Postcard Patterns: An Agile UI Pattern Creation Process
Traditionally, creating and maintaining a pattern library has been a daunting task requiring extensive resources and, sometimes, dedicated full-time employees. At Salesforce.com our first attempt at producing a comprehensive library was bogged down by a waterfall-based creation and review process that yielded only two patterns in a six-month period. At this rate we would never approach completion.
In keeping with our development team’s agile transformation we revisited the process and invented Postcard Patterns – highly visual, single-page documents that allow design teams to efficiently and effectively drive consensus across teams with a lean, easy to maintain, and easy to produce communication tool. In contrast to our previous pace (2 patterns in 6 months), we have recently produced 43+ patterns in less than 3 months.
Fifteen+ years combined experience in the evaluation, management, design, production, and implementation of custom multimedia products, web sites, user interfaces, and corporate brands. For the past 10 years I have exclusively focused on user interface design – working on projects ranging from a CMS for Encyclopedia Britannica to a complete monitoring and configuration tool for a content distribution network at Inktomi to a multi-dimensional data modeling tool at PeopleSoft.
The past four years have been spent working as the UI design lead at Salesforce.com; for a rapidly growing development team. The wholesale transformation of the R&D group to agile forced the design team to rethink and retool a large number of our processes. This is the story of how we changed our documentation standards to be agile and effective.