Design Systems - Components vs Abstractions

Many of my blog posts originate as a good tweet, and this one is no different. Recently I'd been working with a large system of "components" that were very difficult to import, render and test outside of the monolithic application they were built for. I surmised that until we could make significant changes, we didn't have a system of components but simply a collection of abstractions.

Importable

$ npm install the-design-system

That's as much effort as it should ever take to install components from your design system. Any dependency that your system relies on should also be installed at this time.

Once that's done it should be this simple to use the components without a single error.

import { Button } from 'the-design-system'; 

Renderable

Abstractions are great, frameworks are too, but if you need to spend hours writing custom configurations for your pattern library to properly render a component, you are creating a huge roadblock to turning your abstractions into components. Pattern libraries should simply be another application that is taking a dependency on your components. Make sure you aren't making a ton of work for every downstream application that isn't your primary application.

Testable

Components need to be able to render fully on their own, apart from database, backend, or any other local or cloud based infrastructure. All data should be mock-able, and no component should be making API calls that you wouldn't be willing to put in a public Github repo. If most of the components functionality can only be experienced in the application you're making it incredibly difficult to QA, test and make sound modifications.