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Yesenia Perez-Cruz An Event Apart—Seattle April 2018 Scenario-Driven Design Systems

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–Karri Saarinen, Building a Visual Language A unified design system is essential to building better and faster; better because a cohesive experience is more easily understood by our users, and faster because it gives us a common language to work with.

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How do you define a design system?

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A collection of reusable components assembled to build any number of applications?

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A system is an interconnected set of elements coherently organized in a way that achieves something. –Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems

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–Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems A system is an interconnected set of elements coherently organized in a way that achieves something.

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Elements Interconnections Purpose

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A good design system feels: Cohesive Unified Connected

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A bad design system feels: Disjointed Confusing Difficult to use

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Elements Interconnections Purpose

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Start your design system 
 with user-scenarios.

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8 brands 350+ websites 1 design system

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Why? • Easier to design, build, launch, maintain, and evolve the sites on our platform.
 • Faster to launch new brands

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Tell better stories, faster

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Editorial Missions Content Types Audience Needs Typography & Branding Different

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Unify eight brand sites into one design and code system. 1

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Provide enough flexibility to allow brands to still feel distinct. 2

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Problems to solve • What patterns/components do we need to build?
 • How can these components be combined to create distinct experiences? • How can we create a unique look & feel for 300+ sites using one visual design system?

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Early assumptions

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Smaller, modular components come together to define a page. 1

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Address inconsistencies in design: layout, color, typography, & treatments of similar information 2

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Hypothesis: A set of flexible, brand-agnostic modules with a theming system will give us the most range.

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It’s legos, right?

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Too focused on 

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4-up 2-up 1-up

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Sites felt too similar Did not reflect critical differences in content, tone, and audience 1. 2.

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Homes & Neighborhoods Maps, Guides Tech & Business News, Podcasts

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Modules didn’t have a clear purpose.

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–Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems A system is an interconnected set of elements coherently organized in a way that achieves something.

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Elements Interconnections Purpose

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New Hypothesis: In order to create a flexible system, we needed to start by being specific.

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What we learned

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You can’t start with individual components

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Successful design patterns don’t exist in a vacuum.

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–Alla Kholmatova, The Language of Modular Design We should start with 
 language, not interfaces.

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Successful design systems start with content and people.

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Audience Editorial Content Revenue

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What’s the audience goal? Is there a shared audience goal across all of our brands or are there differences? 
 What’s the editorial workflow? What range of content should this support?

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Start with fast, unified platform
 Be scenario-driven when creating variations
 Find key moments for visual brand expression that serve our audience 1. 2. 3.

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Fast, Unified Platform • Our platform should load quickly, be accessible, and work well across devices • We should have a unified core user experience
 • All components that we build should be available to all brands

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Scenario-Driven Variations • Scenarios, not layout, should drive variation • All patterns should solve a specific problem • We’re not creating a one-size- fits-all solution

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No hypothetical situations

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Identifying Scenarios

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“UI Inventory” Brad Frost,

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“Purpose-Directed Inventory” Alla Kholmatova,

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–Alla Kholmatova, Design Systems Keeping this map in my mind helped me think in families of patterns joined by a shared purpose, rather than individual pages.

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Identify core workflows and the patterns that need to support these workflows. Understand the role each pattern plays in a user’s journey. Define how the patterns work together 
 to create a cohesive experience.

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Know your use case. –Salesforce, Lightning Design System

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Workspace Facilitates user collaboration on records Board For items that are advancing through a linear workflow Reference For when users are primarily jumping to related records Salesforce,

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via: Shopify,

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“Put Merchants First”

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“Callout cards are used to encourage merchants 
 to take an action related to a new feature 
 or opportunity”

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https:/ /

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Scenario-driven design in practice

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Turn 18 distinct templates with 81 code snippets into 
 1 flexible design system

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Identifying Core Workflows

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Audience goals consistent across brands, but content differed.

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 • Find new content

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Scenario-driven variations

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HED BELOW Highlights photography

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HED ABOVE Prioritizes text over photography

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HED OVERLAY Photo as background, for lower quality images

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 SHORT IMAGE Short image, valuable for illustration or widescreen images

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SIDE-BY-SIDE Specifically for vertical images

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Only add a layout if there’s a content need.

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Content Audit

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Content Audit • Does it add value?
 • Is it available to more than 3 brands? 
 • Is it a must-have for 1 brand?

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Snippet Examples

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Brand Expression

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The Scorecard

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Initial design 1 SCORECARD component with 3 sections: meta info, open text field, CTAs

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Where to eat What to order What game to buy What product to buy

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Address Cost Rating out of 4 stars Book a Table Platform(s) Publisher Score out of 10 points Release Date Product Image Pro/Con List Score out of 10 points Buy Now Buttons

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VENUE CARD Highlights content that helps you find where to eat

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GAME CARD Highlights content specific to 

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PRODUCT CARD Highlights content that is specific to products with Buy Now buttons

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ONE SCORECARD First unified version: Content has the same hierarchy across the board

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Scorecard Variants

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Identifying Core Workflows

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• What’s the value of the homepage today?
 • Who’s our homepage audience?
 • What are they looking for?
 • How are our current homepages performing? Research Phase

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Talk to your audience

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The audience from our user survey was more likely to use a phone, more likely to follow links from social media.

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• What’s new?
 • What’s important?
 • What’s helpful? The homepage should clearly answer these 3 questions:

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3 Main Areas of Purpose

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• Higher content density so users can see more content at a glance
 • Reverse chronological order
 • Priority is quick 
 consumption of content to serve the engaged homepage audience of repeat visitors STORY FEED

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ENTRY BOX Standard entry box Map Review Storystream Group

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Scenario-driven variations

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4-up 2-up 1-up

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NEWSPAPER A text-heavy layout for busy news reporting

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EVERGREEN A flexible layout that promotes both recent and evergreen content

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MORNING RECAP A hero for the morning after a busy night of sporting events

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“In the process of naming an element, you work out the function as a group and reach an agreement.” Alla Kholmatova, The Language of Modular Design

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Brand Expression

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PROMO BAR Featured hero area to highlight additional stories/ content underneath main stories section

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MASTHEAD Date, logo, tagline, image

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Scalable visual design system

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Key Moments for Brand Expression • We must create a platform where brands can feel distinct • We need to express strong editorial voice and identity • Brand expression is more than just colors and logo

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Foundational elements Room for customization +

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Foundational elements • Type scale
 • Color system • Spacing variables

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Type Scale

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Color System

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Color System

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Color System

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Good Variation Bad Variation vs

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Good Variation • If there’s a specific problem that we need a new pattern to solve • Determined by user scenarios and content needs • Strengthens brand voice in a way that serves our audience

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Bad Variation • Visual variation on components that serve the same function across brands, • Don’t do much to strengthen brand voice

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 Custom one-off solutions

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 Telling better stories, faster

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What’s next?

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Now that we’re on a unified platform, we can create even more tailored experiences at scale.

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Successful design patterns don’t exist in a vacuum.

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Successful design systems solve specific problems.

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Successful design systems start with content and people.

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Thank you! @yeseniaa

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• The Language of Modular Design — Alla Kholmatova
 • Design Systems — Alla Kholmatova
 • A Pattern Language — Christopher Alexander
 • Thinking in Systems — Donella Meadows References