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API Design Approach

We have learned a great deal regarding how MUI 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.


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, e.g. paperWidthXs in the Dialog component.
  • The variants applied by a boolean prop aren't prefixed, e.g. the rounded class applied by the rounded prop.
  • The variants applied by an enum prop are prefixed, e.g. 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 sub-components, 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?"

Property naming

The name of a boolean prop should be chosen based on the default value. This choice allows:

  • the shorthand notation. For example, the disabled attribute on an input element, if supplied, defaults to true:

    <Input enabled={false} /><Input disabled />
  • developers to know what the default value is from the name of the boolean prop. It's always the opposite.

Controlled components

Most of the controlled component are controlled via the value and the onChange props, however, the open / onClose / onOpen combination is used for display related state. In the cases where there are more events, we put the noun 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 MUI 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, e.g. a 'div'. See also React Implementation Notes.
  • host element: a DOM node in the context of react-dom, e.g. an instance of window.HTMLDivElement.
  • outermost: The first component when reading the component tree from top to bottom i.e. breadth-first search.
  • root component: the outermost component that renders a host component.
  • root element: the outermost element that renders a host component.