Card layouts are everywhere now, from ecommerce sites to blogs to social media. So, why is this UI element so prominent? It lays out clear information in digestible chunks.
You can design your own cards to create easily navigable user interfaces, too. Let’s walk through how. But first, let’s cover the basics: What are cards and why are they beneficial for your app?
A card is a UI design component that displays content and actions about a single subject. Designers use cards to organize related information effectively, often linking to other internal pages.
There are even cards, for instance, on this blog page. They include pertinent information like post titles, authors, and publish dates.
You’ve probably also seen cards on shopping websites for individual products. Take, for instance, Amazon’s cards for grocery services:
Cards offer a preview of the linked content and can display featured information, related items, navigational options, and so on. Ideally, we use them in groups to present related information. These are the benefits that cards bring to an app:
When aiming to spotlight information or offer related content, cards can be comparable to a list or a table component. For example, ecommerce platforms often provide a switch to toggle between a list and a card view.
The concept of the card UI is versatile and can be applied to a diverse range of use cases, enhancing user interaction and experience. These include, but are not limited to:
Cards are built to be modular and flexible. They consist of three core sections — the header, body, and footer — all within a single container. The card’s content is organized into these three sections, with the visual emphasis depending on the relevance of each element.
Except for the card’s title, all other elements are optional. This allows card layout for a wide range of possibilities across digital experiences. Each section can contain pre-formatted subcomponents, such as the card’s title, subtitle, text, or other content types, including tables, grids, data visualization, buttons, links, forms, and more:
The card header usually comes with media, such as a preview or an image, to give the user a visual cue about the card content. The aspect ratio of this area can range from 4:1 (shortest) to 3:4 (tallest), with recommended default sizes of 2:1, 4:3, and 16:9.
As I mentioned above, cards can have a variety of functions, and you can include basically anything you think would be essential. Here are a few common elements you’ll find in the body of a card:
The footer can serve as a primary action area for elements like buttons, CTAs, or other controls. If there’s just one action (besides opening or viewing the card), use a button or CTA to communicate that action. Designers should carefully consider the design and interaction of these elements to offer an intuitive user experience.
A footer is exclusive to standard cards. Otherwise, the card container can function as a clickable card. If a card only allows for viewing or opening in more detail, do not include buttons or CTAs. A click anywhere on the card should trigger that action.
Now that we know what cards are and why we use them, let’s go over how you can design your own card UI.
When designing your card, it is crucial to include different states to reflect the status of the interactive components. These states are:
Grouping is another essential concept in card design. Try to group cards that display similar content to enhance the user’s understanding and interaction with the content.
In terms of layout, maintaining alignment is crucial. Consistency in alignment contributes to an organized and visually pleasing interface.
Moreover, it’s important to keep a certain spacing between each card. This spacing should be both horizontal and vertical to ensure clarity and readability.
The size of this spacing should typically be a multiple of four pixels, with 8px or 12px being common choices. This practice helps to create a balanced and harmonious layout, making it easier for users to distinguish between cards and ensuring the viewing experience.
There are various types of cards, but all card content follows the same general purpose: to set an expectation for what happens when a user interacts with it. To create effective UI card designs, keep these tips in mind:
Cards should provide a snapshot of available information, not an overload of unnecessary details. Cut the content only to communicate what one will find at the card’s destination.
Titles should be short (5–7 words) and focused on the value of interacting with the card. Metadata should be brief (about 10–15 words, though it can be longer depending on the complexity of the information), supplementing the title with more in-depth context. Keep button text to 1–3 words, using a verb phrase to state the action one is taking.
Establishing a clear visual hierarchy within the cards is crucial. You can achieve this through the strategic use of visual cues such as size, color, and typography.
Implementing this visual hierarchy guides the user’s eye and allows them to quickly and efficiently identify the most important information. This can significantly enhance their browsing experience, making the interaction with the cards more intuitive and the information more accessible.
Consistency in the layout across cards is key for a cohesive and familiar user experience. This includes spacing, alignment, and placement of elements.
Cards grouped together should have similar size and content length, controlled by character and word counts. Opt for left alignment to optimize readability and avoid centering text and content.
Aim for similar card sizes and content length. If varying content lengths result in different card sizes, prefer a masonry layout over a uniform grid. Avoid extending the button in the same row to match a card of a different length, and do not leave gaps between rows of cards.
It’s important to incorporate intuitive interactions within the cards. This could include but is not limited to swipe gestures, clickable elements, or hover effects. The key intention behind this is to enhance the overall user experience significantly.
By adhering to these best practices for card design, designers can create interfaces that are not only visually appealing but also user friendly. In doing so, they can ensure that the user effectively presents and comprehends information, enhancing the overall user experience and interaction with the platform.
As mentioned at the very beginning of this blog post, the card design could be modular and flexible. If you would love to learn more, you can look into design system references for cards, like Material Design or the Dell Design System.
Header image source: IconScout
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