Card UI design is the distinctive peculiarity of Web 2.0. Clickable rectangular containers with images, text, media, or their combination have substituted long lists of information in most internet resources. Starting from Netflix, Behance, Airbnb, BBC, and Trello, you can notice modular card design in most web and mobile apps.
As a professional product agency, Arounda tracks all the essential UI/UX trends. We have used card design UX in many projects, including the Metricly cloud cost management platform and an Austrian Velonto startup for environmentally friendly delivery services. And yet we know from experience that even the best design mold can’t be a universal solution for all tasks and cases.
In this article, we discuss both advantages and disadvantages of this design and give card UI examples to demonstrate how it works.
The Nielsen Norman Group defines a card as a container for a few small and related items of information. This rectangular block looks like a good old playing card and encourages users to click on it to view more details.
A card unit typically contains pictures, titles, links, videos, and other types of content that describe the product, service, or person from different angles. Because the information is short and visual, the card UI design helps grasp the general idea at a glance.
There are several basic principles of how cards work.
Usually, cards unite several related pieces of information, but they can also contain plain text or an image.
Cards can form a homogenous group or stand separately from the surrounding context elements.
Cards are active elements that you can tap on, swipe, pick up, or move.
The way cards function defines the main benefits of the card design UX
Cards use the common-regions principle, which says that multiple elements contained in one boundary are perceived as one group. This explains how the different content types, like text and image, become one in the eyes of the viewer.
Cards are easy to understand. Compared to traditional design, where users have to dig into details to get the idea, cards are small chunks of information that are easy to digest.
There is no doubt that bright images and bold titles retain users' attention better than dull lists. Cards' rectangulars are also very adaptive in size and shape. As a result, they look pretty on desktop and mobile screens of all sizes and make the entire interface aesthetic and modern looking.
Cards perform well for items of the same type and heterogeneous units with completely different content. Card style UI allow users to read a mixture of charts, lists, and numbers on one page without getting confused.
UI cards beckon users to click on them, especially when they contain an eye-catching picture or a bold CTA. You can move, swipe, stack, or pick card units, an immersive activity and playful interaction with the product.
Cards look great on social media platforms, e-commerce sites, job exchanges, dating, and ed-tech apps. They are rather easy in development and please users’ eyes. But is it a universal one-size-fits-all design mold? Let's look at the weaknesses of the card UI design.
Cards occupy a bigger screen area than a line of a list. Although they are readable at one glance, it takes time to scroll a page with a large amount of data folded in card units. In this case, it would be more effective to scan the titles of the classical list.
Card layouts are less hierarchical than lists. Although the most relevant content usually appears at the top and on the left of the page, cards seem to have the same priority. The vertical list with the most important results on the top leaves no place for ambivalence.
Cards are not the best option when users intentionally search for a particular piece of content or compare multiple options. Card units contain mixed media formats that distract attention from the primary characteristics. Meanwhile, lists have a fixed structure, look more predictable, and therefore are easier to scan.
Cards are everywhere. It’s hard to find card UI design examples that would astonish or fascinate one. Although a quality material design looks modern and stylish, you should consider alternatives if you want to step out of the crowd.
Card blocks are stuck with a rectangular shape. They are very flexible in size, color, types of borders, and animation but still limit the designer's creativity. So if you are searching for extraordinary designs to represent your product, card UI may stand in your way.
There are numerous marvelous examples of material design out there, but we tried to choose the best for your card UI inspiration
Behance design job exchange is probably the best place to implement the card UI. The homepage is a set of designers' works arranged in material cards. Visitors search for the most relevant visual solution for their product or look for inspiring professional cases. An image snapshot with a short title is exactly what they need to make a choice.
As a rule, card UI design perfectly fits resources where you deal with a user profile. LinkedIn, Quora, Fiverr platforms all use modular interfaces to present companies, employees, and vacancies. Usually, cards are grouped by categories, and the best search results are displayed in the top left corner.
Pinterest was one of the earliest adopters of the card UI approach. It presents a dazzling waterfall of images on users' queries and serves as a visual encyclopedia. Each card represents a `pin` with the title, image, and link to the source of information. Users can gather pins to their own boards or follow other users to view someone's collection.
Pinterest proves that card UI design works brilliantly for social media sites. Instagram and Facebook use material design to browse various clickable content about people and keep the users engaged.
You are surely familiar with a kanban instrument when cards or stickers help you manage tasks by dividing them into three categories `To Do,` `Doing,` and `Done.` Similarly, Trello presents tasks as cards with a title, text description, links, time limits, and other details. Users can operate tasks by moving them around the board, groping, and sharing. Altogether Trello offers a palette of handy management instruments wrapped up in logical and attractive card UI design.
Cards work great in media, where they display summaries of articles and posts. The Times, BBC, and Twitter share the devotion to the card style UI because it helps arrange thousands of breaking and burning news stories into a readable layout.
The Times shows the news cards in symmetrical rows with the latest articles on the left. The hot news block is three times bigger than the regular article and sits on the top. This way, the information hierarchy is intuitively clear.
Dashboards usually combine various data types, such as pie diagrams, bar charts, line graphics, numbers, tables, and text explanations. It’s almost an art to place all the necessary elements in an appropriate card layout.
It’s important not to overwhelm the viewer with the cards' diversity and yet to pack all the needed information into one screen. The best UI practices include a light two-color palette and spacing between cards which help focus on the essential information.
The E-commerce industry uses cards to browse products in an appealing and user-friendly way. Although the Aliexpress catalog includes millions of items, they are well structured and accessible due to the card UI design.
When users click on the card unit to learn more about the product, they can select the color or the size, read the characteristics, and check the manufacturer. The bright `buy` button is another vital parameter of the card container for the online shopping platform.
The Tinder dating app uses cards to display users' profiles. The possibility to choose a partner with the UI swipe transition gained so much attention that it has become the Tinder slogan `Swipe right.`
Card UI is a powerful design trend. It looks good in media, social platforms, e-commerce, job portals, ed-tech, healthcare, and dating software. Users love the simplicity and engagement of the material design, and developers can easily adapt cards for various customer needs.
Nevertheless, this design mold has its limitations due to the rectangular card style UI. Card UI design has become so common that it doesn’t surprise one anymore. Also, cards are better suited for browsing than for searching and comparing results.
From a professional point of view, card UI is a joker in a designer’s hand. Having completed more than 130 projects, Arounda is convinced that cards solve many UI design issues. When done right, card UI never looks dull.
If you feel that card UI design might be a tried-and-true solution for your product, we are here to help!
Card UI has several major benefits. First of all, cards are intuitive and user-friendly, cards are clickable and engaging, card blocks unite different types of content in one unit, they are easily adaptable to the customers’ needs, card UI looks attractive and fits all screen sizes
Tiles are simpler than cards. They have less content and are used mainly for navigation. Cards, on the other hand, unite more information types and are more dynamic.
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