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UI shell header

This header is part of the Carbon UI shell. A shell is a collection of components shared by all products within a platform. It provides a common set of interaction patterns that persist between and across products.

v11 update: The UI shell is now themeable and has been updated to use inline theming. The UI shell uses Carbon theme tokens instead of component specific tokens and the color will follow each theme’s styles. For v10 implementation guidance, go to v10 UI Shell–Header.


The UI shell header is the foundation for navigating and orienting your user to the UI. The UI shell header can be used by itself or combined with the UI shell left and right panels for more complex UI navigation.

The UI shell is made up of three components—the header, the left panel, and the right panel. All three can be used independently, but the components were designed to work together.

Shell UI component
HeaderThe highest level of navigation. The header can be used on its own for simple products or be used to trigger the left and right panels.
Left panelAn optional panel that is used for a product’s navigation.
Right panelAn optional panel that shows additional system-level actions or content associated with a system icon in the header.

When to use

  • Identify the UI by name.
  • Globally persistent location for navigational links and utilities.


Header baseHas a persistent site title that can be used to identify a single page UI.
Header with navigationIncludes links and dropdowns for a simple navigation.
Header with actionsActions or utilities appear in the header as icon buttons to give users quick access to common utilities.
Header with sidenavThe header can be paired with the UI shell left panel to offer a deeper level of navigation in a UI.

Live demo



The header spans the full width of the viewport and is the topmost element in the browser window. The header is persistent throughout the product experience.

For each UI shell component, left-to-right translates to product-to-global. The left side of the header contains items relevant at the product level. Moving to the right along the header, the functions become more global. Elements in the middle of the header should represent system-level controls. Elements on the right side of the header, such as the switcher, are the most global in their scope and span multiple products.

Header anatomy
  1. Hamburger menu: The hamburger icon is used to open product navigation such as the left panel. The hamburger menu is only needed when there is a collapsable left navigation.

  2. Header name: For IBM products, the header name is always preceded by “IBM.”

  3. Header links: Links in the header are supported as product navigation, if required. These links move to the side menu in narrow screen widths.

  4. Sub-menu: Sub-menus are supported as product navigation, if required. Include the down-pointing chevron after the link label. Sub-menus open on click and are closed by either selecting an item in the menu, clicking outside the menu area, or clicking on the menu label. When open, the chevron should point up. Sub-menu labels serve only to open the dropdown; they cannot link to another page in the product.

  5. Header utilities: These utilities are reserved for universal, system-level functions such as profile, search, notifications, and similar functions. Not every product on a system is required to show the same utilities, but it is recommended for a better cross-product user experience.