Implementing a Pattern Library in the Real World: A Yahoo!
Case Studyby Erin Malone, Matt Leacock, Chanel Wheeler
Yahoo’s multiple business units, each containing decentralized user experience teams, have a natural tendency to design different solutions to similar problems. Left unchecked, these differences would weaken the Yahoo! brand and produce a less usable network of products. Designers and managers have discussed “standards” as a way to solve this problem but this standards content (often contained only in the memories of designers) has never existed in a commonly accessible format.
Our first goal was to find a way to communicate standards for interaction design to increase consistency, predictability, and usability across Yahoo! with the ultimate intention of strengthening the brand. This aligned with the business goal of increasing both the number of return visits and the average number of products used per session. Our second goal was to increase the productivity of the design staff by reducing time spent on “reinventing the wheel.” If we were successful, other designers could re-use the solutions contained in the library, reducing development time.
We designed and built a repository for interaction design patterns, created a process for submitting and reviewing the content, and seeded the resulting library with a set of sample patterns. We organized the content to make it findable, structured the content so it was predictable, and tested and iterated the design of the user interface of the tool to make it usable. Throughout this process, we introduced incentives for participation for both the contributors and management to encourage submissions and support. We took the following approach, broken down into the following stages:
Understanding and agreeing on the problem
– Developing a workflow
– Generating organizational buy-in (evangelizing)
– Selecting, designing, and building a application
– Using the pattern library as a body of standards
– Understanding and Agreeing on the Problem