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Creating Useful Style Guides for Web Projects - Part 1

CREATING USEFUL STYLE GUIDES FOR WEB PROJECTS -PART 1 Today's post is a two-parter. In this post, we are exploring the use of style guides and how they can help in all aspects and phases of a digital project by minimizing ambiguity and setting definable parameters that can be validated and tested against. A good style guide will help reduce hours spent by all parties throughout the phases of the project. In a future post, we'll take a look at some examples of style guides, what works about them, and explore some tools that can help the creation of these guides. What is a styleguide? A styleguide sets rules around how things look and behave. Styleguides are the projects visual source of truth for both user interface (UI) and user experience (UX). More focussed than brand guidelines, a styleguide is intended to be the visual and functional requirements definition for websites or applications. A styleguide will pull in components from its parent design system which may include overall brand guidelines, design system or an established pattern library. If a brand has very specific and strong brand guidelines, design system or an existing pattern library, a project's styleguide will be derived heavily from it or may not need to be developed at all. However, if these parent documents do not define every component in the project, a styleguide should be created to cover these cases.   Via A List Apart Style guides exist in different formats - anything from a static PDF or image, to a single web page or an entire microsite or cloud-based prototype can be used for host the styleguide. Of course, they're more useful as univerally accessible documents that are easily updated, so web-based styleguides are popular for a reason. Thus, the best styleguides are built as a collaboration between the design team and the development team. Not only will they define how things look, they'll also define how to build those things with the correct code. This example from Lonely Planet exemplifies this full-fledged approach, covering both the visual aspect of components and layout but also specifying a code pattern for how to build the components. The main point is that it is a visual tool that can be referenced by multiple people playing their respective roles. There may be a written component to it, but it is primary visual. A styleguide can be developed in conjunction with the main layouts, or as a template before the main layouts are defined. Ideally, the guide is a deliverable that the client approves with the designs. Via Lonely Planet Why use a style guide? While front-end technlogy seems to change on a monthly or weekly basis, the phases that a project goes through often do not. Whether your business practices waterfall, agile, hybrid, or some other methodology to get the job done, at some point, there is a handoff between creative and tech. A layout has to get out of a designers head, into a document, approved, and handed off to the developers for implementation. This could happen once, or it could happen many times over the course of a single project, but the transition point and hand-off process is always there. This handoff process is a crucial step and it is important to minimize abiguity so that specifications can be met. Via Barricade Developers love specification and requirements (maybe not actually _writing_ them, but that's another topic). By putting rules and definitions behind everything from how the user is supposed to interact with something on screen to the way the layout changes at a particular breakpoint, a specification can be met - and tested against. These requirements become the acceptance criteria that define whether the task was completed or not. Without these set of rules, ambiguity creeps into the picture. Ambiguity is a developers — and ultimately, a user's — worst nightmare. Ambiguity allows room for error, leaves things open to interpretation and subjectivity, and ultimately, cannot be tested against. Much nature abhors a vacuum, developers abhor ambigutity. Design, however, can be more comfortable in the realm of the ambiguous. Sometimes this is intentional. Art, by definition, is open to interpretation and can be intentionally unintentional (if that makes sense). More often than not, though, it's a result of shifting business requirements (see Peter's post) or a pressing time or budget constraint that does not allow the team to fully flesh out how some new component will function or look. Since one of the styleguide's purpose is to fulfill the role of a requirements document for UX and UI, it forces designers to design to the requirements. This is particularly useful after a project has been deployed and there are enhancements or iterative changes to be made, particularly by another designer. Via Auth0 When to create a styleguide While we don't always have the luxury of endless budget and time, I would argue (and so would Brad Frost) that spending design hours to create a styleguide before high-fidelity design even begins will pay off on the back-end of the project. By starting with the styleguide, designers are taking into account the UX decisions done in wireframing phase, along with any brand standards to apply. The styleguide will lay down the groundwork for the high-fidelity design. The completed styleguide should be handed off to the client for approval, which can then be given to production designers *and* to front-end developers. In a web project, while the designers are beginning their high-fidelity mockups, the developers are using the completed and approved styleguide to write base CSS that will drive the majority of the site's look and feel. Since the client has already approved the style guide, there should be no danger in having to "re-do" anything in rounds of revision. What's in a good styleguide? In creating a styleguide, the bare minimum should be included, for all required breakpoints: LAYOUT Responsive breakpoints Grid system DESIGN COMPONENTS Icons Image Galleries Thumbnails TYPOGRAPHY Font Faces Heading Styles and Type Sizes Paragraph / Body Styles and Type Sizes List Styles (ordered; unordered) and Type Sizes Any other specialized definitions, like form label styles or subheading styles INTERACTIVE AND NAVIGATIONAL ELEMENTS Buttons - rest, hover states Links - rest, hover states Main Nav - rest, hover, active states Breadcrumb Nav Togglers - on, off states Tool Tips - on, off states Alert boxes Modal / overlay boxes Custom form elements (checkboxes, radio buttons, selects, etc) COLOR PALETTE Primary colors and when to use them Secondary, tertiary colors and when to use them ANIMATION Loading icons Progress bars Any other animations the layout may require Resources and Citations Design System vs Pattern Libraries vs Style Guides: What's the difference? Nielsen Norman Group - Front-End Style-Guides: Definition, Requirements, Component Checklist Atomic Design by Brad Frost Styleguides.io - Collection of Styleguide Examples Sajio George Brand Styleguide Examples Stay Tuned for Part two of this post, where I will evaluate some helpful tools to streamline the process of creating a styleguide, as well as take a closer look at more examples and why they work!

AMP and Faraday Future Launch Advanced Digital Ecosystem Enabled by New Client / Agency Paradigm

AMP recently launched the new global website for Faraday Future ( www.FF.com ) for the reveal of FF 91 ("nine one"), their first production vehicle that was unveiled at a special keynote via live stream at www.FF.com and on-display at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show.   Part of a seamless collaboration with Faraday Future, the integration of bold creative, advanced web and 3D technology fused with a digital-first strategy has produced the foundation of a unique digital ecosystem of site and mobile experiences that educates prospective buyers on the features of the electric vehicle while laying the groundwork for ownership. Owners will ultimately be able to interface with the vehicle in a meaningful and smart way, while directly managing and controlling vehicle features in a personalized manner. Creating one global, digital product ecosystem

  • 1 min read
  • January 11, 2017

Why the Most Important Word in 2017 Will Be 'Experience'

It’s 2017. We have the technology.  The question brands need to answer is - What new experiences does that technology offer? Brands will find the space for differentiation in the experience. For example, in a world where 2 billion smartphones occupy our visual attention, we have evolved to include other senses that aren't limited to AR, VR, MR or RR. Sight is joined with sound and motion like never before. More than just wearable, it is hearable, feelable and experiential technology—powered by data, intelligence, sensors and more. The new and unexpected experience of interaction

  • 1 min read
  • January 11, 2017

Advertisers are Cooling on Snapchat Live Stories

Viewership for Live Stories has been flat, at best, for more than a year. In June 2015, a Snapchat executive told Recode that Live Stories averaged 20 million viewers within a 24-hour window. This year, the company has told advertisers that Live Stories average 10 to 20 million viewers per day, with multiple buyers confirming that in most cases daily viewership for Live Stories has gone down — especially since Snapchat pushed Live Stories and Discover content lower down the Stories page. Live stories, dead stories.

  • 1 min read
  • December 9, 2016

10 Creativity Apps I Used the Most in 2016

I shoot my own videos, take my own photos, write my own books, and design apps. Here are the creativity apps I used the most in 2016 to do all that and why. Creativity in your hands.

How Apple Could Succeed Where Google Stumbled With Smart Glasses

While we’ve long heard about smart glasses -- including, but certainly not limited to, Google’s early but ill-fated foray -– it’s the reported smart glasses in development from Apple that have the potential to finally go mainstream. Textbook Apple.

  • November 17, 2016

Snapchat Signs Data Deal With Foursquare for Better Targeted Geofilters

Snapchat ads are getting a bit more targeted. The mobile app has inked a deal with Foursquare to power its location-based geofilters with more data that marketers can use to pinpoint where their ads are served. While Snapchat started offering location data to geofilter advertisers a year ago, brands in theory will now be able to create more targeted and specific parameters for geofilters using Foursquare's data.  Fine-tuning with Foursquare.

  • 1 min read
  • November 16, 2016

Twitter Users Can Finally Fight Trolls With Tools to Mute Keywords, Phrases and Conversations

For years, Twitter has faced criticism for failing to manage online abuse in a way that honors free speech while still protecting its users from hate speech and bullying. Now, it's finally taking a step further in the fight against digital trolls. Today, the company says it's rolling out a way for users to not just block a user, but also to "mute" keywords, phrases and entire conversations at the notification level. Take that, trolls.

  • 1 min read
  • November 15, 2016

New Offering From Google in Testing: Carousels of Google Shopping Ads Spotted on YouTube

Google began integrating Shopping Campaign ads into YouTube in May 2015 — first for brands and retailers to show their own ads alongside their videos with TrueView for Shopping, and then opening up to all advertisers as part of the Search Partners network with Shopping Ads on YouTube nearly a year ago. Now, it appears Google is testing a traditional carousel format for Shopping Ads on YouTube. Tis the season to be expanding.

  • 1 min read
  • November 11, 2016

Snapchat's Latest Update Reveals Its Grand Strategy

Snapchat's ambition is to be much more than just the app you use to send goofy selfies. It wants to be a leader in augmented reality, the futuristic tech that could one day replace our phone screens with graphics overlaid onto the real world. Snapchat laid the groundwork for its next big push into AR in an update to its app yesterday. The update adds special filters for the phone's rear camera that Snapchat calls "World Lenses."  It all makes sense.

  • 1 min read
  • November 9, 2016

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