Getting Started with a Design System

When your website is small, you can use design tools like sketches, sitemap and color schemes to create a consistent and cohesive look and feel. What happens as your team and website grows? How do you keep your website design and functionality from being a mess? You may start out by creating a design style guide or building a pattern library. Eventually, you’ll need something more. A tool like a design system.

Getting Started with a Design System
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What is a design system?

A Design System is a documented library of colors, fonts, buttons, components, visual elements and other design features that helps to create a consistent user experience. It is more than a style guide or a pattern library. A style guide focuses on the design or look and feel. Pattern libraries focus on building and providing a consistent code base. Your design system pulls both the style guide and pattern library into a single, documented system for your entire team to use.

Examples of Design Systems

How do I build my own design system?

Start with the tools that you know. You can build your own using a CMS that you are familiar with. To get started, you can look at Brad Frost’s Design System Boilerplate. You can use the boilerplate as a starting guide for building your own system. Next, review and document your visual elements, design features and other components that make your user experience unique.

When you build your own, start small and build as you go. Remember, the best solution is the one that you and your team uses. Refer to these tools and resources to learn more about how to build a design system:

Finding time to work on side projects

You have different responsibilities: a job or business, family and yourself. These responsibilities can leave you with little time to spend on things that you are passionate about. Whether you choose to work on a side project or a hobby, how do you find the time?

finding time for side projects
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Schedule it

Why schedule it? You may have different things that you want to accomplish including your side project. By scheduling it, you make it a priority. If it is on your schedule, you are more likely to do it and less likely to shove it aside for something else.

How much time to you give your project? Your other priorities like family time, hobbies and taking care of yourself will help you to determine how much time to devote to your project. Even if you have 15 minutes per day, you can get closer to finishing your project in small increments.

Use Planning Tools

Plans, goals, To-do lists, bullet journals or a chalkboard can help you keep your side projects on track. No matter what productivity tools that you decide on, they’ll help you on track.

Know When To Stop

Should you stop? A side project should be fun. You should learn something new and enjoy doing it. If your enjoyment is dwindling and you dread doing it, quit working on the project. You can always start something new.

Take Breaks

Sometimes you may need a break. You take days off from work to relax or enjoy a holiday. If you need a break, take it. Your side project should not be another job that you create for yourself. It should be something that you want to do.

Finding time for side projects

Side projects should be something that you want to do. It should let you explore new ideas, be creative and find out if you have a passion for it. When you decide to work on a side project, you can be more successful by:

  • Adding time it to your schedule to work on your project
  • Use planning tools to help you track and complete your project
  • Know when to stop working on a project that no longer interests you
  • Take a break when you need it

Pomodoro For Programming

Writing code can be challenging when you have different and conflicting demands on your time. How do you focus on your code without exhausting yourself? You can try the Pomodoro Productivity technique.

Pomodoro For Programming
Photo By Nathaniel Jordan

What is Pomodoro?

Pomodoro is where you focus on a task like a coding problem for 25 minutes. Then, you take a 5 minute break. After the break, you start another 25 minute round. Break. Repeat. After about 4 rounds, you take an even longer break (20 or 30 minutes). This technique was invented by Fransesco Cirillo. He called it Pomodoro because he used a kitchen timer in the shape of a tomato. Pomodoro is Italian for tomato.

How do you use it for programming

You plan to focus on one programming task or problem at a time. Work for 25 minutes or longer. Some people like to use 45 minutes instead of 25. After you have worked for the planned time, take a break.

When you are writing code, it can be hard to watch the clock and take a break on time. You can use a kitchen timer or apps on your phone or computer. Or you can build your own Pomodoro Timer.

With productivity hack, no one technique fits all. You may need to experiment or tweak before you can get it to work for you. If you work in an office, you can’t stop all of your interruptions. By explaining this technique to your boss and coworkers, they will understand that you are using it to limit your distractions and that they can talk with you when they need to. Alex Mitgusky wrote about how he uses the Pomodoro technique as a programmer.