People tools

While most conversations around design systems center on the artifacts and technical problems, I believe that the real success of a system comes down to solving people problems.

Contribution incentives

People like feeling appreciated. When someone contributes to your system, go out og your way to reward that. You can start simple with Slack shout-outs or a thank you note. You can also go a step further…

At Sprout, we had enamel pins made with our system’s logo. Anyone who contributed to the system got a special edition gold pin with an attached thank you note. Not only did this reward contributors, but it became a marketing tool for our system in the process.

Gatsby does this really well. When your first PR to Gatsby merges on GitHub, you get an automated message thanking you and offering a discount code for a free item from their swag store. The more PRs you land, the more free stuff you get. Read more about it here:

Office hours

The first step of effective communication is being easily aailable and approachable. Design system office hours are a method I’ve employed in the past to ensure that I am available to the users of my system.

Dan Eden published his playbook for office hours on GitHub. He breaks the success of office hours up into these directives:

  • Be attentive
  • Be supportive
  • Be clear and direct
  • Defer and observe
  • Share your findings

I encourage you to click through and read Dan’s extended thoughts on each of those.

One thing I have learned — office hours solve for the availability part, but not the approachability part. Being available is not the same as being approachable. If your teammates don’t feel like they can communicate with you open and honestly, it doesn’t matter how available you are. Only hold office hours once you’ve got approachability figured out.