1. 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.
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
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.
4. 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.
3. 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 Career Foundry 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 Career Foundry short course, check out this tutorial on how to create your first wireframe: