While on contract to redesign marketing pages for Hive smart home I identified a need for a design system to improve communication across design and between designers and developers. Here’s what I did while on contract at Hive.
I found myself constantly re-creating simple components. Buttons, navbars, form inputs and other frequently used pieces of the Hive website weren’t living together under one roof. Designers were constantly re-designing them which meant we had a handful of versions and developers were unsure which to follow.
User interface audit
To gauge the scale of my operation I started with a humble audit. I scoured every live design I could across hivehome.com and Hive’s presence as a concession on partner sites. I screenshot every button I could find. Every input. The logo. Every representation of Hive was captured and grouped so I could pitch my case that this was required.
The nitty-gritty! Once I’d done the audit I worked with the other designers on the web team and a couple from the app team—it helps to make more friends in this case, particularly as I wasn’t looking to step on anyone’s toes here. I extracted really common components and asked them to review and confirm which they saw as most common or relevant, and to help identify how they should look.
I can’t remember specifically who said it, but it’s stuck with me: If 100% of potential adopters aren’t using 100% of the system’s features, it’s failing. I knew it would be an uphill battle encouraging the adoption of the system, so I had to sell the benefits. At Hive we used Facebook Workplace and had “Hivebook” a place where we celebrated successes, encouraged open working and connected with colleagues we otherwise might not interact with.
I posted frequently on Hivebook about design in Hive, breaking down terms like design thinking and UX. Democratising design through a comfortable medium where I could gauge feedback with Facebook Likes really amplified the message and helped get the word out about the design system as it was taking shape. I recall sitting in a feature team meeting and hearing a product owner ask “Can this use the new design system?”.
The design system lived on long after my contract with Hive ended. In fact, I was offered a contract extension based on my impressive output and starting the design system initiative.
With the system, we could all accomplish more work in less time. Working on checkout I could design not only the logged-in journey but a guest checkout flow that aligned with Hive’s design principles. Rapid prototyping in high-fidelity was unlocked and we were able to test ideas sooner with more users.
I remember when I joined we were using Lookback for usability testing every 3–5 weeks. When I left it was almost weekly.