7 Free UI Design Courses To Get You Started Online

Marissa Sapega, contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

Are you looking for a free UI design course to give you an introduction to the field? Look no further. We’ve rounded up seven of the best free UI courses available on the web right now.

Whether you’re an aspiring designer or simply curious about UI, you’ll want to get a taste of the basics before diving into a full-scale paid course, and free tutorials are your best friend! You’ll be able to dip your toe in without spending a dime, and hopefully come away with some useful new skills. Then, of course, you can decide if you’d like to take your learning a bit further with a more in-depth program or bootcamp.

If you want to skip straight to the best free UI design courses, just use the clickable menu to jump to section four. 

  1. Brief recap: What is user interface (UI) design?
  2. What’s the difference between a free UI design course and a paid program?
  3. What should you look for in a free UI design course?
  4. What are the best free UI design courses that you can take right now?
  5. Key takeaways and further reading

So first things first: What is UI design?

1. What is user interface design?

Many people confuse user interface with user experience (UX). To be fair, both UI and UX professionals leverage user-focused design to create an optimal experience for individuals engaging with the end product. 

However, a user interface design is limited to the elements in a product that enable a user to interact with it. With websites and apps, for example, this includes things like navigation, input controls (forms), buttons, informational components like notifications or progress bars, and content containers. 

User experience design, on the other hand, is more expansive. UX design encompasses the UI because it is about creating the entire experience someone will have with a product, including accessibility and usability. 

Think of it like this: UI designers create the interaction aesthetics; UX designers build out the entire user journey. You can learn all about the difference between UX and UI (and how they work together) here. And check out these amazing examples of UI design.

2. What’s the difference between a free UI design course and a paid program?

As to be expected, there are several differences between free UI design courses and full bootcamps or paid programs. These include:

Depth of education

For starters, a free course is unlikely to provide a comprehensive education on the subject. They are usually intended to give users an introduction to the field, whereas a full UI design bootcamp or certification program will focus on getting you ready for a career as a UI designer.

Course length

As they intend to give attendees a taste of what to expect during an entire course, free UI design courses tend to be much shorter. You can complete some intro UI design tutorials in under an hour, while a comprehensive program may span months (by necessity!).

Level of support

A full program or bootcamp should come with additional support. Many comprehensive UI design courses offer a mentor and a tutor, career services, and of course, a much more extensive curriculum

Knowledge level

Most free UI design courses cater to complete beginners, rather than those with experience in the field who are looking to upskill. A high-quality complete program, however, can take you from clueless to competent! Even if you start a comprehensive bootcamp with just some fundamental knowledge, by the end, you’ll be ready for a career in UI design. 

3. What should you look for in a free UI design course?

What you look for in a free UI design course depends on your end goal and the specifics of what you hope to learn, but look for a course that ticks the following boxes:

  • It mixes theory and practical exercises—the best way to learn is to get hands-on. Ideally, you’ll work towards some kind of final outcome! The content should be engaging, and utilize mixed media if possible
  • Easy to access—though sometimes you may need to jump through a few hoops to access it, it is free after all!
  • Fundamental enough so users of all levels can learn from it, but not generic
  • Focuses on UI and not UX (you’d be surprised how many people mix them up)

A free UI design short course should:

  • Give you a taste of what UI design is
  • Set you up with a solid foundation if you want to continue learning about UI design in more detail
  • Help you decide if UI is the right path for you (if you’re considering a comprehensive program)

In short, a free UI design course should allow you to easily dip into the topic and get a good idea of what UI designers do in their day-to-day work. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best free courses online right now.

4. What are the best free UI design courses available right now?

Now that you know what to expect with a free UI design course, it’s time for the fun part: choosing one (or more) that is right for you! Check out our top recommendations.

1. UI Design 101 with Anthony Conboy

In his easy-to-follow YouTube tutorial, award-winning UX designer Anthony Conboy reveals the main principles of UI design. He touches on fundamentals like:

  • “UI language”—A consistent set of elements (like buttons and forms) you can reuse for templates to support consistency  
  • Design hierarchy (which combines a bit of UX thinking)—Thinking about what you want people to do and adding an obvious call to action (CTA)
  • Responsiveness—Considerations for different screens
  • Users with disabilities—Planning for different ways users will engage with the content
  • Sentiment—The emotion you’re trying to elicit from users

While it’s a short video, Anthony manages to share significant, relevant knowledge about UI design without cutting corners. It’s perfect for a lunch (or afternoon) break and will set you up with some great nuggets for a future more in-depth UI tutorial. 

2. The CareerFoundry UI Design Short Course

What better way to learn about UI design than with practical, hands-on tutorials? If you’re keen to not only read about UI but actually try it out, then the CareerFoundry free short course has got you covered. This recently updated course consists of five in-depth tutorials (delivered daily via email, and also accessible via a user-friendly dashboard) that cover everything an aspiring UI designer needs to know about getting into the field.

It kicks off with an introduction to UI design, then builds up your skills through successive tutorials on wireframing, UI elements, color theory, typography, and even how to use Boolean operations to create shapes. The best thing about this course is its focus on hands-on experience; as part of the lessons, users will actually learn how to design an app screen! Each tutorial includes a quick quiz you can take to test how well you’ve absorbed the information, and users who score a 70% or higher on all tests are eligible for a 5% discount on the full UI Design Program.

For a sneak peek at the kind of content you’ll get with the CareerFoundry short course, check out this tutorial on how to create your first wireframe:

 

3. Introduction to UI Design with Coursera

Coursera is known for a wealth of high-quality online classes in multiple subjects, and its Introduction to UI Design doesn’t disappoint! Offered by the University of Minnesota, this course reviews the UI design process and principle theories, psychological factors related to UI design, common design scenarios, and more. The curriculum is case-study-based, so students will be able to learn from commercial systems they may already use. 

Coursera estimates that the entire course (33 videos in all, as well as readings) will take around 14 hours to complete. Note that you can only get this course for free by auditing it. You’ll be able to see most of the course materials for free, but you won’t be able to submit certain assignments or get grades for your work.

4. Fundamental UI Design with InVision

InVision is a digital product design platform used by some of the top brands in the world. However, its free email-based course, Fundamental UI Design, does not require an InVision account. Just sign up with your email address, and you’ll receive one comprehensive tutorial via email per week (for a total of five) on fundamental UI design topics like:

  • Design process 
  • Hierarchy
  • Information architecture
  • Visual style
  • Responsive design
  • Designing user behaviors
  • Navigation/control design

Authored by notable UI author and consultant Jane Portman, this course is ideal for users who prefer to learn by reading instead of watching videos. Though compact, it packs a lot of knowledge into each chapter!

5. Fundamentals of User Interface Design with Udemy

With 150,000 free and paid courses to choose from, Udemy boasts the world’s largest online course catalog. Its Fundamentals of UI Design Interface is highly-rated (4.2 out of 5 stars), and 13,000 students have enrolled in it to date. The three-and-a-half hour video-based course delivers a practical introduction to basic user interface skills, such as design principles, color theory, and typography. It’s ideal for individuals with no prior design experience (others with more experience may benefit from slightly more advanced courses), and students will also get a taste of how to use Adobe XD, a user experience design tool. While you can take the course for free, if you are looking for a certificate or the ability to message instructors, you’ll have to pony up for the full paid version. 

6. The Psychology of UI Design by the Balsamiq Wireframing Academy

If you’re curious about the psychology behind the best-designed user interfaces, Paul Boag’s Psychology of UI Design, hosted by the Balsamiq Wireframing Academy, is perfect for you! This 22-video series digs into the “why” behind foundational UI design principles. Paul elaborates on subjects like “How to make things feel easier,” “How users make decisions,” and “Picking a moment to ask your users to act.” By understanding how the brain processes information and makes decisions, aspiring UI designers will be better equipped to create frictionless design interfaces that result in a user accomplishing the task they set out to do. You can skip to the parts that interest you the most or go through the entire three-hour series at your own pace. 

7. Learn the Essentials of Interface Design in Just 7 Days with Denislav Jeliazkov

Here is another course ideal for individuals looking to get a quick (but thorough) overview of UI fundamentals. Bulgarian product designer Denislav “Denis” Jeliazkov put together his seven-day email-based course based on what he learned over eight years of designing for top brands like BMW and Samsung. His free UI design course begins with fundamentals like mastering negative space and color selection, combining text with images, and designing for a mobile experience. Denis genuinely wants his students to learn from his course and offers to answer questions via email about the material. Low-frills, yes, but low quality? Not by a long shot. 

5. Key takeaways and further reading

So there you have it! Seven great free UI design tutorials, none of which will take you longer than a few days to complete. If you’re keen to learn more about UI design (or even design principles in general), why not try a few of them out? You might just find that UI design could be a new career path for you after all. And, if you’d like to learn more about forging a career as a UI designer, check out the following:

And if you find yourself curious about the intersection of UX and UI design, here are some UX design resources for beginners.

What You Should Do Now

  1. Get a hands-on introduction to UI with a free, 5-day short course.

  2. Take part in one of our live online UI design events with industry experts.

  3. Talk to a program advisor to discuss career change and find out if UI is right for you.

  4. Become a qualified UI designer in 5-9 months—complete with a job guarantee.