Getting started

For developers

The UI components are built on a solid HTML foundation, progressively enhanced to provide core experiences across browsers. All users will have access to the same critical information and experiences regardless of what browser they use, although those experiences will render better in newer browsers. If JavaScript fails, users will still get a robust HTML foundation.


United States Web Design System

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The United States Web Design System includes a library of open source UI components and a visual style guide for U.S. federal government websites.

This repository is for the design system code itself. We maintain another repository for the documentation and website. To see the design system and its documentation on the web, visit



USWDS components and style guide follow industry-standard accessibility guidelines and use the best practices of existing style libraries and modern web design. The U.S. Digital Service and 18F created USWDS for designers and developers. USWDS is a project of GSA’s Technology Transformation Service, maintained by the Office of Products and Programs. They are designed for use by government product teams who want to create beautiful, easy-to-use online experiences for the public. To learn more about the project, check out this blog post and to view websites and applications check out our list here.

Recent updates

Information about the most recent release of the design system can always be found in the release history. We include details about significant updates and any backwards incompatible changes along with a list of all changes.

Getting started

We’re glad you’d like to use the design system — here’s how you can get started:

Using the design system

How you implement the design system depends on the needs of your project and your workstyle. We recommend implementing the design system with npm, but we also provide a direct download if npm will not work for you or your project.


  1. Download the USWDS zip file from the latest USWDS release and open that file.

    After extracting the zip file you should see the following file and folder structure:

    ├── css/
    │   ├──
    │   ├── uswds.min.css
    │   └── uswds.css
    ├── fonts/
    ├── img/
    ├── js/
    │   ├──
    │   ├── uswds.min.js
    │   └── uswds.js
    └── scss/
  2. Copy these files and folders into a relevant place in your project’s code base. Here is an example structure for how this might look:

    ├── assets/
    │   ├── uswds-2.5.0/
    │   ├── stylesheets/
    │   ├── images/
    │   └── javascript/
    └── index.html

    You’ll notice in our example above that we also outline a stylesheets, images and javascript folder in your assets folder. These folders are to help organize any assets that are unique to your project and separate from the design system assets.

  3. Reference the CSS and JavaScript files in each HTML page or dynamic templates in your project. We also provide Sass (.scss) files in the zip package which you can use to generate new CSS with project-specific settings. See Sass and theme settings for more information.

    Here is an example of how to reference these assets in your index.html file:

    <!DOCTYPE html>
        <meta charset="utf-8" />
        <meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge" />
        <title>My Example Project</title>
        <link rel="stylesheet" href="assets/uswds-2.5.0/css/uswds.min.css" />
        <script src="assets/uswds-2.5.0/js/uswds.min.js"></script>

We offer both the CSS and the JavaScript in two versions — minified and un-minified. (In the examples above, we are using the minified files.) Use the minified files in a production environment or to reduce the file size of your downloaded assets. Use the un-minified files if you are in a development environment or would like to debug the CSS or JavaScript assets in the browser.

And that’s it — you should now be able to copy our code samples into your index.html and start using the design system.

Install using npm

npm is a package manager for Node-based projects. USWDS maintains a uswds package that includes both the pre-compiled and compiled files — just like the direct download. npm packages make it easy to update and install the design system from the command line.

  1. Install Node/npm. Below is a link to find the install method that coincides with your operating system:

    Note for Windows users: If you are using Windows and are unfamiliar with Node or npm, we recommend following Team Treehouse’s tutorial for more information.

  2. Make sure you have installed it correctly:

    npm -v
    6.13.0 # This line may vary depending on what version of Node you've installed.
  3. Create a package.json file. You can do this manually, but an easier method is to use the npm init command. This command will prompt you with a few questions to create your package.json file.

  4. Add uswds to your project’s package.json:

    npm install --save uswds@latest

The uswds module is now installed as a dependency. You can use the un-compiled files found in the node_modules/uswds/dist/ directory.

├── dist/
│   ├── css/
│   ├── fonts/
│   ├── img/
│   ├── js/
│   └── scss/

Note: We do not recommend directly editing the design system files in node_modules. One of the benefits of using a package manager is its ease of upgrade and installation. If you make customizations to the files in the package, any upgrade or re-installation will wipe them out.

Using the USWDS package

If you want to take full advantage of USWDS custom settings and add build new styles and components with the USWDS toolset, you’ll need a way to access the assets in the USWDS package and compile custom CSS from the USWDS source files.

USWDS uses the task manager Gulp as a way to add USWDS assets to a project and compile our CSS from the package source. Gulp is a useful and powerful tool, but it can be difficult to set up if you are new to it.

The uswds-gulp repo is made for developers new to Gulp or those who just want a simple setup to get started quickly. The repo contains files and instructions for installing Gulp 4.0 in your project, initializing USWDS, and compiling CSS from the source files.

Sass and theme settings

The design system is customizable using the power of Sass (Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets). The critical files you’ll need in your project are those in dist/scss/theme:

├── components/
├── core/
├── elements/
├── lib/
├── packages/
├── settings/
├── theme/
│   ├── _uswds-theme-color.scss
│   ├── _uswds-theme-components.scss
│   ├── _uswds-theme-custom-styles.scss
│   ├── _uswds-theme-general.scss
│   ├── _uswds-theme-spacing.scss
│   ├── _uswds-theme-typography.scss
│   ├── _uswds-theme-utilities.scss
│   ├── styles.scss

styles.scss looks something like the following code. It adds all the project theme settings, then adds USWDS source, and finally adds your project’s custom styles:

@import "uswds-theme-general";
@import "uswds-theme-typography";
@import "uswds-theme-spacing";
@import "uswds-theme-color";
@import "uswds-theme-utilities";
@import "uswds";
@import "uswds-theme-custom-styles";

Technical note: The @import 'uswds' statement above needs to reference the uswds.scss file in node_modules/uswds/dist/scss. The gulpfile in uswds-gulp is set up to do this automatically, using gulp-sass and includePaths.

Sass compilation requirements

The design system requires autoprefixing to work properly. This is included in the uswds-gulp package.

Autoprefixing uses a service like gulp-autoprefixer to automatically add vendor prefixes to the precompiled stylesheets. Don’t add vendor prefixes to your custom styles manually — it is more reliable to use autoprefixing. We use the following autoprefixer settings:

'> 2%','Last 2 versions', 'IE 11'

Note: media query sorting is no longer required as of USWDS 2.5.0. We minify and sort media queries with csso to improve performance and file size, but utility classes now output with the proper cascade with no additional postprocessing.

We recommend using a minifier like csso to compress your final compiled CSS and sourcemaps like gulp-sourcemaps to keep track of the location of all the source Sass for easier debugging.


require('uswds') will load all of USWDS’s JavaScript onto the page. Add this line to whatever initializer you use to load JavaScript into your application.

Use another framework or package manager

If you’re using another framework or package manager that doesn’t support npm, you can find the source files in this repository and use them in your project. Otherwise, we recommend that you follow the download instructions. Please note that the core team isn’t responsible for all frameworks’ implementations.

If you’re interested in maintaining a package that helps us distribute USWDS, the project’s build system can help you create distribution bundles to use in your project. Please read our contributing guidelines to locally build distributions for your framework or package manager.

CSS architecture

For more information, visit: 18F’s CSS Front End Guide

JS customization

Unfortunately, customizing the JavaScript for the USWDS currently requires NodeJS and a module bundler like Browserify or Webpack. We apologize for this inconvenience, and are working to resolve it in a future release of the design system.

The JavaScript for the USWDS is separated into components in the same manner as the visual interface which is all initialized with event handlers when the DOM is ready. These components are accessible as CommonJS modules that can be required in other JavaScript files which then must be built for the browser. The components are currently not accessible in the global browser scope, but can be extended to be included by requiring components and setting it to a global scope:

window.uswds = require("./components");

Each component has a standardized interface that can be used to extend it further. The components store a HTML class name (e.g. .usa-accordion__button[aria-controls]) that’s used to link HTML elements with the JS component, so when a component is initialized, it will search through the current HTML DOM finding all elements that match its class and inialize the component JavaScript for those elements. The primary methods each component has are as follows:

Some components have additional methods for manipulating specific aspects of them based on what they are and what they do. These can be found in the component’s JS file.

Customization, theming, and tokens

USWDS 2.0 provides extensive support for theming via its theme settings files introduced in Sass and theme settings, above.

Set theme settings with USWDS design tokens, not with values directly. They tend to be quoted strings like 'desktop' or 'md' or unitless numbers like 2 or -1.5. Tokens are the values passed into the USWDS functions and mixins that parse them. They are the keys that, through the mechanism of a function or mixin, unlock a value — they are not the values themselves.

Visit the Design tokens section of USWDS 2.0 documentation for more on the available tokens for color, spacing units, font size, and more.

Using tokens in theme settings

The following is an example of theme settings from _uswds-theme-spacing.scss:

$theme-site-max-width: "desktop";
$theme-site-margins-breakpoint: "desktop";
$theme-site-margins-width: 4;
$theme-site-margins-mobile-width: 2;

The USWDS uses those tokens to build component styles:

.usa-example {
  @include u-padding-x($theme-site-margins-mobile-width);
  max-width: units($theme-site-max-width);

  @include at-media($theme-site-margins-breakpoint) {
    @include u-padding-x($theme-site-margins-width);

This is the functional equivalent of:

.usa-example {
  @include u-padding-x(2);
  max-width: units("desktop");

  @include at-media("desktop") {
    @include u-padding-x(4);

Which, if $theme-respect-user-font-size is set to true would output something like:

.usa-example {
  padding-left: 1rem;
  padding-right: 1rem;
  max-width: 64rem;

@media screen and (min-width: 64em) {
  .usa-example {
    padding-left: 2rem;
    padding-right: 2rem;

In general, USWDS sets variables with tokens, and passes those variables into functions and mixins in the source Sass.

Set the base asset paths (fonts and images)

The values of $theme-font-path and $theme-image-path will be appended to USWDS font paths and image paths, respectively:

$theme-font-path:   '../fonts';
$theme-image-path:  '../img';

Where things live

Browser support

We’ve designed the design system to support older and newer browsers through progressive enhancement. The current major version of the design system (2.0) follows the 2% rule: we officially support any browser above 2% usage as observed by Currently, this means that the design system version 2.0 supports the newest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer 11 and up.


The design system also meets the WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility guidelines and conforms to the standards of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. We’re happy to answer questions about accessibility — email us for more information.


We’re using Fractal to generate an interactive component library for the design system. You can run it locally after npm install with:

npm start

Then, visit http://localhost:3000/ to see the design system in action.

Optional: To re-build when code changes are made, run the following command from the project directory in a separate terminal window:

npm run watch

Template compatibility

Many of our Fractal view templates are compatible with Nunjucks (for JavaScript/Node), Jinja (Python), and Twig (PHP) out of the box. Components that reference other components use a Fractal-specific {% render %} tag that will either need to be implemented in other environments or replaced with the appropriate {% include %} tags.

Long-term support of v1.x

Version 1.x is in maintenence mode and will be supporting critical bug fixes through January 2020.

Need installation help?

Do you have questions or need help with setup? Did you run into any weird errors while following these instructions? Feel free to open an issue here:

You can also email us directly at

Contributing to the code base

For complete instructions on how to contribute code, please read These instructions also include guidance on how to set up your own copy of the design system style guide website for development.

If you would like to learn more about our workflow process, check out the Workflow and Issue label Glossary pages on the wiki.

If you have questions or concerns about our contributing workflow, please contact us by filing a GitHub issue or emailing our team.