Thursday, October 19, 2006

Design Pattern Conversation: What’s the Best Way to Communicate Patterns? Part Three

Third in a series on design patterns ...

"The question of “What is the best way to communicate patterns?” has several dimensions.

How Will Patterns be Distributed?

In answering the main question, it is important to ask specifically “how the patterns will be distributed?” At Yahoo! the User Experience & Design (UED) team (at that time spearheaded by Erin Malone, Matt Leacock, Chanel Wheeler and others) created the pattern library using a popular open source content management system (CMS) – Drupal. This is important because one of the key benefits of a CMS is the ease in which it allows content (e.g., patterns) to be created by anyone designated as an author (in this case open to all of Yahoo! UED).

This has allowed the Yahoo! Design Pattern library to grow organically across the organization. Instead of a single pattern author controlling the library, anyone can add patterns to the library (although a review process exists to bring them to full publication.)

However, the public pattern library does not use the Drupal system. The CMS system is best suited for adding content (patterns) but not so flexible in organizing the patterns in an easily findable manner. With the public library we chose a flexible design to help solve the “findability problem.” Of course we have not solved all findability problems—but we are no longer constrained by the CMS. For the external pattern library the patterns are represented in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format. This will allow us to distribute patterns as web services - not just as web pages. This will make it possible to publish the patterns in different formats to different devices. And finally, other pattern sites will be able to mashup their patterns with the Yahoo! patterns into a single web site.

Why does all this matter? Patterns distributed in online format are easier to share than patterns that do not have an online presence. This does not discount that there are clear benefits to other formats (e.g., book.) Distributing patterns as web pages and web services gets them to the masses quicker yielding a higher adoption rate.

How Will Patterns be Constrained?"    (Continued via Yahoo! User Interface Blog)    [Usability Resources]

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