Tabbed Interface Documentation


The Tabbed Interface is a versatile component in our design system that allows users to navigate between different sections of a web app. It provides a visually appealing and intuitive way to organize content, improving the overall user experience. This documentation will provide an in-depth explanation of the Tabbed Interface’s anatomy, guide on how to use it effectively, situations when it should not be used, and its differences from other common elements such as the Accordion. Additionally, accessibility guidelines and best practices for using the Tabbed Interface will be covered.

Anatomy of the Tabbed Interface

The Tabbed Interface consists of the following key elements:

  1. Tabs: These are the clickable headers or labels that represent each section or category. Users can click on a tab to display the corresponding content.
  2. Content Panels: These are the containers that hold the content related to each tab. When a tab is selected, its corresponding content panel is displayed while others are hidden.
  3. Active Tab Indicator: This is a visual cue that highlights the currently active tab. It helps users easily identify which tab is currently selected.

How to Use the Tabbed Interface

To effectively use the Tabbed Interface in your web app, follow these guidelines:

  1. Identify the Content Categories: Determine the different sections or categories of content that need to be organized within the interface. Each category will be represented by a tab.
  2. Design Consistent Tabs: Ensure that each tab follows a consistent design pattern throughout the interface. This includes font styles, colors, and hover/focus states.
  3. Group Related Content: Place the content associated with each tab in its respective content panel. The content should be organized in a logical and intuitive manner.
  4. Provide Clear Labels: Use concise and descriptive labels for each tab to clearly indicate the content category it represents. Avoid using ambiguous or generic labels.
  5. Handle Long Tab Labels: If a tab label is too long to fit within the available space, consider truncating it with an ellipsis and providing a tooltip with the full label on hover.
  6. Implement Tab Selection: When a tab is selected, display its corresponding content panel and visually indicate the active tab using an active tab indicator.
  7. Responsive Design: Ensure that the Tabbed Interface is responsive and adapts well to different screen sizes and orientations. Consider using a responsive design pattern, such as vertically stacked tabs on smaller screens.

When Not to Use the Tabbed Interface

While the Tabbed Interface is a versatile component, there are situations where it may not be the most appropriate choice:

  1. Limited Content: If there is only a small amount of content to be displayed, using tabs may not be necessary and could lead to unnecessary complexity.
  2. Sequential Flow: If the content needs to be presented in a sequential or linear manner, where each section builds upon the previous one, using a different component such as a wizard or stepper may be more suitable.
  3. Complex Interactions: If the content within each tab requires complex interactions or functionality that cannot be easily accommodated within the Tabbed Interface, consider using a different component or design pattern.

Tabbed Interface vs. Accordion

While both the Tabbed Interface and Accordion are used for organizing and displaying content, they have distinct differences:

  1. Tabbed Interface: The Tabbed Interface allows users to see the content of one tab at a time, with the ability to switch between tabs. It is best suited for when users need to compare or access different sections of content quickly.
  2. Accordion: The Accordion, on the other hand, displays only one section of content at a time, with the option to expand or collapse individual sections. It is ideal for presenting a large amount of content in a compact manner, where users can focus on one section at a time.

Consider the nature of your content and the user’s needs when deciding between the Tabbed Interface and Accordion.

Accessibility Guidelines and Best Practices

To ensure the Tabbed Interface complies with level AA of WCAG 2.2 and provides an inclusive experience, follow these accessibility guidelines and best practices:

  1. Keyboard Accessibility: Ensure that all tab headers and interactive elements within the content panels are keyboard accessible, allowing users to navigate and interact without relying on a mouse.
  2. Focus Indication: Provide a clear focus indication for tabs and interactive elements within the content panels. This helps users with visual impairments understand their current location and navigate the interface easily.
  3. ARIA Roles and Attributes: Use appropriate ARIA roles and attributes to enhance the accessibility of the Tabbed Interface. For example, use the “tablist” role for the container of tab headers and the “tabpanel” role for the content panels.
  4. Color Contrast: Maintain sufficient color contrast between the tab headers, content panels, and active tab indicator to ensure readability for users with low vision.
  5. Screen Reader Compatibility: Test the Tabbed Interface with screen readers to ensure all content is read correctly and in the intended order. Provide descriptive labels for each tab and ensure the content within the panels is presented in a logical manner.
  6. Responsive Accessibility: Ensure that the Tabbed Interface remains accessible and usable on different screen sizes and orientations. Consider how the interface behaves when tabs are stacked vertically or hidden behind a collapsed menu.

By adhering to these accessibility guidelines, you can ensure that all users, including those with disabilities, can effectively use and navigate the Tabbed Interface.


The Tabbed Interface is a powerful component in our design system that offers intuitive content organization and navigation for web apps. By following the provided guidelines, you can effectively utilize the Tabbed Interface while ensuring accessibility compliance. Remember to consider the content categories, design consistent tabs, and provide clear labels. Additionally, be aware of situations where the Tabbed Interface may not be the best choice and understand the differences between the Tabbed Interface and the Accordion. By incorporating these best practices, you can create a seamless and accessible user experience with the Tabbed Interface.