For as long as I can remember working with teams on the web, I’ve been a big proponent of developing style guides and code pattern libraries as part of any web project.
A style guide, for those not familiar, is a deliverable created by designers to lay out the design patterns and rules for the project. The pattern library is the translation of that design language into code for the use of developers and software engineers (some folks consider code libraries to be part and parcel of “living” style guides; I agree and call out each one for clarity here). At Think Company, these deliverables are core components of any Build Kit® we deliver.
On a few occasions, when I’ve described the Build Kit to prospective clients, I’ve heard sentiments such as, “something like that could have really helped us successfully implement our last project,” or, “I wish we had a Build Kit for our current web site.”
While it’s definitely a useful tool to have while implementing a new design, a Build Kit can be useful long past its initial creation and delivery—in fact, the long-term success of your user experience depends on your team’s diligence in maintaining an up-to-date style guide and pattern library.
The web was never meant to be static. A web site, once launched, will undergo many changes over time, whether it be new content or added application features. Anything new should be added in such a way that the design rules continue to be honored—and those rules will also likely need to be updated if new features differ significantly from what already exists. Likewise, the code to create new features should leverage or expand upon what’s already in the pattern library.
These small maintenance tasks will mean that the next new feature may be able to reuse existing design rules or code, and it will ultimately take much less time to reach your audience.
What do you do if you don’t have a style guide or pattern library for your web site or application? There’s no time like the present to create one! A UX designer and a web developer can collaborate to inventory an existing web site to identify patterns and rules in a short amount of time. In an ideal situation, they’ll find consistent application of design rules and code implementations—however, in some situations they may identify inconsistencies that should be addressed in order to create a consistent experience for both users and those maintaining the site for the long term.
If you’re interested in learning more about style guides and pattern libraries, check out the exhaustive resources at styleguide.io. If you’d like to know more about how Think Company can help you with a Build Kit, get in touch!