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Integrating User Interface Design Specifications

It is time for another Internet User Experience conference in Ann Arbor. Next week!

In addition to Eight Years of IUE: Reflection and Perspective, I am doing a talk about Integrating User Interface Design Specifications.

At the 2006 IUE conference, Keith Instone presented " re-design and standards", where he talked about how they managed the user interface specifications for IBM's public web presence. This talk will be an update on what has happened since then:
  • Advancements in the type of UI specifications covered, such as interaction patterns, mobile, tablets (and the challenges in organizing this information)
  • Changes in governance approach, from less compliance to more community leadership and innovation
  • Broadening of scope and engagement within IBM: merging intranet and internet specs and collaborating with IBM product groups
  • A re-design to celebrate IBM's 100th anniversary, which included building a business case for the UI design system

Because he has left IBM, he can share a more honest assessment of what things worked in that culture and what did not.

One of his first freelance projects has a cross-business unit UI design system aspect, so he can relate some early experiences "out in the real world".

If you have the feeling that there is a better way than drawing the same wireframes over and over again for each project, then you will want to hear some of my stories about how you can document a design system to speed up the design process, create more consistent experiences, save your company money, and still leave room for innovation.

I will use this blog entry to post links to background information, share the deck afterwards, and give people a chance to comment. A few links for starters:


Thanks for everyone who attended this talk at IUE, especially the ones that contributed good points and asked good questions. I was so engaged with you that I totally blew the time limit!

I just posted a cleaned up version of the deck, PDF (I deleted a few things that were OK to present but not to share otherwise), but since you never saw those slides, you do not even know that are missing.

Also, I added a slide at the end with a few of my notes about what we talked about, but I know we talked about more than just this:

  • Style guides (just how it looks) vs. code libraries
  • W3C/technical standards + UI standards
  • Maturity: most were 1/2 step between Freelance 2012 & IBM 2006
  • Device UI standards (like iOS)

And another slide with edited versions of Chris Farnum's tweets - in theory, the more useful stuff that I said. Thanks Chris!

  • Design standards not equal to patterns
  • Great video about the value of design standards:
  • Start high level, like color palette, high level page templates, later widgets and components.
  • Should go hand in hand with code standards.
  • Important success factor- how you share them. Via a site? If so it had better have a good IA.
  • In Keith's practice in '06, 3 people were dedicated to maintaining the design standards and site(!!!)
  • Governance- important to define how it works. Compliance -> Collaboration