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Standards, Reuse, Consistency, & Libraries – Wednesday, November 10

A proven approach to reusable design elements that speeds development

Nathan Curtis

Nathan Curtis
Co-founder of EightShapes and author of Modular Web Design

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What’s the breakdown of the day?

Morning: Standards and Components

Start the day exploring standards. Nathan will give you a tour of the landscape, showing you where standardizing brings benefits. He’ll show you how to narrow your focus from the big picture to create the specific patterns and components.

Next up: learn how to hone in on your components. This is where you get to pick the needles out of your haystacks. After Nathan shares some of his ninja-grade tricks and techniques, you’ll get a chance to practice by identifying your own reusable components. It’ll be fun to compare what you’ve found with the other folks in the workshop—is everyone thinking along the same lines? You’ll be surprised!

Afternoon: Libraries and Modular Designs

Here’s where it gets really good: Create and communicate your component library. Organize your components into logical groups, to make finding and using as simple as possible. Learn Nathan’s tricks for creating teaching artifacts, to help spread the use of the library through your organization. Hear how to choose the right librarian—a critical choice if the library is going to thrive.

Top off the day with a deep dive into creating and documenting modular designs. You’ll explore how you’ll take the chunks and put them all together. Nathan has an exercise that will blow your socks off: you’ll have to assemble a page using another team’s library. Are you ready for the challenge?

Does your team face these problems?

  • New page designs take too long to create, even though they are similar to designs you’ve created before.
  • You feel like you have the same design conversations repeatedly.
  • You’re constantly fighting inconsistencies across the designs from your organization.
  • “Willy-nilly” is an unfortunately accurate description of your design and development process.
  • It’s too hard to move design elements from project to project and from designer to designer.
  • It’s difficult hold different teams accountable for past design decisions, and their ad-hoc “creative approaches” make the results harder to use and maintain.

Why build your own library?

Any organization that’s serious about building web sites and applications quickly discovers the need to reuse design elements and components. Style guides don’t help and page templates only take you so far.

There are some nice generic pattern libraries emerging, but they don’t really handle the difficult stuff—the plethora of elements in every design that are unique to the needs of your business. Only with a custom library can you leverage your investment in your existing design system and tools.

The library becomes a resource for everyone in the organization. It’s a snapshot of where you’ve been; highlighting the most useful work your team has created. It’ll speed your future development efforts by taking full advantage of your past design and development investments.

When you put a pattern or component library into service, your organization jumps to a new level. It takes you from the chaotic world of making-stuff-up to a place where you’re optimizing both the design and the development process. Better designs, developed faster. That’s what it’s all about.

How will you benefit from design element reuse?

The first benefit is immediate: By identifying the reusable elements, you create a common design vocabulary that speeds communication between your team members. Having a common language to discuss what you’re designing makes life immediately simpler.

Watch the benefits pile up with straightforward adjustments to your current practices.

The second benefit arrives soon after: The team now communicates their design using more effective deliverables. Having isolated out the re-usable components, these now become shorthand in the design process, bringing the design discussions to a higher level.

It’s when the toolkits that speed on-boarding emerge that things really take off. When a team member can throw together a solid design in mere minutes, where it used to take hours, you really notice the benefits from the pattern library.

Imagine the glee your developers will have when you hand them a design filled with elements they recognize immediately. Not only will they know what you’re looking for, but it’s likely the code is mostly done, which means you’ll see everything working much faster.

The speed that comes from a solid library pays for the work of making it happen. But the real benefit is how much better the designs are, since everyone is playing to the same tune.

What makes this workshop exciting?

Nathan knows his stuff. He’s been there, in the trenches of serious design projects. He has great stories of how teams have made this work. He’ll share the serious mistakes others have made (and how to avoid making them yourself).

“I loved the stories of teams that succeeded and the pitfalls to avoid.”

You’ll be amazed at how quickly the day will go by and just how much you’ve learned in the process. You’ll be dazzled by how damn easy it is to design a web page when you’ve got all the components laid out for you.

The workshop's highlight is a little exercise Nathan calls “Cut Up Your Page.” Grab your scissors and printed screen shots, and start cutting out the reusable components of the design. Once you’ve collected the elements, you’ll combine them into logical groups. That’s how easy it is to start your library.

This workshop has us excited already and it hasn’t even started yet!

Why did we pick Nathan?

Go back just a few years: Nobody was talking about how you build a library of your own application and organization-specific design elements. Nobody, that is, until Nathan Curtis. Nathan saw how the real value of pattern libraries comes when organizations can use them to create their own standards and consistent designs.

Nathan is a walking library on building effective pattern libraries.

In 2009, we asked Nathan to organize his thinking to teach teams at our UIE Web App Summit. He gathered his workfor clients such as Sun Microsystems, Discovery, and Marriott, and put it together in an exciting, information-packed full-day workshop. It was a huge success, enjoyed by everyone in attendance.

Nathan’s new book, Modular Web Design: Creating Reusable Components for User Experience Design and Documentation, has become a bible for everyone producing their own libraries. He’s updated this year’s User Interface 15 Conference workshop to include new work he’s done, making it a don’t-miss seminar for everyone who wants to speed their development process.

What’s the next step?

If Nathan’s workshop isn’t quite what you’re looking for, explore the other 7 workshops. There’s also a whole day of Featured Talks with all the UI15 experts.