A user interface designer smiling at her laptop screen

32 User Interface Elements For UI Designers: Your Ultimate Glossary

Maria de la Riva

User interface (UI) elements are the parts we use to build apps or websites. They add interactivity to a user interface, providing touchpoints for the user as they navigate their way around; think buttons, scrollbars, menu items and checkboxes.

As a user interface (UI) designer, you’ll use UI elements to create a visual language and ensure consistency across your product—making it user-friendly and easy to navigate without too much thought on the user’s part.

In this guide, we’ll explore some of the most common user interface elements, considering when and why you might use them.

Ready? Let’s go.

User Interface Elements: An Introduction

User interface elements usually fall into one of the following four categories:

  1. Input Controls
  2. Navigation Components
  3. Informational Components
  4. Containers

Input controls allow users to input information into the system. If you need your users to tell you what country they are in, for example, you’ll use an input control to let them do so.

Navigational components help users move around a product or website. Common navigational components include tab bars on an iOS device and a hamburger menu on an Android.

Informational components share information with users.

Containers hold related content together.

Know Your UI Elements: A Comprehensive Glossary
 

Most of us spend a pretty big chunk of our day on interfaces. The time we spend looking at our favorite app or a piece of software we use at work familiarizes us with common UI elements. We learn how to use them and how they behave. When we see them on new apps or websites, we know what to do with them instantly as a result of having interacted with them before.

Knowing your UI elements will allow you to recognize opportunities to use them in your designs, helping you design clear and simple interfaces.

Let’s take a look at the most common UI elements you’ll run into.

1. Accordion

Accordions let users expand and collapse sections of content. They help users navigate material quickly and allow the UI designer to include large amounts of information in limited space.

2. Bento Menu

A bento menu, named after bento boxes, represents a menu with grid items. As you read along, you’ll begin to notice UI designer is just another word for a foodie—we love to name our UI elements after food.

Different types of menus used in User Interface Design

Image by Alex Lockwood

3. Breadcrumb

These little trails of links help users figure out where they are within a website. Often located at the top of a site, breadcrumbs let users see their current location and the proceeding pages. Users are also able to click on them to move between steps.

Breadcrumb navigation, a popular UI element

Image by Sharon Olorunniwo

4. Button

Traditionally displayed as shapes with a label, buttons tell users they can perform a particular action, like submitting.

An example of a clickable button in user interface design

Image by Gal Shir

5. Card

Super popular these days, cards are small rectangular or square modules that contain different kinds of information—in the form of buttons, text, rich media, and so on. Cards act as an entry point for the user, displaying different kinds of content side by side which the user can then click on. Cards are a great UI design choice if you want to make smart use of the space available and present the user with multiple content options, without making them scroll through a traditional list.

Cards used in user interface design
Image by Crank

Carousels allow users to browse through sets of content, like images or cards, often hyperlinked to more content or sources. The biggest advantage of using carousels in UI design is that they enable more than one piece of content to occupy the same area of space on a page or screen. If you decide to use carousels, be sure to follow these guidelines set out by the Nielsen Norman Group.

In UI design, carousels allow users to browse through sets of content

7. Checkbox

In UI design, a checkbox appears exactly as the name suggests: a little square box on the screen that the user can check or uncheck. A checkbox allows users to select one of multiple options from a list, with each checkbox operating as an individual. Checking the checkbox marks it with a little tick! Some common use cases for this element include forms and databases.

In UI, a checkbox allows users to select one or multiple options from a list

Image by Shakuro

8. Comment

Pretty common around interfaces today, comments display content users input into the system in chronological order. You’ve seen them around social media engines and on blog posts.

9. Döner Menu

A döner menu is a variation of the more well-known hamburger menu. While a hamburger menu consists of three lines of equal length stacked one on top of the other, a döner menu consists of a vertical stack of three lines of different lengths: a long line, a shorter line below it, and an even shorter line underneath that! This UI element represents a group of filters.

10. Dropdown

This controversial UI element allows users to select an item from a list that “drops down” once we click on it. To learn more about why this element has a lousy rep, check out this naughty presentation.

A dropdown menu: This controversial UI element allows users to select an item from a list that "drops down" once we click on it

Image by Shakuro

11. Feed

Here is an inescapable one! Feeds display user activity in chronological order. The content varies and can range from simple text to images to video. Think Twitter!

12. Form

Forms help users input sets of related information into the system and submit them. Think of all the boxes asking for shipping details when you order something online.

A website form: Forms help users input sets of related information into the system and submit them.

Image by girithaara

13. Hamburger Menu

These three little horizontal lines look slightly like America’s quintessential meal and represent a list menu. You’ll commonly find the hamburger menu on the top left-hand corner of apps and most likely containing a group of navigation links.

14. Icon

Icons are images used to communicate a variety of things to users. They can help to better communicate content, or can communicate and trigger a specific action. You can learn how to design icons from scratch in this step-by-step guide to the icon design process.

In UI design, icons are used to communicate content or trigger a specific action

Image by Eddie Lobanovskiy

15. Input Field

Input fields are, quite simply, a place for users to enter content into the system. They aren’t just limited to forms, either—search bars are input fields as well.

16. Kebab Menu

We’ve covered the hamburger menu and the döner menu: now for another (non-edible!) UI element: the kebab menu. Consisting of three vertical dots, the kebab menu represents a set of grouped options.

17.Loader

Loaders can take on many, many forms—designers enjoy getting creative with them. Loaders are designed to let users know the system is completing an action in the background and should wait.

A load screen GIF in UI design: Loaders are designed to let users know the system is completing an action in the background

Image by Kickass

18.Meatballs Menu

Yet another member of the menu family is the meatballs menu—a set of three horizontal dots. The meatballs menu signifies that there are more options available, which are revealed when you click on the menu dots.


19. Modal

A modal window is a small box containing content or a message that requires you to interact with it before you can close it and return to your flow.

Think of the last time you deleted an item on your phone. The little message that popped up asking you to confirm that you wanted to remove it is a modal.

An example of a subscription modal used in UI design: A modal window is a small box containing content or a message that requires you to interact with it

Image by Joshua Krohn

20. Notification

You’ll find these little red dots everywhere on interfaces today. They let us know there is something new, like a message, for us to go check out.

However, notifications don’t just tell us someone has liked one of our posts—they can let us know an error occurred, or a process was successful.

21. Pagination

Typically found near the bottom of a page, pagination organizes content into pages. Pagination lets users know where they are within a page and click to move into other sections.

22. Picker

Date and time pickers let users pick dates and times. The advantage of using pickers over input fields is the ability to keep all the data users enter tidy and consistently formatted in a database, making information manageable and easy to access.

A date picker UI element: Date and time pickers let users pick dates and times.
Image by Edoardo Mercati

23. Progress Bar

Progress bars help users visualize where they are in a series of steps. You’ll commonly find them on checkouts, marking the different stages a user needs to complete to finalize a purchase, like billing and shipping.

24. Radio Buttons

Often confused with checkboxes, radio buttons are small circular elements that let users select one option among a list. The key here is noting that users can only choose one option and not multiple options like they can with checkboxes.

Radio buttons in UI design: Often confused with checkboxes, radio buttons are small circular elements that let users select one option among a list.

Image by Oleg Frolov

25. Search Field

Commonly represented as an input field with a little magnifying glass inside of it, search fields allow users to input information to find within the system.

26. Sidebar

A sidebar displays a group of navigational actions or content literally on the side of a page. It can be visible or tucked away.

27. Slider Controls

Sliders are a common UI element used for selecting a value or a range of values. By dragging the slider with their finger or mouse, the user can gradually and finely adjust a value—like volume, brightness, or desired price range when shopping.

28. Stepper

Steppers are two-segment controls that also let users adjust a value. However, unlike sliders, they allow users to alter the value in predefined increments only.

29. Tag

In UI design, tags are essentially labels which help to mark and categorize content. They usually consist of relevant keywords which make it easier to find and browse the corresponding piece of content. Tags are often used on social websites and blogs.

30. Tab Bar

Tab bars appear at the bottom of a mobile app and allow users to quickly move back and forth between the primary sections of an app.

A tab bar element: Tab bars appear at the bottom of a mobile app and allow users to quickly move back and forth between the primary sections of an app.

Image by Hoang Nguyen

31. Tooltip

Tooltips provide little hints that help users understand a part or process in an interface.

32. Toggle

Think of toggles as on and off switches. They let us do just that: turn something on or off.

See an element missing? Feel free to comment below!

If you’d like to learn more about user interface design, take a look at the following articles:

What You Should Do Now

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Maria de la Riva

Maria de la Riva

UX/UI Designer

Maria de la Riva is a UX/UI Designer digital nomad. For the past 4 years, she’s worked with online education startups, like CareerFoundry, mentoring and writing curriculum content. Currently, she is Head of Product at Iguama Inc., a startup developing the technology loyalty programs need to help their users redeem points on online retailers. Maria is an avid diver and sailor.