The Must-Know UI Design Elements
When designing your interface, as a UI designer, you need to be consistent and sort of predictable in your choice of UI design elements. Users have now become familiar with specific elements which act in a certain way, so resorting to such elements whenever possible will ensure an increase in completed tasks, efficiency, and overall user satisfaction.
UI consists of four design elements: input controls, navigational components, information components, and containers.
Read on to learn the UI elements you must know!
Input controls are the design elements in your app’s user interface. Some of the input controls are buttons, input fields, checkboxes, radio buttons, dropdowns, toggles, and date or time pickers.
Buttons are UI design elements that look like shapes with a label. A button serves as a sign of action upon touch. It usually contains a short text, an icon, or even both. They allow users to take action with a single click or tap. Good UI design ensures buttons are easy to find and understandable.
Input fields are dedicated places where users can enter non-standardized content into the system. They exist as forms, such as contact forms, personal details for delivery, or search bars. Search bars are input fields users use to search or filter items on your website or app.
Checkboxes let the user select one or more options from a set you’ve defined. There are two states of a checkbox: checked and unchecked. The best practice is to offer checkboxes in a vertical list. You can use more than one column if the list is too long and requires mindless scrolling or when used for comparison (such as pricing lists and similar.)
Radio buttons are similar but not the same as checkboxes. You can use them to allow users to select one item at a time. Radio buttons are UI design elements designers usually use when the user needs to fill out a form, complete a survey or configure settings.
It would be best to use them in a list with two or more options, and all options must be visible simultaneously.
There are two types of dropdowns: dropdown lists and dropdown buttons. Dropdown lists are similar to radio buttons – they allow users to select one item at a time but look more compact, allowing you as a UI designer to save space.
If you want to increase the usability of this element, add text to the field, such as “Select one,” which will help the user identify the necessary action.
Dropdown buttons consist of buttons that, when clicked, display a dropdown list of mutually exclusive items or actions.
A toggle button allows the user to change a setting between two states. These UI design elements are the best when users can easily detect the difference in states (such as on/off.) The design and functionality of this element are similar to an actual, physical switch people use to turn something on or off.
Date and Time pickers
A date picker is an element that lets users select a date or time, sometimes even both. The information is consistently formatted and inputted into the system using the picker. Users usually use time pickers to schedule a meeting, select arrival time, set the alarm, etc.
A slider, also known as a track bar, allows users to set or adjust a value. When the user changes the value, it does not change the format of the interface or other info on the screen. Sliders are excellent UI Design elements, but you shouldn’t use them as a one-fits-all tool. Use them when users want something relative and not for exact values.
When designing a slider, UI designers should ensure that the users can immediately select that range correctly.
A picker displays one or more scrollable lists of different values users can select. The philosophy of an iOS picker is that designers should use it when they need to present a medium-to-long list of items.
The values you use should be predictive and logically ordered, and the picker must exist within the proper context. Designers should avoid switching screens to show the picker. iOS pickers come in the following styles – compact, inline, wheels, or automatic.
A segmented control is a linear set of two or more segments, each acting as a mutually exclusive button. Within the control, all segments are of equal width. Designers should try to keep segment content size uniform.
Because of the identical width, the design wouldn’t look good if the content fills some segments but not others. Segments can contain text or images. Segmented controls serve to display different views. It can serve as an input but also as a navigational element.
These UI elements help the user navigate your site or an app, keep track of where they are, search for items, and other actions that complement their activities and help them reach their goals fast and efficiently.
The navigational UI design elements include Search fields, Breadcrumbs, Pagination, Tags and Chips, Sliders, Icons, and Image carousels.
A search box is a UI design element that allows users to enter a keyword or phrase and submit it to search the website or app to get the most relevant results. Usually, search fields are single-line text boxes with a search button standing next to them.
A good UI designer will put the search field where users expect to find it, accompanied by a small magnifying glass icon. 🔎
Breadcrumbs are a list of links that show the current page and its “ancestors,” usually going back to the site homepage.
Breadcrumbs let users identify their current location within the system and provide a clickable trail of proceeding pages and help them furtherly navigate. They have the most sense on enormous websites or sites with hierarchically arranged pages, such as e-commerce websites, where various products are grouped into logical categories.
Pagination divides content up between pages and allows users to skip between pages or continue in order through the content.
These UI design elements show the user where they are and enable direct access to the previous and following content. Their purpose is to provide the user with a sense of location and a good experience while navigating the content on multiple pages.
Tags and chips
Tags enable users to locate content in the same category. Some systems also let users apply their tags to content by entering them.
Chips allow users to enter information, select, filter content, or trigger actions. While buttons usually appear consistently and contain standard CTAs, chips should appear dynamically as a group of multiple interactive elements.
Carousels let users browse through a set of items and select one if they want. Carousels are UI design elements that must be user-centered and only used when it benefits the user experience. Carousels should save time and clicks, and they work best when the content is visual (images), offers comparison, or helps users to discover other items without leaving the current page.
Typically, the images in a carousel have hyperlinks. Carousels are a fantastic UX for mobile and touch screens but are far less optimal for desktops. Avoid using them excessively on desktop as they could point to a lack of prioritization and are generally a lousy UX on websites.
A tab bar sticks out at the bottom of a screen, helping users understand the app’s information or functionality. Tab bars allow users quickly switch between top-level sections in the app while maintaining the current navigation state within each area.
By default, a tab bar is translucent. It uses a background only when there’s content behind it, and it disappears when the view scrolls to the bottom. It would be best to use tab bars for navigation, not performing actions.
An icon is a simplified image serving as an intuitive symbol UI designers use to help users navigate the system. Icons should resonate with real-life objects and be easy for users to determine their meaning.
For example, a speaker represents volume, a lock locking or unlocking a specific feature, a house icon leads to the homepage, stars or hearts for favorites, and similar. Usually, icons contain hyperlinks.
Icons can have action and navigation purposes and serve as decorative or informative elements.
Informational components are elements that share essential information with users regarding their task, help them resolve possible obstacles, give updates, and lead them to their final goal.
A notification is an update (usually as a message) that informs the user about something new to see. Notifications generally indicate items such as a new message, an error, or completing a task.
Users can typically tap the notification to complete a possible additional action.
A progress bar indicates where a user is as they advance through a series of steps in a process. Typically, progress bars are not clickable. Satisfactory progress bars should always give some immediate feedback. These UI design elements notify users that the app needs more time to process the action and sometimes even approximately tell how long it will take.
A tooltip is a concise, informative message that appears when a user interacts with an element of a graphical user interface. Tooltips are usually “activated” in one of two ways: through a hover gesture of a mouse or with a keyboard-hover motion.
A tooltip generally allows users to see hints when they hover over an item while also indicating the name or purpose of the item. Tooltips sometimes have an accompanying question mark icon (or something similar) that invites the user to hover over it.
A modal popup requires users’ interaction before returning to the system. Usually, this modal popup window creates a mode that disables the main window while keeping it visible, with the modal window as an active “child window” in front of it.
A good practice is to use it when you want to disrupt a user’s current task to catch their attention to something more noteworthy. To ensure a good user experience, do not use modals to show errors, warnings, or even success messages. Modals can also be fullscreen, which is particularly helpful in web and mobile applications when you want to ensure that the user focuses on a single flow.
This UI design element got its delightful name because it represents a notification that pops up on a user’s screen like a toast from a toaster! 🍞
Toast notifications (or toast prompts) act as alerts or short messages, often to notify the user of action or update.
Their point is to gain users’ attention without distracting the user experience or taking over the screen. Toast prompts take up minimal space and usually disappear on their own after a period of users’ inactivity.
A badge or a tag is a small overlapped UI item that indicates status, notification, or an occurrence that appears in relativity with the underlying object. A badge can contain a numeric value to indicate several events, textual content to name or categorize items, or an icon to show the status of the underlying objects. It can also exist as a dot-only badge where its function is to inform without details.
Charts are UI design elements for visualization. Different charts represent different data: pie charts, column charts, bubble charts, or histogram charts. All of the mentioned charts belong to a specific chart type: composition, comparison, relationship, and distribution. Before selecting a chart, you should know about the data you want to present. If you want to create a great chart, you should always follow design principles.
Containers are UI design elements that hold related content together.
Accordions allow users to expand and collapse sections of content.
These elements help users navigate material quickly while allowing UI designers to include extensive amounts of information in a limited space.
Accordions are perfect for breaking down long or complicated content into more digestible chunks. It’s also great for mobile responsiveness because it reduces scrolling.
Cards are displays that resemble snapshots, intending to motivate users to click to view more details. This element is a container for short and related information pieces. We call it a “card” because it resembles a playing card in shape and size. Cards usually present a recap and contain a link with more details. A card will usually include a few different types of media: a title, an image, a summary, sharing icons, and sometimes even CTA.
Menus are UI design elements that display a list of options on a temporary surface. They show when users interact with a button, action, or similar. Good menus must be easy to open and close, straightforward, and easy to scan, and the content must suit the user’s needs. UI designers create dropdown or exposed dropdown menus. When there are too many items to show, users should be able to scroll the menu.
💡 Pro tip: a reasonable UI designer always puts a visible scrollbar on such a menu.
Navigation bars are links to relevant sections or pages on a website that help users cruise through the online document. Designers consider the navigation bar a traditional method of navigation. You can implement navigation bars in many ways: horizontally or vertically, by name, fixed, or dynamic. Implementing a navigation bar is one of the essential points of usability.
Sidebars are UI design elements that hide additional content beside a page. Even though you can use sidebars with any content, designers usually use them with an inverted vertical menu.
It can be visible on the page and appear on different sides of the page.
When you have a large number of data you want to present to the users in a way that’s easy to digest, tables are the perfect design element to use.
Tables are a good use of space, and they allow you to add more elements to your design. They have a clean layout and are easy to modify. When designing a table, you can choose 4 row types: a table with grids, horizontal lines, zebra stripes, and free forms.
This is our take on must-know UI design elements!
We hope this guide taught you something new or at least expanded something you already knew. If you have another design element you think should make this list, let us know!
Happy designing! 🥳
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