User interface (UI) design is the visual crafting of a digital product, focusing on the user's interaction with an online product.
All raw data on the internet is housed in databases. Simply put, if your strip away all the visuals layers of the web, you're left with nothing but Excel sheets. Everything that Meta, Google, and Apple know about you is stored in rows and columns. It's not sexy, and actually — it's impossible to navigate. Imagina scrolling through Instagram, but it's all just a really long spreadsheet.
That's why all the services that we use have a user interface, and making these is called user interface (UI) design.
At large companies, UI design is done by entire teams comprising designers, online marketeers, and maybe even psychologists. Every pixel, icon, and color are meticulously debated to find the perfect one. Fortunately, UI design can also be done by smaller teams or even individually, which requires you to have broad knowledge across various fields.
To create a good interface, you need to understand how people use the internet, be aware of current design trends, and even grasp the psychological principles behind usability. The aim of UI design is to deliver a visually appealing and, more importantly, user-friendly product. That's why UI design is part of the broader user experience (UX) design, which revolves around the process of designing great products.
Here's a quote from my text on UX design to explain the difference:
"There's the famous example of the Heinz ketchup bottle, to make the difference clear. Heinz used to have a glass bottle with a narrow neck, making it hard to get the ketchup out. If we were to ask a UI designer for help, they might 'solve' the problem by adding an icon of a hand smacking the bottom of the bottle. Show them how it's done."
"A UX designer, however, would take it a step further. The user has a problem with the glass bottle, so how can we help them? Using the icon is an option, but it won't make using the bottle any easir. So, let's get rid of the icon idea and throw out the bottle while we're at it. What the user needs is a new, improved bottle — that's UX."
"UI design: show them how it's done. UX design: change how they're doing it."
To craft remarkable user interfaces, you'll use applications like Figma, Sketch, and Adobe XD. These programs provide the tools to continuously refine a user interface, always prioritizing the usability for your end-user — a crucial aspect of UI design.