UI Component Library – When Should You Build Your Own?
Why Bother Reading?
Chances are might not need to build a UI component library anytime soon, so in order to save yourself some time, I’d encourage you to read on.
TL;DR Do I Need A Custom UI Component Library?
Most of the time, the readily-available UI components are a pure joy to work with. When used in the right type of project they save you time, effort, and money. In the vast majority of cases, using a UI component library will be a smarter choice, combining top quality with fair pricing.
To cut things short, if you are looking to create a visual identity for your company that you know will remain that way for a long time (think big companies like Netflix, Amazon, Uber) and can do so without straining your budget, go for it. However, if it’s a one-project thing with a smaller budget, go with ready-made components. Voilà!
However, no issue is made exactly the same. Before making the final decision it’s best to review what’s best for your particular situation. Let’s see what’s best for you and why.
Examples of UI Component Libraries:
What Is a Component Library
You can think of a component library as a collection of ready-made elements that you can use in your projects at any time.
In general, component libraries facilitate the design of web applications, including mobile and desktop applications.
In this article, I’m going to be differentiating between component libraries, custom component libraries, and design systems.
What Are UI Components
Moreover, they are often open-source and free to use.
For the vast majority of developers in each React company, these elements are more than enough to create rich themes that guarantee a positive user experience.
What Is a Custom Component Library?
On the other hand, custom component libraries are those that are made from scratch by you or, more likely, the designers and developers you hire.
If you’re looking to establish a consistent look within your enterprise, then designing a component library is the way to go.
On a macro scale, owning a library of components is a step in the right direction when considering the future of your company. Once you’re ready to level up your business and create sister apps or landing pages, you’re going to have a theme you can readily use.
In the future, once you decide to expand and create sub-brands, you will already have a library to draw from. Think Uber and Uber Eats.
What Is a Design System?
Even though in this article I won’t be focusing on the design systems, it’s a position that I believe has to be mentioned when discussing UI component libraries.
A design system is where you store all of the designs and components so that they can be used and reused by your developers at any time.
In a nutshell, a design system compiles everything your developers and designers need to do their jobs.
One prime example is Google’s Material Design. The Material Design includes not only visual components, but also code, a brand guide, and even sound and video materials.
The Single Source of Truth
You may also think of these systems as the main theme for everything you do. It’s documentation and a collection of all of your brand’s standards, as well as a compilation of everything UI-related, like design principles, components, and themes.
What makes design systems special is that you can update them instantly across your platforms. It’s especially useful when owning different platforms like web pages and mobile apps, both for Android and iOS.
The difference between a design system and a custom component library lies in the connectivity that it offers, as well as its complexity. It gives you a complex system offering tools that connect designers and developers.
The Atomic Design
What makes the design system so special is its unique atomic design system.
The atomic design system breaks down the components into their tiniest elements including atoms, molecules, organisms, which then turn into templates, and then the entire pages. The whole system works together to give us a ready, high-quality product.
Design systems also allow for a simultaneous collaboration of several designers and developers. That way a team is able to give live feedback and apply live changes in the same file. Designers also have more use as the changes they apply will also be demonstrated in the code.
When to Use a UI Component Library?
Using component libraries is a well-established norm in web development. They offer a wide range of highly-customizable UI elements that guarantee great effects as well as a rich developer experience.
When working on any web development project, you’re going to have to establish a certain theme for the design and ultimately, the development to follow.
Time Is Money
A complete and ready-made component library is a particularly desirable option when working on a budget.
Using Vue or React UI libraries like the previously mentioned Semantic UI, React Bootstrap, or Ant Design is a particularly good practice when you do not yet have a clear vision for the direction in which you would like to take your business visually.
With these component libraries, you get access to high-quality ready-made elements that you can use and edit in your projects without putting too much effort. It’s also a much cheaper option since you save on costly design and development processes.
Want to learn more about ready-made component library use cases? Check out this article!
What is your line of work?
When to Build a Custom Component Library?
Let’s get to the gist of things, shall we?
Yeah, I keep rambling on about how great React UI libraries like Ant Design, React Bootstrap, or Semantic UI are, but there are also a bunch of things they can’t do.
When working with them, you’ll be limited creativity-wise. You can only customize that much before you hit the wall.
You’ve Got the Team and Money
If money isn’t a key issue for you and you simply want to get things done well, building a custom component library is probably what you need.
So, if you have a team of designers and developers at hand and believe that creating a visual identity is an enterprise worthy of the resources, then there’s little to no reason not to get it done.
You’re in It for a Long Run
When you’re planning ahead and looking to build your brand’s visual identity, the custom UI component library is a yes.
Also, whenever you’re starting a project that you plan to continue hammering, it’s just better to have more control over the elements it’s made of. Whenever you need to escalate the project, you can do it.
After a while, React Bootstrap or Ant Design might not be enough to meet your needs. Whether you’re using Node, Angular, or React UI, after a while of amassing the components your website might get slow. With a custom-made component library, you can plan ahead and avoid these headaches.
You Have Multiple Digital Touchpoints
If you own a number of different websites, mobile apps, and web apps, you can greatly benefit from having a library of your own.
Not only do you get more control over the entire brand’s visual identity, but you also benefit from a far stronger consistency, reusability, and development speed. To take it one step further, you might want to consider building an entire design system and benefit from live updates and more.
Key Advantages of Building a Custom UI Component Library
Sure, there are plenty of massive advantages to using Vue or React UI component libraries, but if you’d ask me, I’d say there are even more advantages to building custom UI components from scratch.
- More control over the final design and look
- A more personalized, premium look
- Easier to migrate to other projects
- You own your visual identity
- Access to code
- Enhanced speed and performance
Business Benefits of Building a Custom UI Component Library
Getting your own, personalized UI library will give you far more than just the envy of the competition.
Since you have complete control over the code, the performance of your components will ultimately depend on your design and development teams. If your developers do a good job at hard-cording your components, you’re going to be able to benefit from the improved speed and performance of your apps and websites.
Better SEO Performance
Whenever you take a step to improve the performance of your website, you get rewarded with an improved search engine position.
Every search engine, and Google, in particular, values the load speed of apps and pages, ranking them according to their response times. The faster the website, the higher the rank.
Ready-made React components on the other hand can get clunky and since you don’t have as much control over them, you’re going to just grin and bear it.
Custom components on the other hand can get incredibly light and efficient – depending on how you code them.
High-quality Custom Look
It’s no secret that a top-notch UI design can do wonders to your conversion rates.
When thinking about business, we want more visits, more clicks, but most of all, more deals. Since you get to have this extra control over your brand’s look and feel, you get to enjoy the benefits of an improved UI as well as UX.
Custom UI components also go hand in hand with an improved user experience. The components look better, are lighter, and the users are simply more satisfied with the overall experience.
Improved Communication Between Your Teams
Your design and development teams could not have been happier.
Since they’re able to work on the same files, they can often truly speak without words. All your designers need to do is to create mockups and the rest can be taken care of by the development team.
A smoother communication can take a heavy load off of your teams giving them more freedom and allowing their creative juices to flow without any obstructions.
Benefits of Building a Custom UI Component Library for Developers
Standardized brand identity & code
Long story short, your developers and designers simply know what to do and how to do it. Right from the get-go.
A custom component library can be used as a single source of truth, clearing up any misunderstandings and answering the questions before they are asked.
Smooth project handover
Since we’ve already got everything in order, handing the product to the customer becomes a much better experience.
The customer’s development team can start right when your team had finished and get to work on the project right away. Keep in mind that agencies that offer this sort of project handover are generally more attractive to customers in the first place.
Potential Downsides of Building a Custom UI Component Library
There are downsides to everything, and custom component libraries are no exception.
High Initial Costs
Building a custom UI library can get costly at first. Whether you like it or not, you need to either hire development and design teams or have your own people take a break from their projects to build it.
A Massive Upfront Effort
Building your UI resources from scratch is quite the enterprise.
Even the most experienced teams will have to spend quite a while to get a component library up and running. That means they might have to give up other projects for a while, which is never a good thing.
However, even though this might be a downside for some, it’s a worthy investment in the future.
Whether you’re looking to build a website, a web app, or a mobile app, you’re going to need a system.
Ready-made Vue, Angular, or React components are absolutely great, but they will only take you so far. At some point, you’re going to hit a dead-end and might end up with slow and clunky apps and websites.
With Custom UI component libraries you own your platform at its core. The features and documentation possibilities you get are far better than in the case of even the best react UI frameworks.
The bottom line is that if you are looking to create a visual identity for your company that you know will remain that way for a long time (think big companies like Netflix, Amazon, Uber) and can do so without straining your budget, go for it.
Example tools you might use to build a Custom UI Component Library:
Example Ready UI Components:
Each example features extremely rich functionalities and almost limitless components that will be all you need if you’re looking to build a React app, or code any other mobile or desktop app. Keep in mind that they’re usually free and open source.