Imagine the ease of waking up to an alarm tailored to rouse you softly, your coffee machine preparing your ideal brew as you rise, and your news app curating content you’re eager to read over breakfast. Such mornings have become the norm, thanks in large part to the evolution of user experience (UX) design. Businesses now recognize the substantial benefits and profits that come from investing in UX. According to a study by Forrester (paid report), for every dollar spent on UX, the return can be as much as $100. This represents a staggering return on investment (ROI) of 9,900%.

Since there are so many apps out there, the ones that really think about what users need and want are the ones that stand out. The key is creating apps that connect with users on a deeper level, solving their problems and making their lives better, not just through what the app does but how it feels to use it.

In this blog post, we're going to talk about how UX design makes apps more successful. We'll also dive into the latest design trends and talk about the software development costs needed to create amazing user experiences that surprise and delight users.

The True Impact of UX Design

an example of interactive prototypes of a mobile app

Today, people want more than just apps that work. They're looking for apps that are tailored for them - their likes, needs, and situations - making the experience feel like it's specially made for them. Because of this, creating a great user experience (UX) isn't just a nice-to-have; it's absolutely critical for an app to succeed.

In this light, UX design goes beyond just making things look good. It blends psychology, design rules, and technology to create experiences that are not only useful but also really captivating and meaningful.

Learn about the mental shortcuts that affect how people make decisions by checking out the lesson on 10 Psychological Heuristics by Susan Weinschenk.

Engaging Users: The Key to Application Success

UX designers today face a significant challenge. They need to deeply understand users' thoughts and preferences, predict their needs, and continuously refine their designs to craft the ideal user experience. This involves more than just visual appeal or functional usability; it's about creating a comprehensive experience that users will not only appreciate but also cherish and recommend. 

The ultimate aim is crystal clear — to captivate users in such a way that it fulfills their immediate requirements while also fostering their long-term engagement and satisfaction. Naturally, when users feel a deep connection with an application, they're more inclined to explore its capabilities and become dedicated supporters.

Walking the thin line between great and annoying UX design

Imagine a map app that does more than just show you the quickest way to go. It also figures out if you like taking the scenic route and makes your trip more fun. That's what amazing UX design does - it turns technology into something like a friend who knows what you like.

On the other hand, a map app that doesn't get you or what you want can be really frustrating. If it just takes you from point A to point B, without considering if there's a faster or nicer way, it can make your trip boring or even longer than it needs to be. This shows what happens when designers don't focus on what users really need - people get annoyed, they might stop using the app, and the app's reputation could take a hit.

The difference between good and not-so-good UX design is all about decisions - like how well to listen to what users want, how smartly to fix their issues, and how creatively to bring new ideas while making sure users still feel at home. Designers who think carefully and understand what users are looking for can make apps that people don't just use, but get attached to with fondness.

Learn what it takes to build products that leave a lasting impression on users in our UX Design Foundations Course.

Examples of Sites with Exceptional UX 

Here are a few of our top picks for apps that really shine in UX design:

  • Airbnb: This app changed how we think about accommodation during our travel. Its design is easy on the eyes and makes finding and booking a place to stay super simple. Airbnb is great at suggesting places you might like, making your travel planning feel more personalized and fun.
  • Spotify: When it comes to music, Spotify knows how to keep things personal. It suggests playlists you'll love and makes finding your next favorite song a breeze. Its design is clear, making it easy for you to jump right into listening to music without any hassle.
  • Slack: For work communication, Slack is at the top of its game. It's designed to make chatting with your team easy and fun, with a clean layout and the ability to tailor it to your needs. Slack has changed the way we work together, making teamwork smoother and more enjoyable.UX Trends: From the Past to the Present

Explore more examples of great UX design in our compilation of 11 Inspiring UX Case Studies That Every Designer Should Study.

UX Trends: From the Past to the Present

an example of interactive wireframes for desktop

While it's often said that the essence of a product's UX lies in its usability and its effectiveness in helping users accomplish their tasks, it's important to remember that UI (user interface) plays a crucial role in UX as well. UI is the bridge between the user and the product’s functionality, shaping the user’s perception and interactions through its design elements and visual cues.

Let's take a look at how design trends have evolved over the years:

  • Skeuomorphism: In the early days of UX design, the approach was heavily influenced by skeuomorphic principles, aiming to replicate real-world textures, shadows, and 3D elements within digital interfaces. This approach helped ease users into the digital world by creating a sense of familiarity and comfort with apps and websites designed to resemble tangible objects.
  • Flat design: This minimalist approach emphasized clean lines, uncluttered spaces, and a focus on usability and clarity, moving away from decorative design elements to highlight functionality and ease of navigation. It was a significant move towards simplifying interfaces, aimed at enhancing user experience by prioritizing content readability and intuitive navigation.
  • Responsiveness and mobile-first philosophy: Today, the UX design landscape reflects the widespread use of smartphones and tablets. Designers are challenged to create interfaces that adapt seamlessly across various devices and screen sizes, ensuring a consistent and functional user experience no matter the device.

In addition to these core trends, the field is evolving with the integration of microinteractions, voice user interfaces (VUIs), and augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. Microinteractions enrich the digital experience by providing subtle feedback for user actions, adding a layer of engagement and interactivity. Voice interfaces and AI-enhanced interactions meet the growing demand for hands-free and intuitive communication with technology, making digital environments more accessible. Meanwhile, AR and VR are expanding the horizons of immersive user experiences, offering novel ways for users to engage with digital content.

Our latest course on AI in UX/UI Design offers you an advantage in leveraging this emerging technology to create outstanding user experiences.

Counting the Cost: How Much for UX Design?

When evaluating the financial commitment required for UX design, you’ll need to consider the varying factors that influence overall costs. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the approximate costs you may incur:

Project Complexity and Scope

  • Simple Applications: For small-scale projects with straightforward user interfaces and limited functionality, UX design costs can range from $5,000 to $15,000.
  • Moderate Complexity: Projects with a moderate level of complexity, requiring more detailed research, user testing, and design iterations, can expect costs between $15,000 and $50,000.
  • Highly complex applications: For large-scale or enterprise applications with extensive functionalities, multiple user personas, and the need for in-depth user research and testing, costs can range from $50,000 to $150,000 or more.

Key UX Design Activities and Their Impact on Cost

  • User Research: Essential for all projects, it can range from $1,000 to $15,000 or more depending on depth and methods.
  • Wireframing and Prototyping: Costs vary by fidelity, from low-fi sketches to high-fi prototypes; ranging from $2,000 to $20,000 and above.
  • Visual Design: Depending on complexity, from $2,500 to $30,000 and above.
  • User Testing: Iterative testing phases can cost between $5,000 to $25,000 or more, influenced by the number of rounds and participants.
  • Information Architecture: For organizing and structuring information, costs can be $3,000 to $20,000 or more.
  • Interaction Design: Designing detailed interactions and animations, $2,000 to $25,000 and above.

Team Expertise and Location

  • In-House Team: Costs can be higher due to salaries and overhead but offer long-term benefits. Total costs depend on team size and project duration.
  • Freelance or Agency: Rates vary widely. In the US, agencies might charge a higher fee per hour, while in other regions, rates can be significantly lower.

Additional Considerations

  • Maintenance and Updates: Ongoing UX updates and optimizations post-launch can require an additional 10-20% of the initial UX design budget annually.
  • Tools and Software: Subscription costs for design and prototyping tools can range from $20 to $100 per month per user.

Keep in mind that these numbers are just rough estimates. They can change depending on what your project needs, how experienced your designers are, and where your team or the people you hire are located.

The key thing to remember is by putting effort and resources into making a really good user experience, you can get users more involved, make them loyal, and really boost your business. In the world of digital products, how users feel about using your product is the whole product itself. So, making UX design a top priority is not just a nice thing to do; it's essential for any app that wants to really connect with its users and stick around for a long time.