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Collaborative UI Development

_andrewsecret profile image Andrew Secret | stay at 🏡 ・4 min read

Introduction

This guide will help frontend engineers and people from the UI community
to develop a common understanding of collaboration and why this particular
skill can improve the process of software development and product design in your
company. I will not describe implementation details or how to create the
next big Design System. But I will provide you the right methods and practices
to build a pattern library or even a design system. It will also help people who
already maintain a pattern library. To point out some problems I will start with
some storytelling.

The Status Quo Story

Let’s imagine ourselves in a successful company with a customer-centric
application. The company has a product department with a bunch of
cross-functional teams. The product designers maintain a design library to
align the design files, which they share with developers and managers.
Besides that, the developers maintain a pattern library, which provides UI
components and variables for the code in the product.

It's not a Technical Problem

The root of all evil here is the lack of collaboration. It’s like they are
all aliens from different planets and everyone speaks it's own language
(terminology)
. Yes, we’re all aliens… This is often the root cause of why
pattern libraries or design systems are failing in companies. A more common
condition is that the pattern library is initially built and maintained by a
frontend engineer. Nobody else than the frontend engineers know about the
pattern library. The maintenance condition of the pattern library is in a poor
state because of the fast-changing design library (which is maintained by the
product designers). Eventually, the developers gave up using the pattern
library, because it is not aligned with their new design files from the product
designers. Last but not least nobody feels responsible for maintaining the
pattern library.

Let’s sum up the problems:

  • lack of terminology
  • lack of interdisciplinary collaboration
  • lack of responsibility

Solution: Culture of Freedom ☮️

Everybody should have the freedom to think outside the box. We tend to end up
caught in the treadmill of daily business. This could have a negative side
effect that people aren't motivated and productive anymore. Trust me a motivated
person will add a lot of value to the company. It should be self-evident to have
that freedom in a healthy company culture. Nevertheless, the reality is sometimes
different. Then you should probably talk with your manager about it because
communication can sometimes work wonders. ✨

Regarding the problem described above this solution could be helpful for you if
you're just starting out with your goal and you need to create a solid
foundation. The main requirements for this solution are self-organization and
discipline. The crux here is to find a good balance between daily business and
your goal. Here's the way how it could work for you. Start with 1 hour per day
working on your goal. Try to stay focused and avoid distractions during that
time.

Let's sum up the requirements:

  • motivation
  • self-organization and discipline
  • talk with your manager, if there is no culture of freedom

When you've created a solid foundation to reach your goal, it's time to gather
people around you.

Solution: Create a Guild

A guild is a group of people who are working interdisciplinary on a problem.
This kind of collaboration works particularly well with cross-team projects like
a pattern library.

The main difference is that a guild is a group of people who are sharing the
same interests
. Those people are working across the whole company. Let's
take a look at this visual to get a better understanding:

Alt Text

Most important thing is to break the communication barriers between frontend
engineers
and product designers. Once this is done you should find a
balance between talking, listening, educating, and learning from each other. You
should always understand both sides and needs and this implied that you have to
be flexible and open-minded. The requirements for a guild are:

  • motivation and passion
  • self-organization and discipline
  • people from different disciplines (e.g frontend engineer and product designer)

To increase productivity within your guild it makes sense to designate a guild
coordinator. This role is more about keeping the process running like set up
meetings and define agendas.

Things You Should Try as a Guild

The following methods and practices could help you to establish a well
functioning guild:

  • 🧙‍♀️ designate a guild coordinator
  • 🗓 schedule weekly meetings
  • 📋 setup a shared board (e.g Notion) to track and prioritize your work
  • 🖋 write documentation about the usage of your UI components
  • 📣 use tools like Slack for external communication to announce new updates
  • 🌱 evangelize your pattern library or design system (e.g. do presentations)

With the guild, you should now have a solid foundation to develop a consistent
pattern library or even a design system that can be used across the whole
company. The important thing here is to keep the focus on alignment.

Conclusion

The truth is that things are not getting easier with it, but they should get
better. Collaboration and communication are often the most difficult parts of
our jobs and you need to learn how to use those skills. By the end of the day,
nothing here is set in stone and it’s not the ideal path to success for
everyone. But I hope that these thoughts and opinions can help you to find your
ideal way to establish a pattern library or design system in your company that
works.

Good luck 🍀

Links

Posted on May 17 by:

_andrewsecret profile

Andrew Secret | stay at 🏡

@_andrewsecret

I do something w/ Software • Stop fascism ☠️ • coffee enthusiast ☕️ • mechanical keyboards ⌨️

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