Yahoo! Publishes Design Pattern Library

Christine Perfetti

February 22nd, 2006

I just returned from presenting a one-day course in Portland, Oregon where I had the opportunity to talk with more than 40 designers, programmers, and content writers about their specific design challenges.

Every time I give a course, I learn a tremendous amount about the problems that designers face. One of the big themes of the day was how difficult it is for organizations to manage the dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of people contributing content and creating design elements on their sites.

Some of the questions attendees asked:

  • How can they get everyone contributing to the design on the same page?
  • How can they guarantee that all of the designers produce successful results?
  • Should they stick with their current templates or style guides?

Lately, one promising strategy we’ve shared with design teams is the creation of a Design Pattern Library. A design pattern describes a specific design problem that an organization has dealt with, such as presenting a login screen. The design pattern consists of a pattern name, a description of the design problem, the design solution, and the designer’s rationale behind that solution. (For more details about how to create a pattern, Jared recently wrote an article about the different components of a design pattern.)

We’ve really started to see design patterns take off within organizations. We’ve worked with several design teams that are now focused on building their own design pattern libraries. Even more exciting is that organizations have started to share their pattern libraries with the design community. For example, just this month, Yahoo published the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library.

We don’t advocate that design teams blindly follow the patterns outlined in Yahoo’s library. After all, your sites have their own unique goals and users. However, Yahoo’s design pattern library is a great model for organizations to review before getting started on creating their own internal libraries. While building a design pattern library takes a lot of time and energy, we’re definitely seeing organizations reap the benefits from their efforts.

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