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25 simple design terms every client needs to know

Learn the language of design so you can better understand and provide design feedback

Have you ever worked with a designer and felt like they were speaking a totally different language? Were you ever embarrassed to ask them what they meant? Did a project ever fail because you weren’t talking about the same thing? Every industry has it’s own vocabulary. Before you invest thousands of dollars into a designer, you should familiarize yourself with their language.

  1. UI Design – Short for “user interface design”, this commonly refers to the visual look and feel of the product, service, website, or app that’s being designed. It is synonymous with “visual design” and “design”.
  2. UX Design – Short for “user experience design”. In contrast with UI Design, this refers to the previous step in the design process where the solution is being sketched, wireframed, and prototyped to ensure an engaging user experience.
  3. Wireframe – A wireframe is a preliminary draft of the final solution that is often void of color and imagery. Instead, it focuses on defining the layout, framework, and page flow necessary to create a good experience for the user.
  4. Visual Design – Visual design, also referred to as “UI design” or even just “design” is the final look and feel of the solution including colors, fonts, and imagery. It is often based on the wireframes and aims to enhance the user experience further. This is the final look and feel that a user will see and interact with.
  5. Prototype  A prototype is a rough draft that clarifies the feasibility of an idea and provides early feedback on the solution.
  6. Analytics – The data collected from a website or app over time. This includes number of visitors, time spent on a page, and the path a user takes through the website or app.
  7. Strategy – A generic way of describing the research and critical thinking involved when moving from a conceptual idea to a concrete visualization.
  8. Hierarchy – The difference in sizing and spacing that affects what the user sees first and last on a page.
  9. User Testing – The process of testing a solution with real users to gather feedback and improve upon an idea.
  10. Content – A generic way of describing the text, images, and videos that are used to populate a website or application. As the client, you are often asked to supply the final content.
  11. Scope of Work – The boundaries of the project. Anything you don’t include in the scope of work will not be included in the price estimate.
  12. Fidelity (Hi-Fi/Low-Fi) – A reference to the level of quality and refinement a wireframe or prototype has. This is almost never referring to the final design.
  13. Hamburger – A menu icon represented by 3 stacked lines.
  14. Icon – Often a small, two dimensional graphic that helps users understand the type of content and context in which it appears.
  15. Typography  The style and treatment of text. This includes kerning, leading, fonts, font weights, font colors, and font styles.
  16. Deliverable – Digital files that are given to you, the client, at the end of the project. This often includes Photoshop files, JPG images, PDF documents, logos, icons, etc.
  17. White Space – The empty space between things. It is not always white.
  18. Layout – The arrangement of content on the page.
  19. Grid – These are not always square, proportional, or even symmetrical. This term simply refers to the fact that precision and intention have been used while creating the layout.
  20. Iterate/Iterative – The process of starting simple and building upon an idea or solution until the final result is achieved.
  21. Scalable – A scalable design is one that affords you the opportunity to add more pages, content, and features later on without having to redesign the solution from scratch.
  22. Flexible – A flexible design is one that allows you to easily change certain aspects of it without being required to undergo a complete redesign.
  23. Web App – A product, tool, or service that looks and behaves like an app, but is accessed via a web browser instead of downloaded from an app store or marketplace.
  24. Landing Page – A special page on a website used for marketing purposes. This is usually the home page or a page created as part of an advertising campaign.
  25. Marketing Website – Any website that is primarily used to display text and imagery for marketing purposes. Traditionally, it has no advanced features or functionality.
About Matt Olpinski
Matt is the President of Matthew’s Design Co. and teachers thousands of freelancers how to succeed through his personal blog and newsletter.