Have you wondered what’s behind the look and feel of the apps and websites you use daily? That’s user interface (UI) design, which is the process of creating visual elements for people (users) to interact with a product or service. The goal of UI design is to create an easy-to-use, highly functional and visually pleasing interface. But what is UI design? Lucky for you, we’ll go over UI design, why it’s important and include resources for learning and inspiration.
UI design focuses on the interactivity and aesthetics of a digital experience. This could be a mobile app, website, or even a video game. It covers functionality as well, affecting how a user experiences a product or service. Good UI design puts the user in control and makes it easy for them to navigate the experience.
Everywhere you look, UI design is deeply integrated into our daily lives. It’s how we interact with our favorite apps and digital devices, like social media platforms, websites, your phone’s camera gallery and your laptop’s operating system. Each graphical element, like the buttons you click on, text field boxes on a form, the color, layout, typography, illustration, are part of UI design. A UI designer needs to consider accessibility, efficiency and smoothness of interactions.
There are many types of UI design, such as graphical user interface (GUI), command line interface (CLI), touch user interface, game UI, and even voice user interface (VUI). Here is a bit more information about each type.
Graphic user interfaces (GUI) provide a visual way to interact with programs and operating systems without having to look at the code or skeleton underneath. Whereas command line interfaces (CLI) involve using text-only command prompts such as Windows Powershell or Linux terminal. Most computers in the 1980s and early 1990s ran CLI-based operating systems such as MS-DOS. Shortly later, Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows led the way for GUI-based operating systems, phasing out CLI operating systems for everyday users. If you wish to learn more about the computing GUI timeline, the GUI Gallery is an excellent resource.
Game UI is a huge nation in the world of game design. It includes the following:
The goal of game UI is to provide enough feedback and information to the player to know the current game status with as little mental load as possible. Have you ever played a game that felt intuitive? It probably had good UI design. For game UI, simple and obvious is key. Players shouldn’t be forced to navigate cluttered menus or look at busy interfaces to accomplish their gaming goals.
We converse with our family, friends and coworkers through voice, so why not use speech to interact with devices? With the advent of voice-activated devices and software, VUI is a growing field. It’s a great way to implement interactivity for those with limited mobility or vision impairments. Some common examples of VUI applications include Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa and voice-activated GPS navigation units.
The way we interact with touch-based devices, such as our smartphones and tablets, involves touch UI. These devices use hand gestures, long presses, swipes and taps for interaction. For example, on a beach day, you take a photo of a friend. Then using your phone’s photo editor, you use a finger to drag the corners and easily crop out an unwanted person on the left side of the image. This is what touch UI is all about! There are many examples of touch UI, such as fingerprint scanning for mobile payments, pinch scrolling to zoom in on a digital metro map and long pressing to confirm file deletion.
Now that you are more familiar with the types of UI design, let’s explore why it’s so important. Since 90% of the information we receive is visual information and UI covers all visual aspects of interactivity, it is imperative to ensure these interactive and visual experiences are highly effective. Our brains process visuals significantly faster than text, so you want to make a strong first impression through visual elements.
Without compelling visuals and an emphasis on good UI design, it could affect the effectiveness of your product, design and even your business might suffer from customers going to competitors because their products and sites offer better interactivity. If your UI game is good, it can make your designs and products alluring and expand your customer base.
Another large aspect of UI design is usability. The two goals of UI design are: how does the interface appear and how does it function? If the visuals are attractive but the functionality and usability are lacking, users will become frustrated or even leave. Here is where user experience (UX) design comes in. UX design is primarily focused on accomplishing the user’s tasks and solving their usability problems. UI is more concrete (like the buttons or a text field), UX tends to be conceptual (is the user happy or mad when making a purchase).
To get more specific: UI focuses on selecting colors and fonts, organizing page layouts, and designing interactive elements such as scrolling, toggles, and text fields. Whereas UX is primarily concerned about understanding consumer behavior and needs while adhering to business goals as well. A UX designer will develop personas and journey maps based on the target audience and research.
While there is plenty of overlap between UI design and UX design, the biggest difference is UX focuses primarily on the design process and experience while UI focuses on appearance and functionality.
There are numerous ways to develop and learn UI design. One way, for example, is to sign up for Daily UI emails that email you a different UI design prompt for 100 days. The challenges include design prompts for a landing page, music play, hotel booking and many more. It’s a great way to get suggestions and to try design new layouts you wouldn’t have thought about!
You can also create your own UI projects by redesigning an app or site with your favorite UI design tool. Take one of your favorite apps and think: how would you recreate it? Be sure to practice your skills every day, even if it is just for 10 minutes. Consistency will make you a better designer.
These days there are a lot of online tutorials and classes to improve your UI skills. And there are a lot of design communities you can join, such as Dribbble or Design Buddies. It’s delightful to be part of a community, making meaningful contributions and networking with design friends wherever you are.
If you are looking for more learning resources for learning UI design, take a look at these:
And if you are looking for inspiration, here are some great places to start your search:
Always remember UI design is about designing for your users. Next time you play your favorite video game or shop for clothes online, think about how the UI of the platform was designed. Is there a good balance between form and function? The best examples of UI design have a yin-yang relationship between aesthetics and function.



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By completing this form, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Google Terms of Service apply.
Our newsletter is for everyone who loves design! Let us know if you’re a freelance designer (or not) so we can share the most relevant content for you.
By completing this form, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Google Terms of Service apply.

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