How to create a pattern library and why you should bother

Ensuring a website is consistent and easy to maintain are two of the biggest headaches faced by larger organisations. Fortunately, a pattern library can help.

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Whether working for a large corporation like Nestle, a higher education institution like the University of Strathclyde, or a big charity such as Doctors without Borders, I increasingly find myself suggesting the creation of a pattern library as the solution to the particular problems faced by these larger websites.

But what is a pattern library, why do you need one and how do you go about creating it?

What is a pattern library?

A pattern library is a collection of user interface design elements. The site UI-Patterns describes these user interface design patterns as:

Recurring solutions that solve common design problems.

Still confused? Well, that is not surprising. Web designers like to make things sound more complicated than they are!

Essentially a pattern library is a collection of design elements that appear multiple times on a site. Typical examples might include:

  • Slideshows
  • Navigation
  • Social media features
  • News Listings
  • Related links
  • Carousels

The list could and does go on.

A pattern library, documents all of these ‘patterns’ (also often known as modules) and defines how they behave, what they look like and how they are coded.

A pattern library is a collection of design elements that can be reused across a website.

Examples of Pattern libraries that you might want to check out include:

Of course, pattern libraries do not spontaneously appear, they need creating, and that takes effort. Why then is it worth your time to create a pattern library?

Creating your first pattern library can be a challenge and it is easy to make mistakes. If you would like some outside advice and support, get in touch.

Why you need a pattern library?

Once a website reaches a certain size and complexity (especially if many subsites are involved) the argument for a pattern library are overwhelming. These benefits are three-fold:

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