Salesforce, Apple, Netflix, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, BBC. All these companies have one thing in common that you might have never noticed. They all use a card-based UI design.
Cards, cards, cards - cards are practically everywhere. Pay attention and you’ll start noticing that most of the apps and platforms these days use UI cards in one or another way.
But why are UI cards so popular and what apps and platforms will benefit most from this solution?
We at Eleken have delivered many interesting projects using UI card design and would like to share some examples and great practices with you in this article.
What is a UI card?
Cards are UI components, basically content containers. Usually, cards contain the image, title, description, call to action, and sometimes subheadings or icons. Cards are united by the same concept where each card represents one idea, item, or piece of content. Nielsen Norman Group defines a card as a UI design pattern that groups related information in a flexible-size container visually resembling a playing card.
Card-based design is part of the modular design approach that relies on independent transformative elements. Cards in UI design refer to independent components that can be easily rearranged or customized. Nowadays it is one of the most common design layouts. And there are a few good reasons for that.
Advantages of card UI design
Thanks to the bright image element, small bits of information, easy-to-click CTAs and similar, UI cards grab users’ attention. They have better scrolling rates and bring more impact than lists.
- Highly responsive
Probably the main advantage of UI cards is that they are very adaptive. It’s the rectangular shape that makes them transformative. That is why UI cards look good on all screen sizes.
UI cards are rather minimalistic and understandable design elements. Small chunks of information they reveal are easy to consume.
- Intuitive and UX friendly
Most users are familiar with the card interface design and can easily navigate through it. Rectangular shape and simple clickable elements make the user experience very intuitive.
UI card is a perfect instrument to make clients interact with your product. Compact and well-designed cards with the right CTA make users want to click and share instantly.
- Attractive and modern-looking
Despite the fact that card-based design has been around for a decade now it is still an up-to-date design solution. Their key visual element makes it easy to make any product attractive using this layout.
Is card UI design always the best solution?
UI cards are great. Designers love them, developers love them, users love them. But is card UI design really a one-size-fits-all solution? Here’s where you need to decide. With skilled designers, cards really can make wonders for almost any web or mobile app. But there are also certain things to keep in mind:
- UI cards are less hierarchical than list layouts. They are better for browsing than for searching. So if you work with data or elements, where the order is important, it’s better to choose a more vertically structured list layout.
- Another important reason to reconsider building your website or application with UI cards is that they are used by many companies these days. Hence it’s not easy to stand out in the crowd. On the other hand, with the right visuals, card design never looks boring.
- Cards take more space, so for quick scanning of the titles the list is more effective. Same works for repetitive content. So if you need your user to go through a bigger amount of data or components where titles are more important than visuals then we recommend considering other layouts.
- Cards themselves are flexible components but only to a certain extent. In the end, it’s always the number of rectangular elements. So if you are looking for something more extravagant to express your product, it makes sense to consider other design approaches.
Best examples of card UI design
If you are considering using cards for your app or platform you could use some UI card design inspiration. We collected some examples of effectively implemented UI cards:
SaaS businesses can use UI cards as a good UI solution. Tendx, one of our recent projects, is a great example to prove this. It is a platform that connects global shippers and carriers. Eleken designers used a card-based layout for most components of this platform. UI cards represent tenders, the main element of the logistics platform.
Media - cards work great for showing brief summaries of articles, posts, and such. This is proven by such companies as Twitter, Instagram, BBC, and many others, who use UI cards for posts.
Entertainment platforms - users browse through and interact with UI cards with entertaining content. The best example here that we all know is Netflix. Pay attention to their pop-up effects.
E-commerce or delivery apps. In this case, UI cards make the process of browsing products or any similar items much easier and user-friendlier.
Task or activity managers. For this type of solution, you can display tasks or habits in a form of cards. Other elements in the app, like special offers or articles, can also be represented as UI cards.
Ed-tech products. Courses or teachers’ profiles can be reflected as cards. For instance, when working on the design of PublishXi, an online system for publishing educational content and creating learning programs, Eleken designers used UI cards to make the platform more interactive and simple to operate with.
Dashboard apps and platforms. Card ui design patterns are a great solution for products that have a lot of dashboards. The space between cards helps the user focus and not feel overwhelmed with the complexity of dashboard data.
Real estate platforms. Cards also can be a great solution for real estate platforms. Every item for purchase or rent can be reflected as a card. As a result, it simplifies the process of browsing the website.
Apps with profiles. Dating, healthcare, consulting, pet, or any other types of apps where the main element would be the profiles are the perfect match for UI cards. Pay attention to animated features our designers used to make UI card design more engaging.
Best UI card design practices
Now when you have seen some successful card-based apps and platforms, let’s find out how to make a card design that stands out:
- Images are extremely important for UI card design. They are the main grabbers of users’ attention. So keep a defined visual style, otherwise your design will look off-putting. Remember to use transparent-backgrounded images for your UI cards.
- Resolution is the key. We love cards for their responsiveness. So it’s very important not to mess it up with the wrong resolution of images. Use images for high DPI screens to avoid pixelation.
- Round the edges. Our designers recommend this trick to create more visually appealing cards and make users feel relaxed.
- Spacing is another way to shape the general look. It is recommended to leave enough space around the cards for the user’s convenience. On the other hand, no spacing at all can also look great, just like more spacious images.
- Play with the size. Adjustable size of UI cards is your opportunity to shape the general look of your digital product. You can align UI cards and let the user focus on the content, or, on the contrary, make some cards bigger than others to draw attention to them.
- Use animation. It is one of the ways to make your card UI design stand out. But be careful, too many animated elements will make your design look cluttered. One animated feature or a video instead of the main image will do.
- Use colors, shading, and effects. Without all that, cards might look boring. For example, flipping is a very natural move borrowed from playing cards. Use it wisely and remember that it looks better on smaller cards. Scrolling is a good idea for the set of cards. But avoid scrolling within one specific card, as the content might look very confusing.
- Use different card forms for different types of devices. Mobile UI card design is not the same as web card user interface. Square cards look better on mobile devices, while rectangular cards work best for web apps or sites. Take this into account when grouping cards into columns, as mobile screens require fewer columns.
- Less is more. Avoid cluttering your UI cards with too many buttons and content. Display only the most useful information and reveal more by drop-down or flipping.
UI cards are one of the most popular design elements, and it is no wonder. UI cards are highly adaptive and responsive, UX friendly, and easy to browse and share. Cards save your user’s attention and let them focus on the content, enjoying neat and understandable UI.
This layout can be used for almost any type of business. But it is not a universal solution. Consider list or grid layouts, if your users will work with data where order and search are important, since UI cards suit better for browsing content. But it’s worth noting that cards can be a complete solution for a whole web or mobile application in many cases, or it can reflect a specific part of it.
To build an effective UI card layout keep your UI cards simple, but never boring. Make sure that the entire card is clickable and use effects, animation, colors, shading and spacing to make your users want to interact with it.
A card-based UI is the perfect solution for many companies including SaaS businesses. Don’t hesitate to drop us a line to discuss whether UI cards can benefit your product. We are happy to hear your ideas and share our expertise.