Illustration by Simona Toader
Building a user interface from scratch can be tedious. The UI you create should have good usability, be tied to brand guidelines, and look fresh and modern. Complicate this by adding in strict deadlines and a limited budget, and this task becomes even more challenging.
But there is a solution to this problem, and it’s called a UI kit. A UI kit is a tool that can help you get rid of routine operations and free up your creative energy. In this article, we will answer the questions “What is a UI kit?” and “How do I use a UI kit?” and share some useful UI kit examples that will help you streamline your design workflow.
What is a UI kit?
A UI kit, or user interface kit, is a collection of assets that contains a set of design elements such as UI components and styles. UI components are elements that convey meaning and provide functionality to users. Some examples of UI components are input forms, widgets, and navigation menus.
On the other hand, styles are visual attributes of design such as fonts, colors, and shapes. Along with functional elements, these style properties, especially colors, play a tremendous role in how users understand and interpret a design. To learn more about the role of colors in product design, check out this article: What is color theory?
The actual elements included in the kit depend upon its purpose. UI kits typically contain mock-ups for a solution in a particular category (such as e-commerce UX design, healthcare UX design, and others).
Advantages of UI kits
UI kits can help improve a design workflow in a number of different ways:
- Speed up the design process. UI kits simplify the task of finding a solution to a design problem. Designers can rely on ready-to-use UI elements from the kit instead of creating new ones from scratch.
- Achieve consistency in a design. The design elements from a UI kit have a consistency that can be hard to achieve when combining elements from different libraries or ones you’ve created from scratch. UI kits can become a foundation for the design system and a single source of truth for designers.
- Master your design skills. UI kits give designers an opportunity to inspect each component and learn how to build the same component yourself.
Disadvantages of UI kits
UI kits are not always a perfect solution. They also have downsides:
- They have a limited number of elements. Not all kits are comprehensive. The UI kit you choose to use might not have all the elements that you need for your product. As a result, you will need to invest time and effort in creating new elements.
- The need to adapt a UI kit to an existing design. If you have an existing design, you need to invest time in customizing the elements from the UI kit and integrating them into your original design. Depending on the level of complexity of your design, this can take hours to weeks. Sometimes it takes more time to customize the kit than to create a design from scratch.
- A UI kit can limit your creativity. Product design is a field that honors creativity and innovation, but it can be hard to provide a truly novel design when you rely on a UI kit. UI kits typically include complete “out of the box” demos, and when you see how something is designed, you may intentionally or unintentionally try to follow the same approach. Because of this, if you work on a new or particularly innovative product, you should use UI kits very carefully—try to use UI kits for small, less significant parts of a design.
How to use a UI kit
A UI kit is a tool that allows designers to follow a modular approach to building a product. There are two ways designers can use UI kits:
- For rapid prototyping. Designers can select a UI kit based on the product requirements and use elements from the kit to quickly mock-up pages or screens.
- For final product design. Designers can create their own UI kit specifically for their project’s needs and use this kit during the product development.
Let’s take a look at how designers can use a UI kit to streamline their prototyping process. Suppose you just started a new design project. When you identify the product design direction, you need to invest time in validating key product design hypotheses. To do that, you need to turn your ideas into visuals and see how they’ll look and work for your users. Prototyping will help you with that.
UI kits are especially valuable for proofs-of-concept because they allow you to quickly mock key user flows and test the viability of that design with users. By doing that, you will identify critical problems and fix them during the design phase.
UI kits are typically provided as a library for your favorite design tool so that you can integrate them naturally in your design environment. Here is how a prototyping process with a UI kit might look for the homepage design of a mobile app:
- Create a new project in your design tool.
- Define a rough structure of a future homepage (Note: don’t spend too much time polishing design details at this stage; focus on speed and simplicity).
- Open the UI kit in a separate window of your design tool.
- Find elements that you can use for your design.
- Copy and paste elements from the UI kit into your document.
What makes UI kits great is that they allow you to quickly create a high-fidelity prototype (a prototype that looks almost identical to the final product) and use it for usability testing. Since prototypes look like a real product to test participants, they are more likely to behave realistically.
The next step after successfully validating your design hypothesis is to create a UI kit specifically for your product’s needs. In this case, a UI kit will become the single source of truth for the entire design and development team. Since team members will rely on the kit when they work on user interface design, the UI kit should contain almost all of the UI elements a designer might need to create a real UI: buttons, forms, widgets, typography, and more. This kit will likely become a foundation for your design system.
5 excellent UI kit examples
There are a lot of great UI kits available, ranging from simple, bare-bones kits to comprehensive, all-inclusive kits. It might not be obvious where to search for a kit. Fortunately, the XD team has prepared an excellent collection of high-quality UI kits that you can use for your next design project. All UI kits mentioned below are universal (meaning you can use them in almost every project or product category), completely free, and easily integrate with Adobe XD.
1. Apple Design
The Apple UI Design kit will help you design apps that match the Apple design system (iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and watchOS). The kit contains the full range of resources required to design an app for the Apple ecosystem. For example, if you plan to design an iOS app, you will find controls, views, and glyphs available to developers using the iOS software development kit. The great thing is that all major components are available in both light and dark UI design.
2. Google Material Design
If you plan on designing a product with Material Design aesthetics, you should definitely try the Google Material Design kit. The kit contains all components, component states, and styles (colors, text styles) you’ll need when designing an Android app. Similar to Apple Design, this kit also comes with light and dark themes.
3. Microsoft Universal Windows Platform (UWP)
The Microsoft UWP kit contains the elements you’ll need to build apps for the Universal Windows Platform. You will have access to controls (such as buttons, navigation menus, title bars, taskbars) and layout templates required for designing Windows apps.
4. Amazon Alexa
Voice-based interactions have become an essential part of modern products (the global voice recognition market size is forecast to grow to $27.16 billion by 2025). It’s no longer a question of whether or not you should design voice-based systems, but rather how to design one. Alexa Presentation Language (APL) is a framework created by Amazon that allows you to build interactive voice and visual experiences across Amazon devices. The Amazon Alexa kit will provide you with components from the APL along with styles (such as APL colors and fonts) that can help you create authentic experiences for the Amazon ecosystem.
When you need to design a responsive website and choose tools for your project, Bootstrap is typically one of the first tools that comes to mind. Bootstrap is an open-source web framework that allows you to quickly build a responsive website. The Bootstrap UI kit contains predesigned assets and components from Bootstrap version 5 that designers can use to prototype a future state of a website.
Jumpstart your design with UI kits
Time is a precious resource. When it comes to product design, many designers dream of getting projects done in less time without sacrificing usability or creativity along the way – UI kits help designers achieve this goal. They allow designers to work rapidly and get a product to market faster than their competitors. More importantly, UI kits allow designers to reduce the time and effort spent in routine operations so that they can dedicate more time to the product design vision.