What Is UI Design? Definition, Tips, Best Practices

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

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 bridge between humans and computers. Anything you interact with as a user is part of the user interface. For example, screens, sounds, overall style, and responsiveness are all elements that need to be considered in 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 organise 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

UI design and user experience (UX) design are often confused. Sometimes, people use the terms (mistakenly) interchangeably. Whilst UI design focuses on interaction design and the visual elements of an application, UX design exists to satisfy user intent. 

A UX designer’s primary goal is to get the user where they want to go. If the user wants to find a list of services that a company offers, the UX designer ensures a clear navigation path to access that information. The UI designer then ensures the navigation path is efficient, visually pleasing, and effortless to use. 

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, behaviour, 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 familiarise themselves with UI design best practices. 

3 types of user interface 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, these interactions require 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 the most 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 the settings menu on your cell phone. All the user can do is scroll through menus and tap the available items.

Additional types of UI design include touchscreen user interface and form-based user interface. Touchscreen user interfaces are GUIs tjat use touchscreen technology to let you swipe or click rather than needing to use 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 great UI design—great 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 background and page elements like text have adequate contrast to increase legibility. 

  • Alignment doesn’t just apply to text. Buttons and images must also be aligned 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, in portrait mode, or landscape mode, it should be easily readable and manoeuvrable. 

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 users are able to locate and use adaptability features 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. In the table below, we've outlined five UI design tools and listed the cost, features, and star rating on G2, a website where users review and discover new software programs.

UX design toolCostFeaturesG2 Score
FigmaStart for free, then US$12 (₹983) to $75 per month (₹6,146)Advanced drawing tools, auto layout, styles, plugins and widgets, Sketch import, interactive prototypes4.7/5
InDesign₹1,675.60 per monthAuto-styling, supports new graphics formats, task automation, duplicate pages and spreads4.6/5
SketchStart for free, then US$9 (₹737) per month per editorBuilt-in spell check, colour support, symbols, styles, colour variables, browser prototype testing, plugins, multi-scale exports4.5/5
BalsamiqStart for free, then USD$9 (₹737) to $199 (₹16,309) per month.UI components and icons, drag and drop, export files to .PNG or .PDF, keyboard shortcuts, reusable symbols4.2/5

Did you know?

Beginners can master Figma through online courses like Create High-Fidelity Designs and Prototypes in Figma, available on Coursera. Figma users working on a design team can also utilise FigJam, Figma's online collaboration tool.


Careers in UI design

If you want to begin a career in UI design, it's a good idea to research the professional landscape for this field. The UI industry continues to grow, and experts expect India’s digital economy to rise up to USD$800 billion by 2030 [1]. As a result, job opportunities for UI design professionals will likely increase as well.

Below, we've provided duties and responsibilities and salary averages for three UI design job titles you may come across in your research. Salary averages are based on Glassdoor's June 2023 estimates of base pay. 

UI designer

  • What they make: ₹5,00,000 per year [2]

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

Information architect

  • What they make: ₹29L [3]

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

Interaction designer

  • What they make: ₹9,86,116 per year  [4]

  • What they do: Optimise 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. You’ll learn best practices to design a user interface as well as the underlying theories and frameworks. Topics include foundations of UI design, how to build wireframes, concepts of UX research, and more. Upon completion, gain a shareable Professional Certificate to include in your CV, resume, or LinkedIn profile. 

Article sources


LinkedIn "India and the Growing importance of UI/UX Design in the Tech World, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/india-growing-importance-uiux-design-tech-world-parvinder-singh/." Accessed June 22, 2023.

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