You are right. Applying to UK PhD programmes is quite different. First, you have to find the right professor who could be your supervisor once you get admitted. So the first thing I did I contacted several professors at different universities who had similar interests to mine. Out of 6, three were ready to consider me.
Then the worst thing comes - finding a research topic and writing a research proposal. You have to know all about the field even before you apply! If you don't, then the only way to go is to read all the articles in all relevant research journals. I knew the area quite well already, so I just had to choose the topic and read all that was written on it. I did it. But then I realized that it's not so easy to find the topic that will look at issues that haven't been investigated by other researchers before. The topic has to bring something new to the field! So, after three months of reading and writing, and sending what I wrote to my former supervisor and future potential supervisors, I realized that I have to move in a different direction, and write a new research proposal (thanks to their advice!).
I hope I will finish by the end of next week, and finally apply.
That how it goes for those applying to British universities. I am not complaining, by no mean! Just telling the story....