Weighing outcomes over output from design system teams.

drafting instruments on top of table
drafting instruments on top of table
Measuring Tools — Photo by Fleur on Unsplash

If you work with design systems, here’s a scenario that may sound familiar:

You got buy-in to create a new design system, likely based on the promise of increasing the productivity of designers and front-end developers and improving speed to market.

You built a component library, UI toolkit, and documentation. You released the system “officially” and started sharing it with other product teams.

But as those who work on design systems know, building the system is only the start.

Adoption of the system is essential, but there are many adoption hurdles that must be managed across the teams intended to use the system, including prioritization, framework compatibility, and access to tools. …


How do we evolve our systems over time?

sculpture of Lady Justice blindfolded and holding balance scales
sculpture of Lady Justice blindfolded and holding balance scales
Lady Justice balancing the pros and cons. Photo credit: Unsplash

Once a design system is up and running, how do we evolve it to bring in new patterns or best practices? What do we tell our users when they can’t find something they need in the system, or are tempted to break a pattern for their specific use case? How do we know if a new pattern or component should be added to the system?

Governance and maintenance is essential for living digital systems, and like many pioneers in the world of design systems, the Cedar Design System team is figuring out how to answer these questions as we go.

(Hint: communication, experimentation, and building strong partnerships are some of the keys to success we’ve learned so far.) …


What I’ve learned from Toastmasters about becoming a better public speaker (hint: it takes practice)

silver corded microphone in shallow focus
silver corded microphone in shallow focus
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

Are you terrified by the thought of giving a speech? When speaking up in front of a crowd, are you hit with a jolt of anxiety that causes your heart to race and your hands to start sweating or trembling?

Do you wish you felt more confident speaking up in meetings or giving presentations?

You’re not alone — it’s estimated that as much as 75 percent of the population has some level of anxiety regarding public speaking.

I used to feel that way, too. I still do, if I’m being completely honest. But I have found ways to overcome this fear with the help of my local Toastmasters club, and I want to share some of those lessons with you. …


Using human conversation patterns to design more natural digital interactions

silhouette of man and woman sitting on ottoman
silhouette of man and woman sitting on ottoman
Photo: Etienne Boulanger/Unsplash

We increasingly rely on digital systems to either mediate or replace human communications. But often, these experiences feel clunky and impersonal, or even scammy and deceptive.

Asking Alexa to add something to my shopping cart is a breeze:

“Hey Alexa, add bananas to my shopping list.”

“Okay, I’ve added bananas to your shopping list.”

But if I want to add 10 things to my list, I have to ask Alexa again to add each individual item.

“Alexa, add peanut butter to my shopping list.”

“Okay, I’ve added peanut butter to your shopping list.”

“Alexa, add strawberry jam to my shopping list.” …


How little bits of code can improve the design process

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grayscale photography of person holding coin (Photo by ZSun Fu on Unsplash)

Does this sound familiar?

A seemingly-straightforward digital project, like a website redesign or brand update, takes longer than expected and you’re not quite sure why?

I think most of us working in tech have been there. Whatever the cause, or combination of causes, maybe you’re like me, and thought “there has to be a better way.”

So you rally the team, have a retro, focus on learning, and try to iterate the process.

But progress is gradual and can feel too slow as you scan the horizon for what’s next.

When the next thing comes along, a rising wave in the distance, you turn and start paddling out to catch it. …


Lessons learned from launching a new design system.

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Backstory

I joined the digital design systems team at REI in May 2018, about a month ahead of a planned MVP launch of a shiny new design system.

As Program Manager, my initial objectives were to lead communication around the launch and drive adoption of the system parts and pieces across our product portfolio. Over time, I would be responsible for helping define the roadmap for the design system and prioritize our team’s backlog accordingly, partnering with key stakeholders and the product teams that our system supported.

But first, I had lots of learning to do. 📚

While I had many years of experience with digital product development and content management systems coming into this role, my knowledge of design systems was minimal. I’d worked with style guides and design languages as part of the design process, and had been exposed to the concept of Atomic Design, so I understood the theory of design systems at a high level, but didn’t know yet what truly makes a design system a system. …


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Cargo shipyard in Singapore, photo by chuttersnap

A thoughtful design system can be a powerful foundation for future growth

To keep pace with new technology and digital platforms, organizations are increasingly turning to systems to help scale and cultivate a healthy environment for growth.

Digital product development teams have adopted successful systems from other areas to build efficiently at scale —including applying principles and tactics from Agile software development and Lean manufacturing to increase speed and reduce waste.

More efficient development enables organizations to grow a larger portfolio of digital products and multichannel ecosystems that can include the web, email, mobile devices, online chat, and physical locations.

To maintain growth at an enterprise level, and create a cohesive and consistent experience for customers across these various touchpoints and channels, design must also be able to scale efficiently. …


How the Internet of Value enables better working relationships for freelancers and protects content creators

worm’s-eye-view of white concrete building
worm’s-eye-view of white concrete building
Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

The state of blockchain technology today is often compared to the internet in the early 1990s — we’re still in the early innings. While the internet transformed how we share information and connect, blockchain is now transforming how we exchange value and who we trust.

A new vision for the digital era, where value can be exchanged as easily and freely as information, is propelling us from the information age to a new Internet of Value. Beyond cryptocurrency, blockchain enables the exchange of any asset that has value to someone.

One area where the potential of blockchain can begin to be realized is smart contracts, which take advantage of the secure and decentralized ledger that underlies blockchain technology. …


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In today’s flooded markets for products and services, it’s increasingly difficult to stand out in the sea of noise and stay competitive.

Consumers have ever higher standards and expectations — as they should — and are quick to abandon any product or service that is confusing, slow, or doesn’t meet their needs.

Stickiness, or an active user base, is difficult to achieve; industry benchmarks show that the median for most industries is less than three days of activity per month per user, and retention rates of most products drop significantly after just one week.

Among the millions of apps available for download in Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store, nearly 85% of all smartphone usage is allocated to 5 apps or fewer, and almost 4 out 5 users never use an app again three days after they install it. Think about it — how often have you downloaded an app, only to forget about it until you need to clear up space on your phone? …


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Technology needs design — more than ever

User-centered design thinking principles can help new startups attract and retain users and can make or break a project. But the topics of UX design and customer experience seem to be at the bottom of the priority list for most blockchain startups.

In the dawn of the blockchain era, forward-looking startups and developers are rushing to build projects that take advantage of what the new technology can offer. Amid all the hype around bitcoin and altcoin values and the excitement of decentralized systems, a major component of modern product development is often overlooked: understanding what people want.

The blockchain and crypto world has mostly been driven by and for highly technical innovators and early adopters. Realizing the vast potential of blockchain technology will require wide-scale adoption and usage of the new platforms, apps, cryptocurrencies, etc. …

About

Maya Hampton

Digital professional, creative life. Product manager for design systems at REI.

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