What Is UI Design? Definition, Tips, Best Practices

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Explore UI design principles and tips to create great UI with the following article.

[Featured image] Developers share UI design notes on a whiteboard.

What is UI?

UI stands for user interface. It is the point of contact between humans and computers. Any technology you interact with as a user is part of the user interface. For example, screens, sounds, overall style, and responsiveness are all elements of UI. A user interface involves the following four components:

  1. Navigational elements. Navigational elements help users navigate an interface. Examples of navigational elements in UI include slide bars, search fields, and back arrows. 

  2. Input controls. On-page elements that enable users to input information are input controls. Buttons, checkboxes, and text fields are all examples of input controls. 

  3. Informational components. Informational components are used to communicate information to the user. A progress bar beneath a video or tutorial is an example of an informational component. 

  4. Containers. Containers organize content into easily digestible sections. Rather than listing every subheading underneath a tab, a container element like an accordion menu may be used to hide or show content. 

UI vs. UX

In your research into UI design, you may come across the related term user experience (UX) design. While UI and UX share some similarities, there are some important distinctions, as we've outlined below:

UI designUX design
Focuses on interaction design, the visual elements of a website or application, and ensuring a navigation path is visually attractive and effortless to use.Focuses on satisfying user intent and providing a clear navigation path to access information on a site or app.

What is UI design?

User interface (UI) design is likely the first thing you encounter when you use an application or visit a website. User interface design is responsible for a product's appearance, interactivity, usability, behavior, and overall feel. UI design can determine whether a user has a positive experience with a product, so it’s essential for companies and creators to familiarize themselves with UI design best practices.  

3 types of UI design

Many different types of UI design exist. The chart below compiles a few of the most popular and well-known. 

3 Main types of UI designDefinition
Graphical user interface (GUI)A graphical user interface allows users to interact with a device through graphical icons. Typically, users facilitate interactions through a mouse, trackpad, or some other point-and-click tool. Your laptop’s desktop or home screen is an example of a GUI.
Voice user interface (VUI)Words and syntax play a crucial role in voice user interfaces. VUI uses speech recognition to understand voice commands. Notable examples of VUI include iPhone’s Siri, Google Home’s “Hey Google” feature, and Amazon’s Alexa.
Menu-driven interfaceMenu-driven interfaces provide users with command options via a list or a menu. These commands can present themselves in full-screen or as a pop-up or drop-down. Common examples of menu-driven interfaces include ATMs and digital parking meters.

Additional types of UI design include touchscreen user interface and form-based user interface. Touchscreen user interfaces are GUIs that use touchscreen technology rather than a mouse or stylus. Form-based user interfaces use text boxes, checkboxes, and other informational components. They enable users to fill out electronic forms. 

Tips for excellent UI design

Invisibility is a staple of excellent UI design— excellent UI goes unnoticed. Simplicity, familiarity, and consistency are a few of the most important principles for a UI designer to keep in mind. Consider the following UI design tips from industry experts like Apple and Google.

  • Format content to fit the screen of the intended device. Users should not need to zoom or scroll horizontally to view the entirety of a page’s content. 

  • Ensure the background has adequate contrast with page elements like text to increase legibility. 

  • Alignment doesn’t just apply to text. Designers must also align buttons and images to demonstrate relevance and relativity to users. 

  • High image resolution is essential for all image assets. 

  • Make sure your UI design is responsive. Whether your user is viewing the UI on a large screen, small screen, portrait mode, or landscape mode, it should be easily readable and maneuverable. 

Check out Apple’s Dos and Don’ts of UI Design for more tips. You can also learn more about UI design and development through Meta’s Front-End Developer Professional Certificate.

Key principles of UI design

An easy way to recall the fundamental principles of UI design is to learn the four c’s:

  • Control. The users should be in control of the interface. 

  • Consistency. Use common elements to make your UI predictable and easy to navigate, even for novice users.

  • Comfortability. Interacting with a product should be an effortless, comfortable experience. 

  • Cognitive load. It’s critical to be mindful of bombarding users with content. Be as clear and concise as possible.

UI accessibility

Accessibility is another crucial aspect of UI design. To accomplish the four c’s, each must be true for every user. Those with low vision or other disabilities should be able to navigate a UI without difficulty. For example, many people use screen readers and other accessibility tools to browse the web or use applications. Make sure adaptability features are presented to the user right away. Settings corresponding to these features should also be easy to find. For a comprehensive approach, consider collecting feedback from a wide range of users regarding your UI. This practice can help you examine a UI’s accessibility from several perspectives. 

UI design tools

It is essential to have the right tools and technology to support your UI design efforts. Figma and Adobe XD are among the best UI design tools. Figma is a browser-based interface design tool that connects the entire team to speed up design and enhance prototyping. Users working on a design team can also utilize FigJam, Figma’s online collaboration tool. 

Another popular option for UI designers is Adobe XD. Adobe is a versatile, all-encompassing design tool compatible with both Windows and Mac. Beginners can master Figma and Adobe XD through online Courses like Create High-Fidelity Designs and Prototypes in Figma and Responsive Web Design in Adobe XD, available on Coursera.

Careers in UI design

If you want to begin a career in UI design, it's important to research the professional landscape for this field. According to the Government of Canada's Job Bank, the field of computer and information technology is anticipated to grow by as much as 34 percent between 2019 and 2028 [1]. 

Below, we've provided duties, responsibilities, and salary averages for three UI design job titles you may come across in your research.

*All average salary data is sourced from Glassdoor as of May 2024

UI designer

  • What they make: $67,465 [2]

  • What they do: Enhance users' satisfaction by optimizing the usability, accessibility, and functionality of websites and applications.

Information architect

  • What they make: $114,789 [3]

  • What they do: Optimize the structure of a site's content by creating site maps, user flows, wireframes, and navigation schemes.

Interaction designer

  • What they make: $77,356 [4]

  • What they do: Optimize interaction elements such as menus, quizzes, or calculators; typically work in larger UI/UX teams.

Build your UI design skills with Coursera

Expand your digital design knowledge with the Google UX Design Professional Certificate and continue learning about UI design with the University of Minnesota’s Introduction to UI Design course. 

Article sources


Job Bank Canada. “Job Bank Canada, https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/outlook-occupation/26533/ca.” Accessed May 6, 2024.

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