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By Carl Neumann

How to Hire an App Designer

Finding an app developer for your project can be an overwhelming task. Sifting through the endless Google ads offering ‘the best’ service money can buy becomes a tedious task fast. Knowing which distant relative’s friend who is ‘the best’ app designer often leads down a rocky road.

So how do you find THE BEST APP DESIGNER for your product? There are thousands of designers and developers around the world. How many have the experience and knowledge to do it correctly?

That's the first thing you need to discover — who has successfully created applications on a similar scale to what you need?

In this blog, we will help you understand the process of designing and building an application and how to go about choosing the right people to code it.

First, let's look at what app designers do to create well-working and great looking applications.

What Does an App Designer Do?

Before the design of an app begins, there's a number of steps that need to be completed first. They are:

  • Consultation: learning what functions the application needs to do. What problems will it solve?
  • User Discovery (UX): understanding the different types of people who will use the application.
  • Flow and Site Map Creation: Create a comprehensive list of the application's pages and sections, including the flow users take through these pages. Learn more about Site Maps and Flows here
  • Wireframes (UX Design): each page of the application is roughly visualised using greyscale blocks, placeholders and dummy text based on the site map and user flows.
  • Prototype: the wireframes are linked together in a clickable prototype and tested by potential users.
  • User Interface (UI) Design: once the prototype has been tested and proven to be of excellent value to the users, the application's visual design is created.
  • Development: once the design has been created and approved, the application turned over for development scoping and coding.

These are the fundamental steps an app designer takes to get an application created.

Is it hard to design an app?

Short answer, YES.

It takes a team of experts to build an application. There are technical skills involved in each step listed above, from the questions the designer and yourself ask, the flow and site map architecture to creating a usable prototype, high-quality interface design, and of course, the final software development.

Building an app is not a one-person job. It takes a team of highly trained, experienced and intelligent people who work together to create the product.

What makes a good app design?

• Industry & Competitor Research

It's essential for you to not only understand your industry and competitors; it's vital that the app designers and developers understand them. They need to discover and study your competitor's websites and applications to see how they are solving similar problems, and if they are doing a good job of it.

Brilliant designers learn from the mistakes competitors make and improve on them. They also use the opportunity to discover ideas to build from, which may be implemented in your application.

• User Discovery

Just as vital as understanding your industry and competitors is getting a complete understanding of your current and prospective customers.

During the User Discovery phase, the app designer should ask lots of "who", "where", "how", "what" and "why" questions. Who are your customers? Where do they work/live? How old are they? What technical skills do they have? Are they mostly women or men?.

If you have existing analytics tracking software on your website or application, this should be studied during the User Discover process. It gives good insight into who your users are and what they are looking for.

An intelligent designer gets to know the users thoroughly. Failing to do so leaves the door open to guessing and assuming which can lead to failures.

• User Flows & Site Mapping

Once your industry, competitors, and users are understood, it’s time to categorise the user personas — user profiles based on either real users after interviewing them or fictional/potential users.

Each persona includes factors such as: persona type, age, sex, location, technical skill, devices they will use to access the application, (phone, tablet or desktop devices), the problem they have faced using similar apps, the problem they want to solve by using the app and other factors.

This gives the app designer greater insight into why the person needs to use the application. They start to see the potential steps each user type needs to take to complete the primary tasks successfully.

Once the user personas and their requirements are charted out, the designer creates a site map of the application. The site map lists out each of the pages and sections needed while ensuring the flows are intuitive and easy to follow.

• Prototype & User Experience (UX) Testing

Testing is important. Software development is the most expensive part of the build process. To prevent wasted time and expense, the designer creates a clickable prototype to be tested by the intended users. This is usually a low fidelity, black and white format.

Each of the pages is created and linked in the flow intended and, the prototype is taken to users who are asked to perform set actions. The designers watch the users perform these tasks and note any difficulties, from which adjustments are made.

This ensures that the flow works and brings certainty that the users can easily fulfil their needs.

• Font & Colour Selections

If you have a brand already, the designer uses your brand guide as a starting point for the design. If you don't have a brand guide, they will work out a suitable colour scheme for your design. These colours will be used for the background, buttons, borders and other facets of the products interface design.

Colours are used to help users discover a call to action or the primary buttons fast. There's a science behind using colours and lines to guide the user's eye to the next action they need to take.

Similarly, there is method behind the use of fonts. If you have set brand fonts, the designer will ensure they are suitable for the usage or substitute as needed.

Some designers prefer to use only universal web fonts (fonts that are the majority of computers have installed by default) and therefore they can better predict how pages will look every time.

Base web fonts are:

  • Arial (sans-serif)
  • Verdana (sans-serif)
  • Helvetica (sans-serif)
  • Tahoma (sans-serif)
  • Trebuchet MS (sans-serif)
  • Times New Roman (serif)
  • Georgia (serif)
  • Garamond (serif)
  • Courier New (monospace)
  • Brush Script MT (cursive)

Good designers will know how to choose Google fonts that match your brand and factor in which ones load fast -- font types can affect your page load time, so they need to be chosen carefully. You can see the complete list of Google web fonts available here

• User Interface (UI) Design

The design process comes together during the visual creation of the application design. Also known as the User Interface (UI) design. The designer uses all of the knowledge they have gained from the previous exercises and creates visual designs for each section and page of the app in high fidelity. The end product is a fully visualised application that looks great and appeals to users. It is easy to use and matches your brand.

How to get an app designed

Now on to the main topic of this blog: How to Hire an App Designer.

Web designers are a bit like car mechanics. Everyone knows a good one, but not all are reliable, and some are total rip-offs.

So how do you know when you're talking with someone who you can trust with your application?

First, find out who they have worked with and ask for examples of their work. Asking for references is really important too -- if a designer has truly happy clients, they should be willing to share their case studies and even their contact details so you can verify their work.

The main things you need to know about designers work history are:

  • Do they have happy clients?
  • Can you view their completed work?
  • Did they complete the work on budget and on time?
  • What areas or industries do they have expertise in? Do they have a team that can fulfil each task of the application creation, such as User Research, User Experience Design, Product Design and Development?
  • What are their costs?
  • What are their deliverables?
  • When completed, do you own the designs, codes and copyrights for the work they create for you?

Like purchasing anything, it's best to shop around, get quotes, and most importantly, ask many questions. Find out who they are and determine if they can deliver your product on budget and on time.

It’s also important to understand your software developer is more closely associated with an architect than just a labourer or builder. The software developer has to take all of the moving parts envisioned and put them together in a manner that each part works and doesn’t interfere with the other moving parts. A good architect will make sure doors don’t hit each other when they open. A poor architect might not think these things through.

How much does it cost to design an app?

The cost of your application from start to completion will depend on a few things:

The type of app - web responsive or native iOS and Android-based The complexity of the features The amount of features The skill of the team creating the application (senior developers are more costly because the quality of the product is much higher) The number of designers and developers needed to fulfil the project

A research paper from GoodFirms reveals the average price of a simple app is between $38,000 and $91,000. A medium complex app costs between $55,550 and $131,000. A complex app may cost from $91,550 to $211,000+.

We recommend releasing your application in stages. First, start with the minimal viable product (MVP). Once your users are familiar with that and you are confident that it's of benefit to them and yourself, then develop further, releasing bite-sized bits as you go.

Sometimes we perform all of the UX discoveries and visual (UX & UI) designs of an application, then develop in stages, releasing the MVP first.

Key Takeaways

There are many things to consider when hiring an app designer. I hope this article will help you choose a team that creates an excellent product that is easy to use and that users enjoy using.

Remember to ask for examples of their work, ask many questions to discover their true abilities and make sure they are willing to work with you in stages rather than building everything at once while hoping for the best.

Having the fundamentals in place before moving into development will potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars on development.

For $9.950 AUD, I recommend utilising reinteractive's App Design Workshop to get you safely through the UX, UI discovery and design stages before considering employing developers to work on anything.

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