From digital design manual to design system

In January 2017 we released our digital design manual. Now, 18 months later, the design manual has evolved into a design system.

Although it’s been live for months, it’s still (and always will be) a work in progress. We’re sharing it now in line with one of our design principles: ‘we design in the open’.

You can see the Co-op Digital design system at coop.co.uk/designsystem

Evolution of the design manual

The aim of the design manual was to help teams release things faster so they could focus on user needs rather than on making basic design decisions. We iterated and added new pages as and when there was a need, for example, we added guidance on forms, guidance on tables and our secondary colour palette.

But a year after its release, we were at a point where more of our digital services were going live, so we revisited the design manual and asked if it could be more useful.

What we learnt from our users

We asked our design, content design and user research community how well they felt the guidance in the design manual was serving its purpose. Feedback was mixed but most people felt that it didn’t quite cover enough.

A workshop made it clear that users wanted:

  • example-driven patterns
  • guidance on when to use specific design and content patterns
  • examples of ‘experimental’ patterns
  • all guidance in one place

Afterwards, we dedicated time to making some major changes to the content as well as the navigation and layout.

Design system – nice for what?

We found lots of excellent examples of design systems in our research but good, solid design systems are good and solid because they’re unique to the organisation or business they belong to – they meet the needs of designers, content designers and researchers who work there.

The Co-op Digital design system includes our:

  • pattern library
  • content style guide
  • guidance on our design thinking
  • design, user research and content design principles
  • tools (front-end and prototyping kits)
  • resources (Sketch files and brand assets)

Most importantly it’s a living document. Like all good design systems, ours will never really be ‘finished’ but it’ll evolve as our teams and services do. Over the past 6 months we’ve established processes that allow our team members to contribute to the system.

We audited our existing design work and looked for similarities and opportunities to create familiarity. We’ve also spent a lot of time building the foundations for a stronger and more collaborative team through workshops, design crits and making sure we design in the open.

Familiarity over consistency

The Co-op is an organisation with very distinct businesses which all need to communicate with Co-op members, customers and users in an appropriate and relevant way. For example, the way we communicate with a customer in a food store is likely to be very different to how we speak to a customer in a funeral home.

So it’s likely that our services might feel different. And that’s ok, as long they feel familiar.

A design system lets us create this familiarity. It should lead to a much more unified experience when they interact with different Co-op services.

Pattern library

We’ve started creating a library of design patterns – this is the most significant addition to our previous guidance. It doesn’t replace our design guidelines, it just pulls out the useful stuff we learnt designers look for when they’re designing a service. 

Each pattern will have:

  • an example, ie, a visual example of the pattern
  • an associated user need
  • design guidance, ie, how you use it
  • accessibility guidance

Our colour palette pattern is a good example.

The library will be the de facto standard for how we display certain types of information.

Anyone at Co-op can contribute by submitting their pattern to the design community. They can do this by filling in a form justifying why users outside their service might benefit from this pattern or, why what they have created is an improvement on a current one.

Evolution of the design system

We want to continuously improve the guidance designers are looking for. To help us do this we’ll speak to more of the external teams that work with us and invite our colleagues in the Brand and Marketing teams to contribute their own guidance. We’ll also put the system to the test with teams as they build more Co-op services.

Watch this space.

Jack Sheppard
Matt Tyas

Karen Lindop: Camp Digital and the Co-operative Education Conference, plus Shifts has 17,500 users

(Transcript) Karen Lindop: Hello, and welcome to our update on what’s happened in the Digital team this week.

You may remember last week I talked about the go live of Shifts to all our Food store colleagues. At the start of last week we had 4,200 users. We’ve now got an incredible 17,500 users! Plus 93% of our stores have at least one user and 65% of users are accessing it accessing daily. Well done to Chris and the team, you’re doing a great job! Thank you.

Linda Humphries and Emer Coleman both did an amazing job this week representing Co-op. Linda talked about the positive effects of working in the open at Camp Digital and Emer was at the Co-operative Education Conference sharing the story of Federation, talking co-ops, digital and democracy.

Talking of events, we’ve just announced the first in The ‘Federation presents’ series. On the 30 May we are really proud to host an evening were we talk about Modern Slavery in Tech with the incredible Mary Mazzio.

Mary joins us in The Federation to talk about her documentary ‘I am Jane Doe’. It’s a look at how tech can be an enabler of modern slavery without appropriate regulation. Mary will talk about her decision to make the film and the role it has played in generating such focus on the issue and the political and social response.

She’ll then be joined by Co-op’s Director of Policy and Campaigns, Paul Gerrard, and Craig Melson, Programme manager, Tech UK on a panel hosted by our CMO Matt Atkinson. We’ll add the link to our blog, be sure to get your tickets early!

Our user researchers have been thinking about what underpins the way they work, and as a result they’ve created some principles. We published them this week on our blog and James and the team would love to hear what you think about them. We’ve already had some great feedback via Twitter which we really appreciate.

Finally, thank you to Richard Sullivan and Kim Morley who ran another Digital Masterclass last week. We had a great mix of Co-op colleagues from across our businesses and from lots of different disciplines. The feedback was brilliant, and we’ll be running another this month. If you’re a Co-op colleague watch this space for the date, also you can contact Richard or Kim if you want to know some more about it.

That’s it for this week. Don’t forget to subscribe for all our updates on our blog and follow us on Twitter. See you next week.

Karen Lindop
Head of Digital Operations

Introducing our user research principles

UR_Principle_6-small

Our user research community of practice has been thinking about how we should approach our work. We decided to produce a set of principles that we believe underpin our purpose and our ways of working.

‘Principles’ are general to the practice of user research, yet specific to those creating them. We want them to work for us in our context, here at the Co-op. They’re specific to us: part of an organisation going through digital transformation, one with stakeholders; business needs; many digital products and services as well as a range of colleague, member and customer users. The principles may not be as applicable where you work if you have an established culture of agile and product thinking.

We want to hear what you think

Various versions have been stuck up on the wall for a while now and colleagues have given us their feedback. We’re now keen to get feedback from the wider community, too.

That includes you.

Leave a comment below, @CoopDigital on Twitter or email Head of User Research James Boardwell to let us know if you think:

  • we’ve missed anything out, or, included something that shouldn’t be there
  • something could be clearer
  • some of these principles aren’t strictly principles

We’d also like to know how valuable working with principles has been for you. Do share any examples you use.

We’re particularly interested in hearing from people who work with disadvantaged or vulnerable users, and / or with data and ethics.

Here’s the latest version.

Focus on what users do, not what they say they’d do

Observing users’ behaviour is the best indicator of what they will do in the future, and the gateway to understanding needs and motivations.

Do a little, often

Frequent research helps teams iterate on a product and validate product decisions more often, which helps promote a user-centred culture.

Give teams the evidence to make better decisions

We research and test the team’s assumptions so that decisions are based on evidence, not guess work.

Involve everyone in research

It promotes empathy and helps teams and stakeholders understand users needs.

Promote accessibility for all

We champion building products and services that are usable across all accessibility needs.

Represent users faithfully

We speak truth to power and if users’ needs are not being met, we say so. This keeps the product teams and the organisation honest.

Undertake the best research we can in any given situation

Sometimes we can’t do user research as we would like. In this instance doing some is better than not doing any.

Respect the privacy and integrity of the user

Our ability to perform our role depends on the trust we have with participants.

 

You can download our user research principles. But keep in mind they may change after feedback.

We hope our principles become ingrained our delivery teams as well as act as gentle reminders for user researchers.

User research community 
Co-op Digital