“Content is King”
In amy's talk at Patterns Day they discussed the crucial role of content in Design Systems.
- 13 team members working full-time.
- Launched June 2018.
What is content design?
- content design is more strategic than copywriting
- good content design helps people get to what they need as smoothly as possible
- It’s based on user needs
- “content that’s relevant for the right user at the nighttime in the right channels”
Content and Design Systems
- content in design systems can include
- the content elements of components, like buttons text or form labels
- the documentation of components, the structure of pages
- the landing pages
- technical documentation, like installation instructions
- content best practices, like tone of voice
- content about the system - like presentations, blogs, template answers for team members
A design system’s content helps people:
- find it
- use it
- contribute to it
Documenting Components and Patterns
As Design System owner and maintainer we are guiding people to use the system in a certain way. Without providing the information to how to use something, it will fail.
- context is key.
- every organisation is different.
- you content should be designed to match your organisations goals.
- we can’t force people to use a system, so we need to help them choose it. Which starts with good documentation.
- we can’t predict the user’s roles or experiences, so you need to be inclusive and include what is relevant.
Good documentation can be aided by making it:
- Naming things help.
- Start with a card sort and pattern cut-out session.
- But - nobody can agree on anything.
- As an industry we cannot all agree on what to name things.
- Some people use Brad Frost’s Atomic Design.
- Some call things components.
- Some call them patterns.
- Some call them both.
- There is no right way.
- User Research can help make the decision on naming.
- at GDS components are like objects, so they use nouns.
- at GDS patterns are ways of ding things, so they use verbs.
- aliasing in the design system search can help people find what they are looking for.
- in naming things you will never get consensus, just be consistent.
- consistency is really important for users to trust a design system
- an internal style guide can help people use the correct terms when discussing the design system
- gov.uk choose to discuss the design system in the third person which helps avoid the us/them potential thinking
- Each component has a consistent page structure which helps be predictable, findable and trustworthy.
- Using a fixed format helps contributors as well as users of the design system
- Good documentation is about writing the right things at the right time for the right reason.
- Every line of content in your documentation is one more thing the users will have to do.
- Use live examples rather than images - so it’s ‘real’ for people using the design system
- Use real content when you can.
- Provide examples with code so people can quickly copy and paste into their products to see how it looks
- documentation for .gov.uk does 5 jobs at once
- how it looks
- how it behaves
- what copy to use
- how it’s acessible
- code to copy
- it’s easy to assume that a design system should provide all the answers.
- if there is a gap in the documentation, be open and honest about those gaps.
- it is the first steps to filling them.
- sharing mistakes and failure should help others avoid them.
- Include a ‘known issues and gaps’ for a pattern or component in the documentation.
- This could help others contribute fixes, and additional information required to make the components and patterns improve over time.
- being honest is not only helpful for the design systems users, but the people actually using the gov.uk sites.
Design Systems impact products and services. Products and service impact people.
Documentation matters - do it right.