How to Build Better UI Designs Using Layout Grids


Designers (novice and professionals) face issues with their design structure. Applying a grid system is deemed as one of the easiest ways to take control over a layout structure. It also helps you to achieve a highly organized and consistent design.

A grid functions as the invisible glue which holds a design together. A connection is always there even when the elements get physically separated. Layout systems and grids are an integral part of the design ‘tradition’. Interestingly, this ancient tradition is still relevant in this modern age.

These days, screen-based media interactions have increased. Millions of users prefer viewing content across laptops, mobile phones, tablets, televisions, PCs, and smart watches. Since multiscreen behavior has emerged as a standard approach among visitors, designers are looking forward to design for multiple screens. Use of grids helps these designers to offer attractive, engaging, and world class quality designs to clients. Grids are also helpful in building better products via binding diverse design elements together to attain effective chain of command, placement and consistency without making a lot of effort.

In the most basic terms, a grid is a structure comprising a series of lines (vertical or intersecting) that divide a page into columns or modules. This structure helps designers to arrange content on the page. While the lines of a grid themselves are not necessarily visible (although in some designs, they are), the structure helps you to manage the proportions between the elements to be aligned on the page. This grid would serve as the framework for the page’s layout. Think of it as a skeleton on which a designer can organize the graphic elements (for example, text sections, images and other functional or decorative elements) in an easy-to-absorb way.

What is a Grid?

A grid allows designers to create a solid structure and shape into their designs. A classic example for a grid system applied to a piece of content is ‘Tables’ in Microsoft Excel. These are mainly applied to screen design. Closely associated to typography, grids in the past were used for arranging handwriting on paper. Thereafter, these were applied to manuscript layout.
The renowned artists from the Renaissance period used a grid for their paintings. Later on, the trend was taken over by the print industry (mid-15th century).

The Grid Theory

Understanding basics of grid theory is important when designing for web or mobile.

The Anatomy

All grids consist of common parts. These include Format (area where design is placed and for the web it is the size of browser window), Margins (negative spaces between format edge and content’s outer edge), Columns and alleys (this is what grids comprise of wherein columns are building blocks for grid an alleys are space between columns), and Modules (horizontal equivalents of columns).

Types of Layout Grids

All of the above mentioned parts can be combined in varied ways to create distinct types of grids. The standard layout grids include:

Manuscript Grid – This is the simplest structure of a grid and a large rectangular area used for continuous text blocks and images.

Column Grid – It has a few columns and useful for layouts comprising of discontinuous information. Zones can be created using columns for different kind of content.

Modular Grid – It subdivides a page vertically and horizontally into modules. A matrix of cells or modules is created by columns and rows and the alleys between them. It helps ensuing control over a complex layout. The grid ensures flexible page formats for creating a complex hierarchy. Some information can be contained in each module or adjacent modules can be combined to form blocks.

Baseline Grid – This is an underlying structure that directs vertical spacing in a given design. It’s used primarily for hierarchy and horizontal alignment. It can be used for building consistency in layout. The grid makes sure that each baseline of the text aligns with the vertical spacing. Hence, it makes for an excellent typographic tool and immensely helpful when laying out elements on the page as it lets you check whether something on the page is missing a row of space. It also shapes vertical spacing of a design.

Using Layout Grids for Creating UI Designs

Know Your Limitations

Consider the constraints on a design when designing a grid. For instance, most users might be using a specific type of device (phone). So all design decisions must consider this constraint.


User’s attention must be directed to crucial elements via adding more visual weight to them.

Step Outside Grid

Breaking the grid will makes some elements stand out. Positioning an element loosely on the grid puts more emphasis on it. Once you decide to break the grid, make sure you know what you’re exactly doing. Sometimes, taking things out of columns may even break the visual hierarchy which tends to impair the overall user experience.

Focus on Vertical and Horizontal Spacing

You need to pay attention to both. Varied vertical spacing should be on the left. On the right, you must have consistent vertical spacing.

Alignment of Elements with Baseline Grid

Baseline grid can be utilized for hierarchy and horizontal alignment. When aligning UI design elements (images, content containers, and text) to a baseline, it is important to ensure that their heights are a multiple of the baseline value. If you need consulting so visit here:

Optimizing Grid for Mobile

Mobile grids have restricted space (1-2 columns). So, multicolumn layout is not possible. Tile layout grid with similar column and row heights is the best choice when designing for mobile. This helps it acquire square tiles across the design.

Since users have limited screen space on mobile to view, images should be larger when making a grid layout. The idea is to include images that are large enough to be identified and small enough to allow content to be viewed conveniently within the given space.

Testing is Important

It is very important to test and redo the grid if necessary based on the results of those tests.

Conclusion Link

This article was intended to provide you a deep understanding of grid systems, what they are and the way they can be applied to design process. Learning to use grids more efficiently will come from practical experience and practice.

The grid system had been introduced for added support to users. It allows for a number of potential uses wherein the designers can use these to get the solutions right according to their personal style. Learning how to use the grid is an art which one needs to master at with regular practice.