Reviewing Patterns for Use

[Part 5 of a series on Patterns. Developing a quality system.]

Once you have a collection of patterns they should be reviewed by the team or designated representatives.

A review process is good for catching missing issues or considerations as well as refining the problem statement and context of use.

Additionally, the review process helps socialize the pattern across a team and helps get everyone on the same page.

The review is a chance to bring everyone into consensus around the solution.

At Yahoo! we evolved this process several times over the years. The first attempt (documented in the article at Boxes and Arrows) ended up being too heavy and time consuming for the organization. Without a strong directive from management, it was too cumbersome to wrangle people from across the company to meet on a regular basis about something that was only tangentially required. Over time, we evolved to a loose group of senior and principle level designers, who had influence over their orgs and cared about this stuff, and conducted the review process through email notifications with a deadline. After the deadline passed the pattern librarian had the right to move forward with the feedback even if some people didn’t respond. We took a “no comment” as “ok to proceed” directive that everyone had agreed to. In this case, the patterns that were most applicable to a specific designer’s work or interests were the ones they became more heavily involved with and in the other cases they were ok to defer to other experts.

One person should be designated the pattern librarian. This role can rotate among team members to spread the work around. They will edit draft patterns – regardless of who writes them and will decide when a pattern is “done” enough for review.

The pattern librarian role is responsible for pushing the patterns out for review. There should be a designated time frame for reviewers to read the pattern and give feedback. The librarian will then synthesize and integrate the feedback and edit the pattern to reflect that. If the feedback is highly polarized or controversial, the librarian will send the pattern back to the author to gather more rationale to refute the feedback or to reconcile it with the solution.

The process of reviewing patterns can be done by individuals or in group discussions.

As previously mentioned, pattern blitzes can be an opportunity for a group of designers to come together and review patterns together. The pattern can be read aloud and the solution debated, challenged and/or recrafted. The original design author can share relevant research as the pattern is discussed.

The ultimate outcome of the pattern review process is twofold.

One – the group has consensus on the pattern as a working solution to a defined problem in context.

Two -the group agrees on a level of adherence desired going forward by all designers working with the organization.

The review process guarantees that the pattern is really a pattern, is the most archetypal solution to the problem as AGREED upon by the organization and isn’t a duplicate or a detailed specification.

Next up: Organizing a Pattern Library

current: experience matters design :: senior level interaction design and systems strategy consulting former partner, tangible user experience; Yahoo! founder of the public and internal Yahoo! pattern library. design director of ued teams responsible for designing solutions across key yahoo! platforms: social media, personalization, membership and vertical search.