Design guidelines - good or bad - thoughts?

7 Jan 2010 - 10:19am
4 years ago
4 replies
1207 reads
russwilson
2005

I'd like to get people's opinions on the value of "company-wide" design
guidelines (for software applications/websites)?

In theory, design guidelines could help to remove design bottlenecks by
empowering others
to create and apply the guidelines... but in reality they can also be hard
to implement, confusing,
restrictive, etc.

Is there any data on the successful use of design guidelines by
non-designers? Are there better alternatives?

Thx,
Russ

--------
Russell Wilson
Vice President of User Experience, CA
Blog: dexodesign.com, uitrends.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/russwilson

Comments

7 Jan 2010 - 9:17pm
Paul Sherman
2006

Russ / all,

Unfortunately, I have no data I can share publicly on this subject. But I can share some lessons I've learned while building guidelines and leading teams that produced and consumed guidelines.

1. Treat design guidelines as a design problem in and of itself.
Make the guidelines findable, learnable, usable (and memorable) for the intended consumers. This means you need to understand your users' needs. Some questions to ask yourself and your team are:
- Do they need to know the *why* behind the guidelines, or do they just need to know *how* to be compliant?
- Consider whether they (and therefore you) are constrained by the UI toolkit and available controls. That is, do they need implementation-specific guidelines? This is more typical for platform-specific software and certain web-delivered apps. Or do you have degrees of freedom more typical of web-based apps?

2. Make sure people can quickly and easily access the digital assets they'll need to successfully implement the guidelines.
Provide links to the assets (i.e., images, controls, CSS, code snippets, etc.) that will help designers and devs to implement the guidelines. Put the relevant links as close as possible to the guideline. Basically, put on your Tufte hat. (What can I say, I'm almost done with "Beautiful Evidence" so I'm looking at everything through Tuftian lenses right now.)

3. Make it so people can discuss and annotate the guidelines.
Also, it's constructive when the community can submit examples of how they've implemented or adapted guidelines. At some point you may find it useful to convert a community submission into a full guideline.

4. Examples examples examples. (And more examples.)
It's often helpful to mock up one of your organization's existing applications to illustrate one or more guidelines. If nothing else, the team can then practice "cargo cult design" and just emulate your example.

5. Socialize the guidelines...but also socialize a release plan for future guideline changes.
Design and dev teams absolutely hate to find out that they've complied with R1.0 of the guidelines, but you've rev'ed them to R1.1 or 2.0. If you're making changes to the guidelines, make sure people know *when* the changes will be rolled out. And of course provide as many sneak peaks as you can.

6. Make sure that you coordinate with the folks who own the visual aspects of your organization's brand. A little synergy here goes a long way. And they're usually a great source of brand digital assets.

I'm sure others on the list have many other suggestions.

IMO, M2c, YMMV, etc.

-Paul

- - - - - - -
Paul Sherman, Principal, ShermanUX
User Experience Research | Design | Strategy
paul at ShermanUX.com
www.ShermanUX.com
+1.512.917.1942
- - - - - - -

On Jan 7, 2010, at 9:19 AM, Russell Wilson wrote:

I'd like to get people's opinions on the value of "company-wide" design
guidelines (for software applications/websites)?

In theory, design guidelines could help to remove design bottlenecks by
empowering others
to create and apply the guidelines... but in reality they can also be hard
to implement, confusing,
restrictive, etc.

Is there any data on the successful use of design guidelines by
non-designers? Are there better alternatives?

Thx,
Russ

--------
Russell Wilson
Vice President of User Experience, CA
Blog: dexodesign.com, uitrends.com
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/russwilson
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7 Jan 2010 - 11:36pm
Krystal Higgins
2008

Paul--Great input on this.

I'm in the process of creating a set of updated design guidelines
myself, and I do agree especially about setting a specific schedule
for revisions.

We did an informal internal survey of how people like interacting
with our design guidelines, and the biggest complaint we got was
about not knowing that newer versions had been revved.

Cheers,

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Posted from the new ixda.org
http://www.ixda.org/discuss?post=48237

8 Jan 2010 - 12:24am
Jack L. Moffett
2005

Hi Russel,

I created guidelines in the form of a simple checklist that the developers in my company can follow. The intent was to empower the developers to catch and correct the most obvious and prevalent issues that I repeatedly encounter. I'm afraid I don't have any data on its effectiveness, but a checklist is seemingly more accessible than a "document" and easily fits into an established process.

Best,
Jack

Jack L. Moffett
Senior Interaction Designer
inmedius
412.459.0310 x219
http://www.inmedius.com

It's not about the world of design;
it's about the design of the world.

- Bruce Mau

8 Jan 2010 - 1:53pm
Goutam Dey
2009

Hi Russel,
I am professionally attached to a software firm in Kolkata,India.

Firstly I would like to mention that subject you are referring is a nice problem to solve in any software firm who are engaged in develop and delivering softwares for large enterprises.

But as per my opinion there is no silver-bullet for the said problem.

But yes I do believe that there are solutions and I have practiced and have archived results though not able to score 100%.

In this comment it is out of scope to provide you my practiced data but I could share some points here as an overview as follows:

- Documentation/wiki of present/current trends and best practices of interaction design, usability and user experience with some usability metrics which is published and accepted within the organization
- Published guide-line for usability test plan ( which may vary on case by case basis for different projects)
- Library of technical implementations (various published prototypes on different technologies)
- Library of Prototypes for various Usability problems and solutions or usability patterns

Cheers,

Goutam Dey
http://goutamdey.com

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