Patterns Day

Today I was lucky enough to travel down to Brighton and attend #PatternsDay with a few developers and designers from @AutoTraderLife. It’s a great conference worth attending if you get the chance. Here are a few thoughts/themes from the day:

  • Be reassured no matter how professional and together the design system showcases you see from large companies are they are struggling too. Whether your one person or a team you will still be reacting to changes, fighting fires and trying to convince people over and over.

  • It’s okay to be reactive. Add things when you need them. Personally I need to be a little less “This should have been documented.” And more “It’s okay this hasn’t been documented, but now we need it, I’ll add it.”

  • Every line of content you add to the documentation is another thing for a designer or developer to take on board and think about.

  • Common components and patterns you might pick up from other design systems need to be tested in the context of your website/app/product. Removing a component may increase conversions in one app and have a negative impact another. This has been tested.

  • It’s worth keeping in mind the potential impact on efficiency of components before you add them to the design system.

  • It’s time to move on from using consistency as a crutch to justify a design system. It may not have much of an impact on users as we first thought.

  • You will have the same conversations over and over as you excite colleagues to use a design system and they naturally lose interest as other priorities kick in. Get good at those conversations.

  • The Government Digital Service provide honest reasoning and research into why a component is used or built that way. It reminded me of Architecture Decision Records which is a way of documenting decisions about a codebase and are stored within the codebase itself. Helps with questions like “Why did we pick React for this solution?” especially if person who’s made the decision has left the company.

  • I’d be interested in finding out which companies have gone down the route for separate versions for individual components. I think Financial Times started theirs like that. Means you could release a new version of the component without blocking updates to other components. But then adds complexity with multiple packages.

The conference itself is organised well, has the comfiest seats I’ve sat on at a venue, and free barista coffee. You won’t get lunch but there are plenty of great places to eat. You may find yourself queuing for the toilets though.

Brighton is a lovely city well worth a visit especially when it’s sunny. 😎

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