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

Introducing the Co-op Experience Library

The Co-op Experience Library is a collection of guidelines, tools and resources to help us create better customer experiences at Co-op. It’s the latest iteration of the Co-op Design System, and it’s for anyone working on products, services and communications at Co-op. 

And it’s now open to all, at coop.co.uk/experience-library 

Here’s what the Experience Library looks like

What’s in the Experience Library

The Experience Library includes advice and guidance on: 

Why create an Experience Library

Co-op is made up of many business areas including our Food stores, Funeralcare, Legal and Insurance. And colleagues from each of these businesses communicate with their customers every day through a wide range of channels including websites, apps, email, telephone, forms, in store and in communities. 

These customer experiences (that’s each point a customer interacts with Co-op) must be connected and consistent so that customers understand us, trust us and choose to use our services. So, we want to create a place where colleagues can go to get help building accessible, consistent and inclusive customer experiences.​ 

By creating a central library of reusable assets and guides, we believe that teams can: 

  • create, test and iterate quicker 
  • collaborate and share more easily 
  • save time and money 
  • focus on meeting their customer’s needs 

Why we reinvented the Design System

The Experience Library is the latest iteration of Co-op’s design system. Earlier this year we wrote about how we’d used a brand sprint to kick off the reinvention of Co-op’s design system

We’d spent a lot of time researching the design system with colleagues. And, although we knew it was being used, we found that there were areas we could improve, including: 

  • making it more inclusive for people who were not designers 
  • making it more inspiring 
  • reducing the gaps in design advice and documentation 

So we’ve spent the last few months trying to fix these issues. We’ve: 

  • changed the name to the ‘Experience Library’ to encourage both designers and non-designers to use it 
  • worked with other teams and business units to include a broader range of topics 
  • added more detailed design advice and documentation 
  • established content processes so that anything that gets added to the library is researched, critiqued, understandable and accessible 
  • worked with subject matter experts from around Co-op to feed in and check the guidance 
  • created a new visual language that we hope will inspire people to experiment and build on the foundations within the Experience Library 
  • worked in the open, shared what we’re doing and regularly got feedback from colleagues 

Our vision

We’ve started by focusing mostly on the digital experience. But this is only the beginning, we have big aspirations. We want the Experience Library to be useful for anyone who communicates on behalf of the Co-op. That’s anyone who a customer interacts with, through any channel, in any business area. Our long-term vision is: 

To create and maintain a comprehensive, evolving library of foundational tools, resources and assets that empower us to create better customer experiences across Co-op. 

To do this we need the library to be truly collaborative – the one place where colleagues can go to get trusted and up-to-date guidance that meets their needs and makes their jobs easier. 

So next, we’ll be working with teams across digital, communications and brand to understand how we can better support and collaborate with them. 

Tell us what you think

We’d love to know what you think about the Experience Library. Fill in this form to give feedback

And, if you’d like to stay up-to-date about changes and developments to the Experience Library, sign up to the Experience Library mailing list

The Experience Library team