Are you using UI kits for your web designs yet? If not, it might be time to take the plunge.
UI kits can help make your life easier by streamlining your design process, save you time and money, and make your designs look and perform better. Sounds good, right?
In this post, we’ll give you a rundown of what exactly a UI kit is, and why you should consider using one on your next project.
What is a UI Kit?
A user interface (UI) kit is a collection of graphic files (usually PSD) and resources that can help designers with the task of building UIs for their applications.
UI kits typically include the user interface components that convey meaning and provide functionality to users – think buttons, widgets, checkboxes, progress bars, and navigation buttons. Some kits may also provide a framework to underpin your site or app’s layout. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the more extensive the library of UI elements included in the kit will be.
Essentially, UI kits include all of the components of a user interface that you may not need to be spending time designing yourself.
If the idea of using cookie-cutter UI components makes you uncomfortable, don’t worry: using a UI kit doesn’t mean you’ll end up with out-of-the-box designs. UI kits generally come with a wide variety of colours, swatches, and patterns that let you customise the elements and integrate them into your original design.
Why use one?
Why not! There are good reasons to embrace the UI kit in your design work: UI kits can save you time, increase your profits, free up your creative energy and resources to focus on essential design tasks, make your designs easier to change, and give you opportunities to learn.
All of these benefits of the UI kit have one thing in common: they’ll make your life as a designer much, much easier.
Let’s take a closer look at five reasons to get in on the UI kit action.
1) UI kits can save you tons of time
The biggest advantage to using a UI kit is the amount of time it can save you by simplifying the task of finding a solution to a design problem.
Let’s say you just landed a new design project. You're excited about your design ideas, so you go about designing or searching for the perfect UI elements that reflect your original design vision. Before you know it, you’ve spent hours searching the web for the perfect interface elements, or designing them yourself, and you haven't even yet begun building your vision into something you can share with your client. As much as we always want to provide our clients truly novel ideas, design is also a business - and providing all your clients with truly novel designs is not good business.
UI kits can help bridge the desire to provide unique designs while also doing so in an efficient and profitable way. Using a UI kit can help avoid the kind of time-suck that goes into assembling a unique design. Instead of having to search for – or build – the elements you need every time you start a project, a UI kit will provide you with a huge library of elements that are ready to go as soon as you need them. Once you’ve found a UI kit you like, sticking with it and customising it through all of your projects will shave significant time off of your design process.
2) UI kits can increase your profitability
In the design world, time is money. If you spend two hours looking for (or designing) your basic user interface elements at the start of every project, those hours are money wasted.
In contrast, using a quality UI kit can save you time, which boosts your productivity – and therefore your profits.
Getting your projects done in less time is also a good way to differentiate yourself from your competitors. You’re more likely to get hired if you can get quality work done quickly for your clients.
3) UI kits let you focus on the important parts of your work
Designers tend to want to build things on their own – it’s a field that puts a premium on creativity, innovation, and vision, after all. But sometimes that self-reliant instinct comes at a cost to the important parts of your work.
Using a UI kit to supply the small, less significant parts of your design can free up your time and creative energy for high impact tasks. Let’s be frank: no one cares if a button is a work of art. It’s the larger, overall vision that sets a designer’s work apart. Taking advantage of a UI kit can leave you more time to work on designing the things that really matter.
4) UI kits make it easier to change up your designs
Another major advantage of UI kits is that they make design modifications a much easier proposition. Let’s say a client calls you up and suddenly wants to change the fiery red theme they started out with to a cool blue one.
Without a UI kit, that could be a nightmare. With a UI kit, you can make the change quickly by just changing a few layers, rather than having to change the whole site code.
5) Bonus: you can learn a lot from a good UI kit
Quality UI kits are layered. So with a little detective work, you can take the files apart and learn how to build the same effect yourself and create similar custom elements. Basically, UI kits give you a great opportunity to geek-out.
Ok, I’m convinced – now what?
There are a ton of great UI kits on the market, ranging from free bare-bones kits to premium kits decked out with all the bells and whistles. They’ll all make your life as a designer significantly easier, but there are a huge number of options out there. So where should you start?
Finding a UI kit that you love might take a little bit of time, but they’re easy to find online. Our weekly design resource round-ups usually feature some quality UI kits, and they’re a good jumping-off point in your search.