If you’re building a design system for a growing startup, then you might get tempted to build all the components yourself to command over customizability, but it's not that simple. Accessibility and browser support can be very challenging. Instead, build your highly customizable design system on top of Headless UI Components and build reliable products in time.
As a startup when we build any UI interface we use UI libraries like MUI, Bootstrap, etc. and they are very helpful to fasten the development. However, It works fine until the MVP stage when faster implementation is the top priority and customization is the secondary priority.
When the design and customizations start to grow, these UI libraries do not meet the demand for customization. A lot of time is spent hacking all the needs around MUI components while managing to do so, and it feels dirty and complicated. It becomes very difficult to maintain and scale in the future.
At some point when these UI libraries fail to provide the needs of growing products. Teams start building custom components from scratch. Soon they realize it’s not easy to build highly accessible and customizable components. It takes months and months to build and test components for browser compatibility with the keyboard and native events handling. all this while fixing all the issues along the way.
Is there any better way of building a reliable yet customizable design system?
To solve all these issues, we need a Highly Customizable Design System that fulfills the following requirements.
Yes. Headless UI components fulfill all the requirements for a highly customizable design system. Headless user interface components separate the logic & behavior of a component from its visual representation. This pattern works great when the logic of a component is sufficiently complex and decoupled from its visual representation. These components are battle tested for functionality, browser compatibility, native event handling, etc.
The hardest parts of building complex UIs revolve around the state, events, side effects, and data computation/management. By removing these concerns from the markup, styles, and implementation details, our logic and components can be more modular and reusable. Headless UI components provide an abstraction over the functionality and internals of the components so that you can focus on the visual aspects of the UI.
Headless UI is a term for libraries and utilities that provide the logic, state, processing, and API for UI elements and interactions but do not provide markup, styles, or pre-built implementations.
In a world where design systems and user interface libraries are headless, your interfaces can have a high-end custom feel and the durability & accessibility of a great open-source library. You spend time implementing the only part you need, the truly unique part, the look and feel specific to your application.
As shown in the example, the Headless UI component Probability provides functionality and logic part and while visual representation is completely customizable based on need
React Hooks are great at improving code reusability and reducing code duplication while building reactJS components. As shown in the example below the functionality of Combobox has been extracted into a react hook and can be used in any UI component you wish to build for Combobox. providing you full flexibility on visual aspects of the component while maintaining the functionality of a Combobox
UI components should accept CSS styles as high-level props and then use them internally based on HTML markup. This opens up all the possibilities for ultimate customizations using custom CSS to style the components by passing styles as props or just adding styles to CSS class names specified by markup. It can be used to create Design themes using CSS classes instead of just a few theme variables in existing UI component libraries.
Headless UI components fulfill all the requirements for a highly customizable design system using the above feature.
- Here’s the list of Popular Headless Component Libraries
Along with these libraries, you can use any headless UI components available on GitHub/Internet, and they will work seamlessly. React Table is an excellent example of a Headless UI Component. The same concepts can be used to build design systems with other UI frameworks than Reactjs.
If you’re building a design system for a growing startup, then you might get tempted to build all the components yourself to command over customizability. but it's not that simple. Accessibility and browser support can be very challenging. Instead, build your highly customizable design system on top of Headless UI Components and build reliable products in time.
Our Product Engineering team has expertise in building Highly Customizable Design Systems and has helped many companies build their product and brands. Let’s get in touch if your company is building something cool and needs a design system that can support all growing requirements.
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