UI Controls Dictionary

User interface controls are like the ingredients in a recipe. Learn their unique flavors and characteristics and you can combine them to create meals (products) that satisfy your customers. Get to know them well enough and you can improvise, customize, and substitute like a top chef.

Best practices and guidelines for user interface controls are well established, through years (often decades) of research and practice. This library will define the most common user interface control types, describe when and how to use them, and show examples and variations that will make you feel comfortable choosing and using them in your own designs.

Input Controls


Designing buttons may seem obvious, but they are surprisingly complex and there are a few tricky things to look out for.

Text Input

Text input fields allow keyboard input from the user. They as not as simple as they seem.

Dropdown Menu (Combo Box)

The control with many names! A dropdown menu gives you a list of items to select from. It is versatile and familiar.

Radio Buttons and Checkboxes

Radio button and checkbox controls each allow users to select items from a list. Despite that, they have different uses and guidelines.

Navigation Controls


Hyperlinks continue to be central to navigation on the web, such that not adhering to best practices can break the usability of your site or app.


Tabs can be a smart way to break up content into sections, but its use is a double-edged sword.


Breadcrumbs are a compact way to show a site or application hierarchy. They are unobtrusive and not distracting.

Vertical Navigation

Vertical (a.k.a. "Sidebar") navigation is a way of showing a persistent site or application structure along one side of the product.

Menu Bars

Menu bars allow users to navigate using categories and sub-categories. They are persistent and unchanging across the app.


Accordions are stacked containers with nested items that expand and collapse when clicked or tapped.

Output Controls


Validation is often used as a light-weight alternative to alerts. It is a great way to present feedback or guidance with limited interruption.


Tooltips are a common form of contextual help that leverage the "details on demand" UX pattern.


Any UI control that captures the user’s attention can be thought of as an alert. They should be used wisely so they aren’t overwhelming.

Data Tables

Data tables, also called table views, tables, and data grids use columns and rows to display related information in a grid.


Icons are everywhere, both in software and outside of it. The power of an image helps users identify things quickly and accurately.