What Are the Basic UI Components Designers Need to Know?

Posted on November 23, 2023 | Updated on February 21, 2024

UI (user interface) components are essential items designers use to create websites or apps. From buttons to breadcrumbs, these elements guide users, making their journey intuitive and enjoyable. However, how you design these UI components controls the outcome of their experience. That’s why it’s important to understand which of these elements are most prominent and how you should design them to cater to the user’s needs.

1. Buttons

Buttons are UI components that tell users what action they’re taking when they click on it. Typically, they are in a square, rectangle or circle shape and come in various sizes. While buttons are the most common element in UI, they are the most essential parts of it. Therefore, it’s crucial to design an effective button that makes users want to click.

For instance, every button has a job. It could be to submit a form, play a video, or take you to another page. When designing a button, its purpose should be clear. The size and shape also matter. A button should be big enough to click or tap on it easily. Plus, it should be in a color to convince users to click on it.

For example, if it’s a button to purchase something, the color should be green to show users they can use their money to receive an item in return. Additionally, it should have text to explain to users what’ll happen when they click on it. Yet, it should also respond to users when they hover or click it to tell them it’s working.

2. Text Fields

Text fields are small boxes or lines that you use to enter information. The text fields can be in single or multiple lines and pre-filled when the user needs to provide certain information. This could be your name, email, password or a message you want to send. Often, you’ll see the placeholder text in light gray words inside the text field before you type. It essentially gives you a hint about what you should enter. 

Most text fields are rectangular, but they should be large enough so that whatever you type is easy to see. Yet, they should not be so big that they take up too much space. Above or beside the text field, there may be a word that tells you what the text field is for — for example, “Username” or “Password.”

Sometimes, text fields tell you if there’s a mistake. Maybe you forgot to add “@” in an email address. The text field may underline the mistake in red or show a small error message.

3. Search Field

Imagine going to a website, and you want to find something specific. A search field can help you quickly find what you’re looking for on the site or app. Users can find a certain piece of content or an item. They use it by typing in keywords or phrases to narrow down a vast amount of information to exactly what they’re looking for.

You can typically find search fields at the top of a website or app, often in a corner. This makes them easy to find, as people often look for them when they need to search. Additionally, most search fields have a tiny magnifying glass symbol near or inside them. This symbol lets users know where to type their query.

Just like with text fields, search fields may have light gray words inside, like “Search here” or “Find products.’ This gives users a hint about how to use it. As users start typing, search fields may show a dropdown list of suggestions. For instance, if you type “apple” on a grocery shopping site, it might suggest apple juice or apple pie. The purpose of this is to help users find things faster.

4. Icons and Images

Icons and images are UI components that give users information or guide them without using any words. Icons and images are crucial in the digital world. Icons represent an action, while images are ideal for making a website attractive. Or, they may give users an idea of what the business offers.

When a platform uses icons and images, they should be clear so users understand what they mean. They also need to be large enough to be understood but should still provide enough whitespace to keep the look of the site well-balanced.

These UI components should also feel consistent with the brand and in the same style. For example, if an icon is a simple line drawing, all the others should be too. 

5. Dropdowns

Dropdowns are menus or lists that pull down when users click on them. Whether you click or tap on a dropdown, a whole list of options unfolds before you. Dropdowns are useful because they save space and keep things tidy. Instead of showing a long list of options all the time, they hide them and only display them when needed. Designers often incorporate them into a website or app to let users choose from multiple choices, like selecting a country or a clothing size.

In a dropdown menu, there’s usually a small arrow pointing down next to it. This indicates a list of options waiting for you to reveal. When the list is open, the indicator might point up, letting you know it can fold back up.

Once the list opens, users can click or tap on an option to select it. The chosen option then usually replaces the default text in the dropdown box. In longer lists, options may be grouped under headings to make finding the right choice easier. For instance, a dropdown for cars may have groups like sedans, trucks and SUVs.

Some dropdowns may even have a search function, especially for long ones. Users can type in a word, and the list will show only the matching options. If there are many options, users may need to scroll down to see all of them. Therefore, it’s essential to make the scrolling smooth and easy. 

6. Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are like the actual breadcrumbs you leave on a trail to find your way back home. In a digital aspect, they show the path you’ve taken through a website or app. These UI components help users understand where they are on the website and how they got there. 

They’re especially useful on websites where you need to fill out a ton of information. For instance, e-commerce websites usually have this when users go to checkout. These breadcrumbs generally include the cart, billing, shipping address and payment information. 

They’re typically at the top of a page, just below the navigation bar. They’re meant to be easy to spot but not the main focus. Users can click on these breadcrumbs to the website to take them immediately back to a step they may have missed or need to fix.

Designing Websites or Apps With Engaging UI Components

These UI components are the most essential ones that designers use to create an interactive app or website. Now that you know what they are and how they work, consider putting them into practice. Mastering these essentials will allow you to create fully functional platforms users want to use repeatedly.

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