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MUI Icons in React: An Easy Guide to Accessible Integration

How to use Material UI (MUI Icons) in React
How to use Material UI (MUI Icons) in React

Introduction

Icons have carved out a niche in the digital age, where visual cues dominate user interactions. They are more than just decorative elements; they are critical in guiding users, conveying messages, and improving the overall user experience. Among the many tools available to developers, Material-UI (MUI) stands out, thanks to its extensive icon library. This article will guide you through the vibrant world of MUI icons, their adaptability, and the critical importance of accessibility.

Prerequisites

Before diving into the depths of MUI icons, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of:

  • Web development concepts.

  • React framework.

  • Basics of knowledge of Material Design principles.

Importance of Icons and Their Role in Websites

Consider a world with no symbols or signs. It would be difficult to navigate through it, wouldn’t it? Similarly, icons on websites serve as guideposts, directing users and improving their experience. They are more than just decoration; they convey meaning, provide shortcuts, and frequently bridge the language barrier. The right set of icons can transform a website’s design from good to exceptional, making it both visually appealing and user-friendly.

What are Material UI Icons?

MUI icons are more than just decorative elements, as they are based on Google’s Material Design philosophy. They have meticulously crafted symbols that are intended to convey clear and concise messages while blending in with the overall design aesthetics. Every curve, edge, and color shade is carefully considered, resulting in icons that are not only visually appealing but also intuitive.

The adaptability of MUI icons is also commendable. These icons can be easily customized to resonate with your brand’s identity and ethos, whether you’re designing a sophisticated enterprise application or a vibrant e-commerce platform.

In essence, Material UI Icons are more than just symbols that are used in material UI components; they demonstrate the power of consistent design, the importance of user-centricity, and the limitless possibilities that emerge when form meets function.

How to add MUI Icons to Your Website?

How to add MUI Icons to your react app
How to add MUI Icons to your react app

After you’ve realized the elegance and versatility of Material UI Icons, the natural next step is to import them into your web projects. The beauty of MUI icons lies not only in their design but also in their ease of integration into websites, ensuring a consistent user experience.

Getting Things Started

It is important to note that, before beginning the integration process, you must have a clear vision of the design and functionality of your website. Consider MUI icons to be the finishing touches, the subtle enhancements that improve the user experience of your website. With this viewpoint, the integration process becomes more than a technical task; it becomes a design journey.

Step-by-Step Integration

  1. Installation: Set up the foundation first. When you use a React-based project, integration becomes incredibly simple. Begin by downloading and installing the @mui/icons-material package. Depending on your preferences, this can be done with npm or yarn. See the example command below;
    npm install @mui/icons-material

    or

    yarn add @mui/icons-material
  2. Importing Icons: Once installed, you have access to the entire MUI icon library. Assume you want to include a ‘home’ icon in your website’s navigation bar. Simply import the appropriate icon and include it in your React component. You can examine the following lines of code below for a technical view and understanding;
import React from 'react';
import HomeIcon from '@mui/icons-material/Home';

const HomeComponent = () => {
    return (
        <div className="home-container">
            <h2>Welcome to Our Website!</h2>
            <HomeIcon color="primary" fontSize="large" />
            <p>Above is an icon in a react app for testing purposes</p>
        </div>
    );
}

export default HomeComponent;

In the above lines of code:

You begin by importing the required modules. The React module is required to create any React component. Along with it, you import the HomeIcon from the @mui/icons-material package, which gives you access to the Material UI representation of a home icon. Following that, you create a functional React component called HomeComponent. This component will be used to hold your content.You return a div element with the class “home-container” within the HomeComponent. This div contains a heading, the MUI HomeIcon, and a summary. The HomeIcon’s color and `fontSize` properties are set to “primary” and “large,” respectively, to ensure the icon matches your desired aesthetics. Finally, you export the HomeComponent so that it can be imported and used elsewhere in your React app.

See the result of the above code in the image below;mui icon demo in a react app

Putting the Pieces Together

As you integrate MUI icons into your website, you’ll notice how they have a subtle yet profound impact on user interactions. When used correctly, icons can guide users, prompt actions, and even tell a story. By using Material UI Icons, you’re not just adding symbols; you’re instilling a design philosophy that prioritizes clarity, consistency, and user-centricity in your website. However, it is nice to mention that as a developer you might find it really stressful always writing and generating your react components and writing the basic template, you might want to Sign Up now on PureCode to access their AI tool that specifically solves this problem.

Customizing your MUI icons: Custom Font Icons

Customization reigns supreme in the world of web design. While MUI icons provide a large and versatile library, there may be times when you want to add a personal touch. Perhaps you have a distinct brand aesthetic, or you’re looking for an icon that stands out from the crowd. Custom font icons come into play here.

“Custom font icons” are icons that are not part of the standard MUI library and are instead sourced from custom font files. These icons can be customized to meet your specific requirements, ensuring that your website stands out and is consistent with your brand’s identity.

Moreover, this section will still discuss customizing and styling material icons. However, the next item on the agenda is to talk about integrating custom font icons.

How to Integrate Custom Font Icons with MUI?

  1. Getting Custom Font Icons: You must first have your custom font icons ready before you can use them. There are several online platforms where you can create or source custom font icons, such as Fontello or IcoMoon.

  2. Including the Font File: After you’ve created your own font icons, the next step is to incorporate the font file into your project. You can accomplish this by placing the font file in your project directory and referencing it in your CSS or SCSS file. See the code sample below;

@font-face {
    font-family: 'YourCustomFont';
    src: url('path-to-your-font/YourCustomFont.woff2') format('woff2'),
         url('path-to-your-font/YourCustomFont.woff') format('woff');
}

Using the Custom Font Icon with MUI

You can now use your custom icons with MUI now that the font is integrated. MUI’s Icon component is versatile, allowing you to display icons from custom fonts. You can examine the following lines of code below for a better technical understanding;

import Icon from '@mui/material/Icon';

function CustomFontIconComponent() {
    return <Icon className="your-custom-icon-class">icon_name</Icon>;
}

The Icon component from MUI is imported in the preceding lines of code. You specify the icon’s name as the child and assign the appropriate class name that references your custom font icon within the component.

Why Opt for Custom Font Icons?

Custom font icons provide numerous advantages. They enable you to maintain brand consistency, ensure that your icons are unique, and can even lead to performance improvements because you aren’t loading an entire icon library but only the icons you require.

Customizing Your MUI Icons: A Deep Dive

Material-UI icons are a blend of design and functionality, offering a vast array of styles and customization options. Let’s explore the different types of MUI icons and how you can tailor them to fit your design needs.

Types of MUI Icons with Examples

MUI icons come in five distinct styles:

1. Filled (Default icons with a solid appearance):

import React from 'react';
import HomeIcon from '@mui/icons-material/Home';

const HomeComponent = () => {
    return (
        <div className="home-container">
            <HomeIcon/>
        </div>
    );
}

export default HomeComponent;

2. Outlined (Icons with a border and a transparent inner portion)

import React from 'react';
import HomeOutlinedIcon from '@mui/icons-material/HomeOutlined';

const HomeComponent = () => {
    return (
        <div className="home-container">
            <HomeOutlinedIcon />
        </div>
    );
}

export default HomeComponent;

3. Rounded: (Icons filled with rounded corners):

import React from 'react';
import HomeRoundedIcon from '@mui/icons-material/HomeRounded';

const HomeComponent = () => {
    return (
        <div className="home-container">
            <HomeRoundedIcon />
        </div>
    );
}

export default HomeComponent;

4. Two-tone (Icons with a dual color scheme):

import React from 'react';
import HomeTwoToneIcon from '@mui/icons-material/HomeTwoTone';

const HomeComponent = () => {
    return (
        <div className="home-container">
            <HomeTwoToneIcon />
        </div>
    );
}

export default HomeComponent;

5. Sharp (Crisp and edgy design):

import React from 'react';
import HomeSharpIcon from '@mui/icons-material/HomeSharp';

const HomeComponent = () => {
    return (
        <div className="home-container">
            <HomeSharpIcon />
        </div>
    );
}

export default HomeComponent;

You can see the variations of the explained types in the image below;

Different variations of material icons

Customizing Icons with Props

MUI icons are essentially React components, and they accept props for customization:

1. Color: Adjust the color of your icons using predefined values or custom colors.

import React from 'react';
import HomeIcon from '@mui/icons-material/Home';

const HomeComponent = () => {
    return (
        <div className="home-container">
            <HomeIcon color="primary" />
            <HomeIcon color="secondary" />
            <HomeIcon style={{ color: '#FF5733' }} />
        </div>
    );
}

export default HomeComponent;

2. FontSize: Easily change the size of your icons.

import React from 'react';
import HomeIcon from '@mui/icons-material/Home';

const HomeComponent = () => {
    return (
        <div className="home-container">
            <HomeIcon fontSize="small" />
            <HomeIcon fontSize="default" />
            <HomeIcon fontSize="large" />
            <HomeIcon style={{ fontSize: '48px' }} />
        </div>
    );
}

export default HomeComponent;

3. Component: Render the icon as a different HTML tag.

import React from 'react';
import HomeIcon from '@mui/icons-material/Home';

const IconComponent = () => {
    return (
       <button>
        <HomeIcon component="span" />
       </button>
    );
}

export default IconComponent;
// usage

Import React from 'react'
import HomeIcon from 'your-relative-path'

const MyApp = () => {
.....
<IconComponent/>
}
.....

By combining these code samples, you will gain a better understanding of how to implement and customize MUI icons in real-world scenarios. Remember that, while these examples are useful, the true power of MUI icons lies in their adaptability. Feel free to experiment and tailor them to your specific needs.

The Power of SVG: Custom SVG Icons

Scalable Vector Graphics, or SVG, have transformed the way we think about and use graphics on the web. SVGs, unlike traditional bitmap images, are vector-based, which means they retain their clarity and sharpness regardless of size or resolution. This makes them an excellent choice for icons, particularly in an age when devices come in a wide range of screen sizes and resolutions.

Why SVG for Icons?

  1. Scalability: As mentioned, SVGs retain their quality at any size, making them ideal for responsive designs. Whether viewed on a smartphone, a tablet, or a 4K monitor, your icons will look crisp and clear.

  2. Flexibility: SVGs are essentially XML-based text files, which means they can be easily edited and styled using CSS or JavaScript. This allows for dynamic changes, animations, and even interactivity.

  3. Performance: Being lightweight and not requiring HTTP requests for each color or size variation, SVGs can significantly reduce the load times of your web pages.

  4. Accessibility: SVGs can be made accessible for screen readers, ensuring that your website is inclusive for all users.

Integrating Custom SVG Icons with MUI

Material-UI integrates SVG icons seamlessly, allowing you to leverage the power of SVG while benefiting from the consistency and functionality of the MUI framework.

Here’s how to include a custom SVG icon:

import { SvgIcon } from '@mui/material';

function CustomSVGIcon(props) {
  return (
    <SvgIcon {...props}>
      {/* Your SVG path data goes here */}
      <path d="M10 20v-6h4v6h5v-8h3L12 3 2 12h3v8z" />
    </SvgIcon>
  );
}

In the above lines of code:

  • You start by importing the SvgIcon component from MUI.

  • You then create CustomSVGIcon, a functional component that returns the SvgIcon component.

  • Put your SVG path data inside the SvgIcon component. This is the one-of-a-kind information that defines the shape and structure of your SVG.

Styling and Customizing Your SVG Icons

Using props and CSS, you can easily style and customize your SVG icons with MUI. To change the color or size of your SVG icon, for example:

<CustomSVGIcon color="primary" fontSize="large" />

Additionally, you can leverage CSS to add hover effects, animations, and more.

In conclusion, SVGs provide a powerful combination of performance, flexibility, and design benefits. When used in conjunction with Material-UI, you get a strong solution that ensures your icons are not only visually appealing but also functional and accessible. Using SVG icons in your projects will undoubtedly improve the user experience and distinguish your designs. If you would like a video piece that explains the concept of this section further you might want to check out this video.

Font Icons vs. SVGs: Choosing the Best for Your Project

In the world of web design and development, the selection of icons is critical in determining a website’s aesthetics, performance, and user experience. Font Icons and SVGs (Scalable Vector Graphics) are two of the most popular methods for incorporating icons. Both have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. So, how do you know which is best for your project? Let’s dissect it.

Font Icons: The Pros and Cons

Pros:

  1. Consistency: Font icons ensure a uniform look and feel, as they are essentially characters from a font set.

  2. Ease of Use: With popular libraries like Font Awesome, integrating and customizing font icons is a breeze.

  3. Scalability: Just like text, font icons can be resized without any loss of quality.

  4. CSS Styling: Being font characters, they can be styled using CSS properties like color, font-size, and text-shadow.

Cons:

  1. Limited Customization: While you can style font icons, creating custom designs might not be as straightforward.

  2. Performance: Loading an entire font icon library can impact website performance, especially if only a few icons are used.

SVGs: The Pros and Cons

Pros:

  1. Highly Customizable: SVGs can be edited, styled, and even animated using CSS and JavaScript.

  2. Resolution Independence: SVGs maintain their clarity across different resolutions and screen sizes.

  3. Performance: Only the necessary SVG files are loaded, leading to potentially faster load times.

  4. Interactivity: SVGs can be made interactive, responding to user actions like hovering or clicking.

Cons:

  1. Complexity: SVGs can be more complex to implement, especially for intricate designs.

  2. Browser Support: While most modern browsers support SVGs, older versions might have compatibility issues.

Making the Choice: Font Icons or SVGs?

The decision between Font Icons and SVGs largely depends on your project’s requirements:

  1. Project Scale: For smaller projects where only a few icons are needed, SVGs might be more efficient. For larger projects with a wide variety of icons, font icons could be more suitable.

  2. Customization Needs: If you need highly customized icons with intricate designs, SVGs are the way to go.

  3. Performance Concerns: If website performance is a top priority, consider the impact of loading an entire font icon library versus individual SVG files.

  4. Browser Compatibility: If your target audience uses older browsers, font icons might offer better compatibility.

Font Icons and SVGs both have distinct advantages, and the choice should be based on the specific needs and goals of your project. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each allows you to make an informed decision that improves the design, functionality, and user experience of your website.

Making Material Icons User-Friendly: The Importance of Accessibility

In the digital age, ensuring that websites and applications are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities, is not only a best practice—it is a requirement. Icons, as an important component of user interfaces, play an important role in this endeavor. The emphasis on accessibility becomes even more pronounced when discussing Material Icons, a product of the Material Design philosophy.

Why is Accessibility Important for Icons?

  1. Inclusivity: Approximately 15% of the world’s population is disabled in some way. Making icons accessible ensures that your website or application can be used by a wider range of people.

  2. Legal Implications: Many countries have regulations in place that mandate digital accessibility. Ensuring that icons are accessible can help in compliance with such laws.

  3. Enhanced User Experience: Accessible icons improve the user experience for all users, not just those with disabilities. Clear, understandable icons can reduce cognitive load and improve navigation.

Tips for Making Material Icons Accessible

  1. Descriptive Labels: Every icon should have a text label or an aria-label attribute that clearly describes its function. This ensures that screen readers can interpret the icon’s purpose to visually impaired users.

    <button aria-label="Close">
      <CloseIcon />
    </button>
  2. Contrast and Color: Ensure that icons have sufficient contrast against their background. This is especially important for users with color vision deficiencies. Tools like the WebAIM Contrast Checker can help in assessing contrast ratios.

  3. Size Matters: Icons that are too small can be challenging to discern, especially for users with visual impairments. Ensure that icons are of an adequate size and can be resized without loss of clarity.

  4. Avoid Reliance on Color Alone: Icons that convey information solely through color can be problematic for color-blind users. Always ensure there’s another way to convey the same information, be it through text, patterns, or shapes.

  5. Test with Real Users: The best way to ensure that your icons are accessible is to test them with real users, including those with disabilities. This can provide invaluable feedback and insights.

Material Icons, on the other hand, are designed to adhere to the principles of clarity, simplicity, and inclusivity. However, it is critical that their implementation in your project adheres to accessibility best practices. Material-UI, for example, provides tools and guidelines to make this process easier.

Conclusion

We’ve seen the transformative power of these tiny graphical elements, from understanding the fundamentals of Material UI icons to delving deep into the world of SVGs. While the distinction between Font Icons and SVGs may appear technical, it has far-reaching implications for design, performance, and user engagement. And, as we’ve previously stated, it’s an important reminder that in the digital realm, inclusivity isn’t an afterthought—it’s a requirement.

In closing, while the world of icons might seem vast and complex, with the right knowledge and tools, it’s an exciting realm of endless possibilities. And speaking of tools, for a moment imagine you are able to generate a fully functional react component from a design image without stress or hassle. Amazing right? An AI tool designed by the PureCode team called PureCode has been built to eliminate the stress of writing basic HTML and CSS, and all it takes to begin this journey is signing up and viola you have access to the AI tool, so why not Sign Up now? Here’s to creating more intuitive, beautiful, and inclusive digital spaces, one icon at a time!

Ola Boluwatife

Ola Boluwatife