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Weeknotes #9

I attended Patterns Day in Brighton this week so that I will look on that through a few different lenses.

Patterns Day: confirmation lenses

Our design system at is about one year old. We have a team of 5 people working on it full-time and still – there are still so many things to solve and improve. There is still so many stuff that doesn’t work well.

And some talks, for me especially from Amy (about content in design systems) and Inayaili (about untruths of design systems), have confirmed to me that we are not doing it that wrong or that also bigger design systems teams are solving very similar issues.

Some tweets worth mentioning and remembering:

Patterns Day: inspiration lenses

My biggest challenge in Orbit is now to improve its documentation – so it’s probably not surprising that topics around documentation resonated with me the most for the whole day.

Some ideas I want to explore more very soon:

  • Checklist for essential documentation for each component:

    • How it looks
    • How it behaves
    • What copy to use
    • How it’s accessible
    • Code to copy
  • Using nouns for components, but using verbs for patterns – because patterns are ways of doing things.
  • Adding page “Research” to component documentation if there was some research done for it. ( document decisions behind design and behavior of that component)
  • Interactive changelog as part of the documentation ( let people pick a version they want to migrate and a version they are migrating to)
  • The content about design system is also part of the documentation (and roles of a content designer/writer)
  • When we have design principles ready, we can add information about which components can help (example: showing one thing at a time a.k.a progressive disclosure can recommend Expandable Cards or Collapse components as helpful)

Patterns Day: realization lenses

“Someone needs a custom component every day.”

This is something that I was trying to fight in the past. Take Orbit for example – internally, we’ve made sure that it’s tough to customize the styling of components, with our explanation that it’ll just help us to maintain it better in the future. Reality? People always find a way how to adjust behavior and look of the component.

I would say that we’ve, as a team, matured a bit from last year. We are now discussing how to make customization of components flexible and maintainable at the same time. And we are looking for inspiration how other design systems are doing it – Material Design and Baseweb from Uber are doing a hell of a job in theming.

“When we provide theming, some times what is available is not enough.” Una Kravets

Also, better theming and flexibility can be pretty useful now, when we are going full-power open source with Orbit and want to offer it to external folks for helping them start their travel projects. I am looking forward to how Orbit will change with this new perspective.

Patterns Day – other stuff I liked

  • Alla Kholmatova was geeking about finding a chance to test if the design system can improve conversion. And then failing to prove it (but still, enjoying it).
  • Amy Hupe was promoting a lean approach to design systems: finding needs, building what is needed, matching it with organization needs.

“Meta-design is much more difficult than design; it’s easier to draw something than to explain how to draw it” - Donald Knuth.

And last but not least – Stuart Robson did a pretty good job with his live notes. 👏

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