more features later, so there’s no reason to take on more than you can chew.

2. User & Market Research

You can’t design an outstanding product if you don’t understand the people who will use it. What are they like? Are they using some other apps to solve the problem? These are just some of the questions that you should try to answer during the user research stage. It also helps to research your competitors and figure out what they’re doing right and wrong. Test their features and take notes whenever you stumble upon something interesting. This will give you better ideas for your own product, making it more likely that the first version will receive raving reviews.

3. Creating a Wireframe

An app wireframe is a schematic illustration of the user interface that focuses on the organization of individual components and intended behaviors. You can think of it as a bridge between your vision for the application and the finished product. You can easily create a wireframe using specialized tools like Balsamiq Mockups, Gliffy, and Mockflow.

How to design your own app

It shouldn’t take you more than a week or two to create a product mockup. Remember that the goal is to capture the flow and interactions of your application, not meticulously plan the exact placement of each element. In fact, you can create a wireframe of an app with nothing more than a piece of paper, but modern wireframing apps make the process simpler because they include UI templates and commonly used elements, such as buttons, sliders, and icons.

4. App Design

Now it’s the time to get your app designed. Because a lot depends on this step, make sure you choose the right approach and don’t just rush into it without carefully evaluating all available options. Essentially, you can either create the design yourself or let someone else do it for you. The first approach can be recommended to those who have plenty of experience with graphic design and enough free time to create a modern app design from scratch, while the second approach is what we would recommend to everyone else. We describe the most popular designing approaches in the next section of this article.

5. Collect Feedback

With your app designed, it’s time to collect feedback from real users. This step is very important because what follows the app design process is development. Don’t let your own opinion cloud your judgment and approach the feedback you receive as a scientist would approach data points. It doesn’t matter if you absolutely love the contact form you’ve designed yourself if 90 percent of your testers find it confusing and unintuitive.

Modern App Design Approaches: Contest vs. App Builder vs. Agency

Choosing the right approach isn’t easy because they all have their pros and cons. Let’s take a closer look at three popular approaches.

App Design Contest

Contests on sites like 99designs can be a cost-effective way to get a lot of different ideas from talented freelancers and sometimes even mobile app design companies. The cost of the contests can vary a lot, but you can expect to pay around $4,000 for a straightforward, simple app design. The biggest drawback of the contests is how time-consuming they can be. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that you’ll receive a submission that meets your expectations.

Recommended for: Those who want a lot of options and have time to spare.

App Builder

App builders are software applications or online services that allow people with little to no experience with design to create functioning mobile apps without writing a single line of code. Typically, they feature a range of templates that can be easily customized to fit any business and application. Most services offer multiple monthly or annual subscription plans, with $100 being the average monthly price. Of course, even the best app design software has its limitations, such as lack of optimization and originality.

Recommended for: Those who want to create a simple mobile application on a budget.


Agencies are professional mobile app design companies that employ experienced designers, developers, and managers. When you choose a reputable agency, you can rest assured knowing that you’ll end up with quality work, but it may cost you more than other options. ComboApp, for instance, is an excellent example of a mobile app design company that delivers quality work at a reasonable price.

Recommend for: Those who want the best app design possible and are willing to pay extra for it.

choose a mobile app design company for your app

5 Tips to Design Awesome Apps

Rules are meant to be broken, but not all the rules. By following the tips below, you’ll be able to create an app that users actually want to use and feel connected to.

1. Keep It Simple

When designing an application, it’s easy to attempt too much and achieve too little. Usually, it’s better to keep things simple to avoid the numerous problems that go hand in hand with unnecessary complexity. That doesn’t mean that your design needs to be basic and boring.

Even a simple design can be eye-catching, but it should always keep users focused instead of distracting them with bells and whistles that serve no purpose other than to provide some eye-candy. By keeping the style of your application simple, you will also find it much easier to meet your budget goals.

2. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

There’s a good reason why so many of the most downloaded apps in the world look and feel similar: users don’t like it when mobile app designers reinvent the wheel just for the sake of reinventing the wheel. If they tap a familiar button or perform a common gesture, they expect a certain thing to happen, and it’s your job to meet this expectation—not subvert it.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Indeed, imitation is one of the best ways of how to design your own app without any experience. We’re not suggesting that you copy popular apps element by element. That would be illegal and morally wrong. We’re suggesting that you use them as a reference and reuse the same common design elements.

3. Embrace Iterative Design

App designers can choose from a number of different approaches, but there are many reasons why iterative design is the right way to go. With iterative design, there’s no room for blindly replacing various user interface elements in the hope of somehow improving the overall experience. Instead, all decisions are based on a cyclic process of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining.

It also encourages early user feedback, making it easier to spot serious issues early in the design cycle, when it’s easy to fix them. In-app user behavior analytics play an important role in the interactive design process, and they’re well worth implementing.

4. Design for the Thumb

In the smartphone era, the pen may still be mightier than the sword, but the thumb is definitely the mightiest of them all. It’s so mighty that 49 percent of smartphone users rely on only one thumb to get things done when interacting with their phones, according to research on mobile device usage by Steven Hoober.

When designing a mobile app, you should always keep this statistic in mind and make it possible for users to control your application with just one thumb. To accomplish this, place all important elements users are expected to interact with within reach of the thumb.

5. Choose the Right Color Pallet

Colors are of great importance when designing an app. By choosing the right color pallet, you can complement your brand, invoke positive emotions, and make the application easier to navigate. Because different colors can affect emotions in different ways, you should always evaluate whether the colors you’re using are a good match for your product.

best app design colors

For example, the color red is potentially a great choice for a fitness application because of its association with fire and aggression. The color green, on the other hand, sparks the feeling of calmness, making it suitable for meditation and financial apps.


Now that you understand what goes into designing a mobile app, it’s time to select the right approach based on your unique needs and priorities. Regardless of which route you decide to go, always keep in mind the tips mentioned above to end up with the best app design possible.

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How much does it cost to design an app?

The cost of designing an application depends largely on the mobile app design approach you choose. It also depends on the complexity of your product. As such, it can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands.

How to design an app on a budget?

Choosing the right app development team is essential for designing an app on a budget. An experienced mobile app design company can expertly guide you through the process and help you avoid the numerous potentially costly pitfalls.

Is it okay to use a mobile app design template?

That depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you want to create an application while spending as little money as possible, an app design template might be a right choice. However, if you want your application to stand out and be original, we highly recommend you avoid cookie-cutter solutions.

How difficult is it to design an app from scratch?

The designing process has several stages, each of which must be completed successfully for the end result to meet the original goal. For mobile app design companies with a lot of experience, that’s not a problem, but it can be a real challenge for someone new to this field.

Why is it important to conduct market research before the app designing?

Proper market research will give you a better understanding of your intended target audience, what features they would like to see and are willing to pay for in the application, and how to make your product stand apart from competition.

Why is user feedback crucial for designing an app?

Collecting feedback and listening to your users is the best way to perfect your application and avoid costly design flaws. Involving potential or existing app users with an app’s design process is also a great way to fire up the community about the product and give it some viral uplift.