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Cross-posted from DIGITALGOV
My team at the Federal Reserve is about to launch our first style guide and now that we have gone through the process and created this valuable resource, I can’t imagine creating another app or website without it. Here’s why your team needs a style guide and lessons learned from our experience.
Let’s start with the basics. A style guide is a reference document that can consist of styles, interactions, and user experience patterns and solutions that solve common and recurring design problems. Here’s what our guide consists of:
Our guide has three different sections:
Within every section of our style guide, we answer the following questions about each topic:
Like other style guides created for the web, we’ve also included code snippets where applicable to each topic we cover.
Consider your team’s needs, preferences and context to create a style guide that works for you. Here are some tips:
After pursuing other style guides for structural ideas, pause and think about your team. How does your team communicate? Do you have a shared language around design and development topics? Does any part of your process, whether agile, learn or otherwise, need to be considered in the structure? Information architecture should be your first step, and don’t expect to get it right the first time.
You can also think about user testing your style guide, or particular sections, to confirm that your team is aligned with other departments. Would agency communications or public affairs be interested in editing or contributing? Is your guide easily accessible as judged by its copy?
Even though our style guide isn’t fully launched (yet!), I’ve already seen changes in our team’s productivity and communication. Why? Because at its heart, a style guide is a tool to better communicate. When communication is clear, productivity improves.
Resources, including your time, can also be used more effectively the launch of a style guide. Instead of spelling out every single design decision, it’s possible for teammates to reference the same guidelines. When you don’t have to delve into side conversations about when to use a radio button and when to use a checkbox, larger conversations about design can happen.
Once you have a style guide, it’s much easier to scale. You have a foundation to make products in a modular way, if you choose. Your style guide will help you build whatever is next.