4 Important Design Elements in User Interface (UI) Design
In previous article we learnt about what is UI and UI design. A user interface UI is the point of interaction between the user and a digital device or product.
And User Interface (UI) design is the process of creating look and feel of the Interface.
User interface (UI) design looks in the aspects of how each User Interface element of the product looks, which includes placeholders, buttons, text, check boxes, images and so on. Basically, any visual interface elements that people interact with.
And it is the Job of a User Interface (UI) Designer to Design the UI of a digital product, which they do with the help of key User interface (UI) elements. Furthermore, a User Interface (UI) Designer is required to make the interface user friendly and easy to understand.
You can learn more about the key roles and responsibilities of a User Interface (UI) designer, in this article.
Ok! So, what are these User Interface (UI) elements?
In this article, we will explore some of the most Important Design Elements in User Interface (UI) Design which would help you to get a systematic approach towards user interface design .
What are the User Interface elements?
User interface elements are building blocks for the interfaces. User Interface (UI) elements are the parts that are used to build apps or websites.
Moreover, these User Interface elements add interactivity to the user interface by providing touch points for the user while they navigate through.
And a User Interface (UI) designer makes use of these UI elements to create a visual language which is easy to understand by users , consistent and scalable.
4 key User Interface (UI) elements are (but not limited to)
1. Input controls
Input controls are interactive elements of the Interfaces. It allows users to enter the information into the system’s interface.
For example- In the User Interface (UI) of Uber, Users can input the data i.e the destination address where they want to go and Uber matches and finds the driver for them.
Some of the Key Input Controls elements are
check boxes, radio buttons, drop down lists, list boxes, buttons, toggles, text fields, date field
2. Navigational components
By Definition ‘Navigation’ means ‘to set in motion’ or ‘to move around’. And for someone ‘to Navigate’ is to to find the way to get to a place when you are traveling.
breadcrumb, slider, search field, pagination, tags, icons, buttons, links, tabs, menu
3. Informational components
These components are used to share information with users. They allow users understand unknown or unfamiliar objects that they might not able to understand in the user interface.
Additionally, they also show relevant information at the right time. Some of the key Informational components are tool tips, icons, progress bar, notifications, message boxes, modal windows
A container is an element designed to contain page elements to a reasonable maximum width based on the size of a user’s screen. Moreover, they also hold related content together.
User Interface (UI) elements under Input controls
A Checkbox is a small square box that a user can check (with a little tick) or uncheck. It allows the user to select one or multiple options from a set. It is usually best to present check boxes in a vertical list. Moreover, if the list is long then check boxes are also presented in more than one column.
For example- Suppose you are looking to book a hotel for vacation. You visit booking.com and enter your travel destination. You would find check boxes on the left side of the interface like Budget checkbox, Reservation policy etc.
A drop-down list appears as a button which, when clicked, reveals a list that allows the user to select from a list of options. Because they are compact, they allow you to save lot of space on the screen.
For example- Suppose you visited amazon.com to check out groceries. When you hover cursor on one of the items on the main menu, a list would appear for you to choose from, that list is called the drop down list.
A button tells users that they can perform a particular action upon touch. Button is typically displayed as shapes with a label using text, an icon, or both.
Text fields allow users to enter text information to be used by the program, and allows either a single line or multiple lines of text. Sometimes a text entry field is pre filled with text, and can include additional buttons or icons.
Consider entering your house address in a text field while looking for delivery of your favorite food from a Food site.
Radio buttons is a small and circular UI element. They are used in groups and lets users select one option from a list of mutually exclusive set of options.
Additionally, radio buttons are often confused with check boxes, but there is a difference. Unlike radio buttons which lets user choose only one option from multiple options, with check boxes user can select multiple options.
List boxes are very similar to check boxes, however more compact and can support a long list of options if needed. They also allow users to select multiple items at a time too.
Toggles are like on and off switches which allows users to change a setting between two states. Moreover, just like switches, they allow you to either turn a setting on or off.
These buttons are most effective when the two states/setting are visually distinct.
A date picker allows users to select a date and/or time. With data picker, the information is consistently formatted and input into the system.
Consider that you are making a hotel or flight booking. The ist thing the website would ask you is to select the dates of your travel.
A small section would be displayed to allow you to select the date of travel, this place is called the date field. Furthermore, after choosing the dates, the information would be consistently formatted, input into the system. and displayed to you.
User Interface (UI) elements under Navigational components
Often located at the top of a site, Breadcrumbs are small trails of links which helps user to understand where they are while browsing through a website.
A clickable trail of proceeding pages are provided which helps a user to navigate by. In fact Users are able to click on them and move between , and thereby help them figure out where they are within a website.
When you are browsing online you might notice that often at the button of page the number of pages that are spread over is mentioned, which allows you to skip between pages, this is pagination.
Typically found near the bottom of the page, pagination organizes content into pages and allows users to skip between pages or go in order, through the content. Furthermore, Pagination lets users know where they are within a page and then allows them to click on to move into other sections.
Tag is an interactive UI element, which is labeled with a keyword or phrase in order to mark and categorize content. They make it easier for users to find and browse the content in the same category. You would most commonly find Tags in social media websites and blogs.
Also known as track bar, a slider allows users to set or adjust a value like volume or brightness.
Icons are a visual representation of an object, action, or idea. They are one of the most frequently used elements in user interfaces. An icon is a simplified image/symbol used to help users to navigate the system. Typically, icons are hyperlinked. A user’s understanding of an icon is usually based on previous experience
Search field is a box accompanied with magnifying glass that allows users to input information to find within the system. Typically search fields are single-line text boxes and are often accompanied by a search button.
Consider you are on Amazon and trying to find badminton rackets, one way to go about it is to visit the category by navigating through the menu bar.
Another way to go about is go to a box on the top right which is commonly accompanied with a magnifying glass inside. Furthermore, all you have to do is input keyword ‘badminton racket’ and just click on search. And you would be presented with various options to choose from.
Usually found on the homepage, a carousel is a set of rotating banners or a slideshow that displays images or text. In addition to that, the carousel is linked to specific pages.
And Image carousels displays images that are hyperlinked. It allows users to browse through a set of items and then make a selection by clicking on them. Furthermore, after clicking on the image, you will land onto a page related to the image in the carousel.
Menu is one of the core Navigation elements. A menu presents lot of options to the user to interact with the interface. Furthermore, these options are labeled. In fact, a well-designed menu leads to increased usability of the Interface and allows users to complete their goal easily.
In addition, to above, menu can have different locations like on the header, footer, side etc. The placement of the menu must be based on a thoughtful user research.
User Interface (UI) elements under Informational components
You often see a red dot that appears on the Interface which announces that there is message or announcement for a user to check out. This is a notification.
You often see notifications in social media that tell us someone has liked or commented on our posts. However, notifications do more than that.
Notifications are an important source of information that indicate items such as, the successful completion of a task, new announcement, new message arrival or error/ warning message.
A progress bar indicates at what stage user is in as they advance through a series of steps in a process.
It indicates how much of a task has been completed. They are therefore useful for tasks that take a long time.
It is important to remember that progress bars are not clickable. They actually indicate the progress a User is making while they are in process of carrying out a task.
In addition to that, Progress bar ensures that users understand that they have to wait while they are in process of carrying out task, and are also assured that an error has not occurred.
For example, when a user exports images from their phone to laptop, a progress bar indicates the no of images that are being exported in real time basis.
Sometimes when you hover over an item, user sees hints indicating either the name or purpose of that item. This additional information that you get while hovering over an item is known as Tooltip.
Tooltips provide little hints to help users understand a part or process in an interface.
Tooltip is a message which appears when a cursor is positioned over image/icon/ hyperlink, or another UI element.
A message box is a small window that appears on the screen which gives information to users. They inform users to take an action before they move forward. A Message Box can contain text, buttons, and symbols that inform and instruct the user.
A modal window is a UI element that requires users to interact with it in some way before they can return to the system. Moreover, it won’t go away until you interact with it.
You must have noticed that while browsing a website, sometimes you enter into a mode that makes the main window partially visible with a child window in front of it which wont go away until you interact with it,this is a modal window .
User Interface (UI) elements under Container
An accordion is a design element that expands and collapse in place to expose some hidden information. Moreover Accordion has two fold benefit, not only it allows users navigate material quickly and also helps the UI designer to include large amounts of information in limited space.
Accordions push the page content down instead of being superposed on top of page content. While the use of accordions on desktop is debatable as space is abundant, on mobile, accordions are one of the most useful design elements.
And this is because they solve the problem of displaying too much content in too little screen space by conserving space on mobile.
An accordion is usually represented in the form of a vertically stacked list. When a label is clicked, it expands the section showing the content within.
In this article, we understood some of the most Important Design Elements in User Interface (UI) Design elements.
User interface elements are not just the building blocks for the interfaces, they also add interactivity to the user interface by providing touch points for the user while they navigate through.
Having a basic Understanding of UI Design elements which helps to get a systematic approach towards user interface design .
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References and Further Reading
Here is a wonderful book to learn about UI
Learn about UI design here in this article
Learn about the history and principles of UI design here in this article