Why We Use Web Components

It’s August, 2018. I’m at the office, sitting by the window staring rain pouring down from the sky. A warm cup of tea in my hand, about to sip it, but the phone suddenly rings. I don’t recognize the number. I hesitate for a moment whether to pick it up or not. Maybe it’s again a telemarketer trying to sell me something?

We had the urge to create a tech-agnostic instead of tech-specific system. A system that is based on web standards and would survive the births and deaths of JavaScript frameworks.

Thinking of this particular autumn evening today, a year and a half later, I’m delighted I picked up the phone. This one phone call ended up having a major impact, as the end result was the biggest personal project I have worked on so far.

While I used to work with bigger clients and projects when we lived in United States, this felt different. I personally sold the project and were responsible for most of the things from initial research all the way to the design system’s overall architecture.

A few months went by after our first call. I went to see the client during a couple of occasions to plan the possible collaboration. After some back and forth negotiation we ultimately started working together in the beginning of January, 2019.

And so Duet Design System was born.

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Design System Won’t Fix Your Problems

Ever read an article praising design systems and how they magically solve design and frontend challenges? I’ve sure seen this being repeated in one form or another. Maybe not with these exact exaggerated words, but the underlying message has been close. While there might be a spark of truth there somewhere, it can be quite misleading to make this kind of statements without explaining what’s really required.

You can’t just hire an agency to create a design system for your organization and expect that the system alone will solve something.

You might’ve seen or been on the other side as well, where organizations invest large sums of money to hire external agencies to create design systems for them. These agencies often work completely detached in their own silos and only claim to blend into the client’s organization. While this is a good business model for the agencies selling and creating these systems, it rarely works out for the client organization.

Real life example of this behaviour: a manager at Organization Y hears about design systems and how they solved the challenges of Organization X. They want to get on the bandwagon as well. Agency Z sees this as a money making opportunity and sells them a team of designers and developers who will design and build the system for Organization Y. The starting price is over one million US dollars.

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Vue Design System

Vue Design System is a set of organized tools, patterns, and practices that work as the foundation for Vue.js application development. What initially started as a quick-n-dirty prototyping tool for a client of mine, has grown into a fully capable systems tool that provides an environment where the pattern library and live application can be perfectly in sync.

What initially started as a prototyping tool, has grown into a fully capable systems tool that provides an environ­ment where the pattern library and live application can be perfectly in sync.

For me personally, Vue Design System has become as much of a design systems teaching and learning platform, as it is a tool that’s capable of growing from a prototype to a fully fleshed-out system that multiple applications can depend on.

In this article, I will shed some light to the processes and workflow I use to get started with a new design system project. An article, I would’ve wanted to come across when first starting with design systems and trying to figure out the best approaches. While I’ve written this from Vue Design System’s perspective, the concepts and processes I introduce here will work with any tool.

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Workspace

I’m happy. I’ve been succesfully running my design studio for the past 8 months and recently moved into a new office space. Since then I’ve been setting up the workspace to suit the way I want to work and create things. This dedicated quiet space gives me the luxury to focus and get much more done than I could get anywhere else before.

A dedicated quiet space gives me the luxury to focus and get much more done than I could get anywhere else before.

While I find myself constantly switching between different working modes like running a design systems workshop, working at client’s premises, or doing a remote meeting with a team in another city, I like having this personal space where I can come back to think and focus. A space for exploration and tinkering.

My workspace is a part of a bigger office, but with a dedicated room and a door. This is what my setup currently looks like (click for bigger photos):

Workspace with lots of wall to draw on

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