|All this talk of recession and the web is currently awash with generosity. After my favourable words about the BBC who gave us a view of their new design language, Yahoo! have decided to go one better and provide their entire pattern library and developer tools for free.
Very kind and of course there is a monetary side to it but the new site is live here and during the day long workshop they gave at the IA Summit 2008 the complete set was given away on a memory key.
Apart from the Visio stencils they also wrapped up the code to go with it, which the developers in my company were very pleased to have a look at and we hope we can use. Very timely considering our current projects.
There were also some really good observations that came from the team – Erin Malone, Christian Crumlish and Lucas Pettinati and a very thorough step-by-step of getting through the process of building, reviewing and rating patterns.
By their own admission this was their first workshop, but to be honest it didn’t show. Initially they outlined four core needs that design patterns were built to satisfy.
They need to be living (in an online destination accessible by all). Its important to note not a wiki, which are inherently difficult to navigate, patterns become lost and anyone can edit. Administration rights are important here.
They need to have developers at their core. they need to be checked and verified with those that will build the pattern code.
They are there to satisfy the need of having a knowledge centre and to be able to distribute those elements easily amongst a team
They fulfil the need to promote debate and conversation around important functional elements of a design
They also stated that patterns were not prescriptive but descriptive, more about choices rather than declarations that must be followed. They are not standards although through repeated use they become a standard treatment, such as a login pattern for instance.
They asserted the fact that there is no one way to design an interaction, failure conditions (when the interaction encountered different condition states) were also held up as useful inclusions into the formulation of a pattern.
Another great point, is that in a business there are different weights of emphasis put upon visual and interactive design. This can often be at the wrong stage in a product’s life cycle and are two different areas of expertise and skill.
However, because there is code behind this pattern library, patterns are developed to completion. Developers work with the interaction designers very closely and the business can see the benefit of this collaboration.
Erin added a salient truth about working methods…
It’s all about relationships and if you don’t have a good relationship then no tool (or methodology) is going to fix that.
Patterns do need maintenance and a level of administration and they will evolve over time and change. Both Erin and Christian mentioned the need to ‘tickle’ (revisit) the pattern or ‘sunset’ it (phase it out due to a new technology making the pattern redundant). Above all the creation and maintenance of a library is like so many design led activities, iterative.
On selling the use of patterns in your business, Erin commented…
People will not turn away from saving time and money. Rapid prototyping enables that.
After the day’s workshop it was easy to see the strength of patterns. They give the ability to build bridges between disciplines and ensure a collaborative working environment. They also enable a quick turn around in seeing working prototypes – that is key to the agile methodology that so many businesses are employing. Its actually made me think they are the perfect catalysts for cultural change within an established ‘way of doing things’.
The most important part for me is that these are tools of collaboration and are unbounded by process or methodologies. That can only be a good thing and will help to guarantee these being a solid foundation for the developer community. It will also enable those working on products from different disciplines to be brought closer together.
All in all it was a valuable and enjoyable days session from a group of designers who are dedicated and passionate about their work.