Introducing Design System to Multinational Web Apps

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I will walk through the process of my team introducing design system to our company's web applications that are built separately in different countries - UK, US, Germany, Spain and Japan. After that, I will add a practical guide to set up a design system for a project.

Alison Yoon
Alison Yoon
18 min
21 Jun, 2022

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Video Summary and Transcription

Octopus Energy introduced design systems to address challenges in maintaining brand identity, accessibility, and developer experience. They built a component library using design guidelines and accessibility best practices, following Bradfrost's atomic design methodology. They used TypeScript, Jest, Versal, and Storybook for building and testing the library. The design system is an ongoing project that evolves with the product and business over time.

Available in Español

1. Introduction to Octopus Energy's Journey

Short description:

Hi, I'm Allison. I'm a front-end developer from Octopus Energy in London. Today, I want to talk about Octopus Energy's journey in introducing design systems to multinational web apps. Octopus Energy was founded almost seven years ago now, and this time, we've gone from zero customers to over 3 million. As we were growing, and by this, I mean, in global scale, naturally, we faced some challenges. So we started working on the solution.

Hi, I'm Allison. I'm a front-end developer from Octopus Energy in London. Today, I want to talk about Octopus Energy's journey in introducing design systems to multinational web apps. Octopus Energy was founded almost seven years ago now, and this time, we've gone from zero customers to over 3 million. As we were growing, and by this, I mean, in global scale, naturally, we faced some challenges. So we started working on the solution. I want to share our journey in implementing the solution and the learning points from it. And if you have any questions along the way, please take a note or something, we'll have time at the end for the questions and answer.

2. Octopus Energy's Challenges and Solution

Short description:

At Octopus Energy, we faced challenges in maintaining consistent brand identity, accessibility, and developer experience across different countries. To tackle this, we decided to build a component library using LEGO blocks, following design guidelines and accessibility best practices. This library will be shareable for our global developer teams as part of our design system, which contains our brand's design principles and guidelines for patterns.

At Octopus, we have a weekly get together for company updates and drinks in Friday afternoon, we call it Family Dinner. We were hearing some exciting news every month. Octopus Energy is expanding to new regions in the world, which then brought some interesting challenges too.

We ask these questions. How can we keep our brand identity consistent across different countries? How can we maintain accessibility to the highest standard? How can we support our engineer teams by providing a better developer experience? Well, nothing's better than some visual examples.

This is how Octopus Energy's main page landing area looks like in different countries. This is the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, the US, Germany, and New Zealand. I can show you how our main navigation logo looks like behind the scenes in different countries. Some countries were using the logo with our mascot Constantine, the cute pink octopus you see there, and others were using the logo without it. This one got a simple A-tag wrapping an image. Another got a wrapping A-tag that has a span an image and you can see some accessibility practice here with area label and visually hidden text for screen reader. This one has a A-tag wrapping div that has another div with an image inside and an image tag. And you can see that this doesn't use any class names, whereas the previous ones were using some class names named with the convention of each engineer team's choice. This is only some of the examples of the code behind the UI, but you get the feeling of what's going on here. If the main logo comes with this many styles of code behind it, you can easily imagine how it will look like for different components and different pages.

We have set up some goals to tackle the challenges. We want consistent brand identity across the countries. We want to provide the great accessibility practice. We want to provide our global engineering team with a nice developer experience. What have we decided to achieve this? We decided to build LEGO blocks for developers. For them to build whatever they want easily with these LEGOs, while not having to worry about brand identity or anything. In other words, we decided to build a component library for our developers. This logo block will be made following our design guidelines. Each LEGO block will come with accessibility best practice. Also, it will be all typed, as TypeScript is our language of choice on top of React. In this LEGO blocks, the component library will be shareable for our developer teams around the world, as part of our design system. We started creating our design system along with building the component library. It contains our brand's design principles. It provides guidelines for the patterns. It is the source of truth on how to define what our apps should look like.

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