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API design approach

We have learned a great deal regarding how Material UI is used, and the v1 rewrite allowed us to completely rethink the component API.

API design is hard because you can make it seem simple but it's actually deceptively complex, or make it actually simple but seem complex. @sebmarkbage

As Sebastian Markbage pointed out, no abstraction is superior to wrong abstractions. We are providing low-level components to maximize composition capabilities.


You may have noticed some inconsistency in the API regarding composing components. To provide some transparency, we have been using the following rules when designing the API:

  1. Using the children prop is the idiomatic way to do composition with React.
  2. Sometimes we only need limited child composition, for instance when we don't need to allow child order permutations. In this case, providing explicit props makes the implementation simpler and more performant; for example, the Tab takes an icon and a label prop.
  3. API consistency matters.


Aside from the above composition trade-off, we enforce the following rules:


Props supplied to a component which are not explicitly documented are spread to the root element; for instance, the className prop is applied to the root.

Now, let's say you want to disable the ripples on the MenuItem. You can take advantage of the spread behavior:

<MenuItem disableRipple />

The disableRipple prop will flow this way: MenuItem > ListItem > ButtonBase.

Native properties

We avoid documenting native properties supported by the DOM like className.

CSS Classes

All components accept a classes prop to customize the styles. The classes design answers two constraints: to make the classes structure as simple as possible, while sufficient to implement the Material Design guidelines.

  • The class applied to the root element is always called root.
  • All the default styles are grouped in a single class.
  • The classes applied to non-root elements are prefixed with the name of the element, for example paperWidthXs in the Dialog component.
  • The variants applied by a boolean prop aren't prefixed, for example the rounded class applied by the rounded prop.
  • The variants applied by an enum prop are prefixed, for example the colorPrimary class applied by the color="primary" prop.
  • A variant has one level of specificity. The color and variant props are considered a variant. The lower the style specificity is, the simpler it is to override.
  • We increase the specificity for a variant modifier. We already have to do it for the pseudo-classes (:hover, :focus, etc.). It allows much more control at the cost of more boilerplate. Hopefully, it's also more intuitive.
const styles = {
  root: {
    color: green[600],
    '&$checked': {
      color: green[500],
  checked: {},

Nested components

Nested components inside a component have:

  • their own flattened props when these are key to the top level component abstraction, for instance an id prop for the Input component.
  • their own xxxProps prop when users might need to tweak the internal render method's subcomponents, for instance, exposing the inputProps and InputProps props on components that use Input internally.
  • their own xxxComponent prop for performing component injection.
  • their own xxxRef prop when you might need to perform imperative actions, for instance, exposing an inputRef prop to access the native input on the Input component. This helps answer the question "How can I access the DOM element?"

Prop naming

  • Boolean

    • The default value of a boolean prop should be false. This allows for better shorthand notation. Consider an example of an input that is enabled by default. How should you name the prop that controls this state? It should be called disabled:

      <Input enabled={false} /><Input disabled />
    • If the name of the boolean is a single word, it should be an adjective or a noun rather than a verb. This is because props describe states and not actions. For example an input prop can be controlled by a state, which wouldn't be described with a verb:

      const [disabled, setDisabled] = React.useState(false);<Input disable={disabled} /><Input disabled={disabled} />

Controlled components

Most controlled components are controlled by the value and the onChange props. The open / onClose / onOpen combination is also used for displaying related state. In the cases where there are more events, the noun comes first, and then the verb—for example: onPageChange, onRowsChange.

boolean vs. enum

There are two options to design the API for the variations of a component: with a boolean; or with an enum. For example, let's take a button that has different types. Each option has its pros and cons:

  • Option 1 boolean:

    type Props = {
      contained: boolean;
      fab: boolean;

    This API enables the shorthand notation: <Button>, <Button contained />, <Button fab />.

  • Option 2 enum:

    type Props = {
      variant: 'text' | 'contained' | 'fab';

    This API is more verbose: <Button>, <Button variant="contained">, <Button variant="fab">.

    However, it prevents an invalid combination from being used, bounds the number of props exposed, and can easily support new values in the future.

The Material UI components use a combination of the two approaches according to the following rules:

  • A boolean is used when 2 possible values are required.
  • An enum is used when > 2 possible values are required, or if there is the possibility that additional possible values may be required in the future.

Going back to the previous button example; since it requires 3 possible values, we use an enum.


The ref is forwarded to the root element. This means that, without changing the rendered root element via the component prop, it is forwarded to the outermost DOM element which the component renders. If you pass a different component via the component prop, the ref will be attached to that component instead.


  • host component: a DOM node type in the context of react-dom, for example a 'div'. See also React Implementation Notes.
  • host element: a DOM node in the context of react-dom, for example an instance of window.HTMLDivElement.
  • outermost: The first component when reading the component tree from top to bottom, that is breadth-first search.
  • root component: the outermost component that renders a host component.
  • root element: the outermost element that renders a host component.