It’s an ‘Experience Library’ (because ‘design system’ implies it’s only for designers)

Screen grab of the Experience Library homepage highlighting part of the copy that says: the experience library is for anyone working on products, services and communication at co-op

Our Co-op Experience Library is a reinvention of our design system. It’s got guidelines, tools and resources to help us create better customer and colleague experiences – things like online interactions, content guidelines, team activities and accessibility standards. 

It is for anyone working on products, services and communications at Co-op. It’s not just for designers.

Although it started as a place to help digital designers create online experiences, we changed the name from Design System to the Experience Library to reflect the range of:

  • subjects that it includes 
  • people who can benefit from it

How design at Co-op evolved

In 2017, when Co-op Digital was in its infancy, we launched a ‘design manual’. At the time, the Design team was growing quickly and designers were joining from very different backgrounds and had very different approaches. The design manual included the foundations, elements and components that designers need to design accessible, consistent digital products and services for Co-op – things like colours, fonts, buttons, banners, check boxes. The design manual meant that designers could focus on meeting user needs rather than on making basic design decisions. As a result we could release things faster.

Over the next year we wanted to understand how useful the design manual was for our designers, content designers and researchers. Through research, feedback and analytics, it became clear that although it was being used, it needed to be more comprehensive. In July 2018, we launched our design system which included a pattern library, a content style guide, guidance on our design thinking, principles and resources like Sketch files and brand assets. 

We treated it like a digital product. We knew it would never be finished and we added to it and iterated parts when needed. 

Fast forward to 2021 and the release of the Co-op Experience Library. 

The design system’s focus was on ‘online’ products and services. But users don’t just interact with the online part of a service. Their end-to-end experience often includes different channels and interactions. So it makes increasing sense for the Experience Library guidance to cover more – across services and be channel agnostic.

For example, many of us write on behalf of Co-op every day. We communicate with customers, members and colleagues through lots of channels and many of them are not just online. For example, posters in stores, presentations, communicating to customers.  If we talk about things in a consistent way we create familiarity. People are more likely to understand that they’re interacting with Co-op and trust us.

So we broadened our content guidelines to   go beyond online journeys. And in doing so, we opened up the Experience Library to a wider audience, saving time for everyone who communicates on behalf of Co-op.

It can also help teams work better together

We work closely with the Digital Skills team. They help teams outside of digital disciplines to understand agile and design methods. They coach teams, run masterclasses and develop resources to help show the value of user-focused, iterative development and the various techniques teams can use to design and deliver products and services. At the end of the masterclasses, teams across Co-op have access to tools, activities and techniques that they can use to help them work together and solve problems.

So it makes sense for these tools, activities and techniques to be available on the Experience Library. Helping teams work together better means Co-op can make colleagues and customer experiences more effective and efficient.

Why this is important

The Experience Library has continued, and will continue, to grow. It now also includes information on accessibility, form guidelines, search engine optimisation and brand guidelines.  

And this makes sense. We are all responsible for creating value for our colleagues, our customers and the Co-op business. All our teams and business areas are interlinked at varying levels as we inevitably try to achieve these goals.   

Collating these resources from across Co-op and presenting them in an open, central place, in an understandable way, enables delivery. It means colleagues can: 

  • save time, using proven and evidenced shared standards
  • focus on meeting their customers’ needs
  • get on with their work and feel confident they’re making the good choices 
  • learn and upskill in new areas 
  • collaborate and, in doing so, reduce silos across businesses
  • have more inclusive conversations within their teams
  • solve problems
  • point to evidence which gives weight to decisions when they need to persuade stakeholders (for example, they can point to evidence that shows why abbreviations, acronyms and initialisations can be confusing) 
  • feed back on and help improve the Experience Library
  • get involved and contribute to the Experience Library

And this, in turn, helps Co-op:

  • create coherent and accessible experiences for customers and colleagues
  • save time and money by operating more efficiently
  • become a familiar and trusted brand
  • increase loyalty 
  • work in the open, and in doing so, recruit new people

Get involved

Get in touch if you work on something that could help colleagues across the business do their jobs more efficiently. This could be things like how to communicate to a particular audience, how to understand analytics, or how we can improve our sustainability.

By sharing best practices across Co-op, we make things better for our customers and colleagues.

Joanne Schofield

Lead content designer

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