This guide is presented as a series of questions that you might reasonably ask if you’re trying to leverage Braid during a typical product design workflow.
How do I get started with a new concept?
All design tools are still at your disposal. Paper and pencil, Sketch, Axure, Keynote... whatever you like! Iterate quickly. Don’t feel like you need to get overly hung up on Braid early in the design process.
That said, regardless of your tool of choice, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with our current component suite before getting started. Using existing patterns will always be faster than defining new ones.
Is there a library for Sketch/Figma/etc.?
No. Braid is a living component system that’s designed to run in production, as opposed to being a static design library.
Our objective with Braid is not to improve the quality of our mock ups, but rather to optimise the design workflow around the layer that our users actually interact with.
Don’t feel like you need to meticulously recreate existing components in your mock ups. One of the major advantages of a design system like Braid is that it allows you to operate much more quickly during earlier stages of the design process.
Braid also provides many features that are simply not supported by traditional design tools, including:
Spacing and layout components.
Context-based colour switching.
How do I leverage Braid in my design process?
The best way to make use of Braid is for designers and developers to work closer together, and much earlier in the process than we typically have in the past. Braid’s primary goal is to enable you to design directly in the final medium, rather than constantly (and expensively!) translating from one medium to another.
To help empower this workflow, we’ve provided Playroom as a tool for rapidly prototyping with Braid. In this environment, you have access to the entire suite of components, along with an instant preview across a variety of screen sizes and brands. Playroom is a browser-based design tool that allows for real-time prototyping with interactive components, ensuring designers and developers are working together in the same medium, collaborating on the end product rather than handing off from one medium to another.
If something already exists in Braid, it’s generally much more efficient to prototype with the components directly. As you iterate, you’ll be able to see how layouts react across different screen resolutions and brands, which is something that static design tools are simply unable to do.
Playroom deliberately rewards reuse of existing components. Creating something from scratch is harder than reaching for an existing pattern, and this is by design. While at first glance this might seem like an issue, this is actually an important step forwards in regards to design consistency, build quality, and speed of delivery. Because Playroom runs in the browser, you can easily share your work with others by copying and pasting the URL. It’s also open source and publicly available, which means you don’t need an account to create, view or edit designs. If you have any questions about something you’re working on, drop a link in #braid-design-support so we can help you out. Once you’re happy with a prototype in Playroom, moving it into your application shouldn’t require much work at all since it’s built with the design system itself. This is in stark contrast to the traditional process of manually translating from Sketch/Figma/etc. which is typically slow and error prone.
Do I need to write code?
Not necessarily. You might prefer to pair up with a developer to iterate on your designs together. It’s entirely up to you.
That said, Braid and Playroom are specifically designed to be approachable for non-developers. While they may seem more intimidating than most design tools at first glance, we’ve worked hard to keep the learning curve as low as possible and to minimise the amount of knowledge required to be productive. This might sound like a massive change, but we’re hoping that it’s not as big of a jump as you might think. Braid components allow you to work with high-level design-centric terms like Text, Card and Columns, rather than the low-level technical details of HTML and CSS.
When should I use high fidelity design tools?
If you’ve recognised a gap in our system, feel free to use traditional high fidelity design tools to define that new experience. However, when doing so, you should be mindful not to inadvertently redesign existing patterns.
Always try to leverage lower level design elements such as colour, spacing, typography and iconography. If you need help designing new patterns, reach out in #braid-design-support to see if we can offer any assistance.
Won’t this slow us down?
The goal is to actually let you design faster!
If working in Playroom is too slow, that’s probably a sign that either our design system is incomplete, or that we’re creating too many new patterns. It’s important that we discuss these issues early in the design process where we have more opportunity to fix them.
Of course, this means that we may be slower in certain scenarios, but it’s an opportunity for us to invest in design standards that will continue to speed us up over the long term.
What if I need some help?
We recommend reaching out in our #braid-design-support Slack channel. We’ll be more than happy to work with you to make sure that you’re comfortable working in this environment.
What if my designs look different to Braid?
A design system’s job is to help standardise the look and feel of an entire product suite, not to match individual concept designs pixel-for-pixel. It’s a good idea to start by iterating on your design in Playroom to try alternative approaches.
You should be open to changing minor details that aren’t critical to the success of the product. The goal is to solve the end user’s problem, not to perfectly match an existing concept design.
However, it’s natural that most designs will feature some degree of customisation that isn’t officially supported within the existing system. You may even be using a pattern that is unique to your product. Don’t feel like every single component needs to exist in Braid.
It’s also possible that you’re using a pattern that should ideally be in Braid but hasn’t been built yet. In this case, it’s best to have a quick chat in #braid-design-support so we can give you personalised advice on how best to move forwards.
How do I add a new component to Braid?
Don’t get too hung up on adding new components to Braid. If you think a pattern is worth sharing outside of your team, let us know in #braid-design-support, but don’t let this get in the way of shipping real value to your users.
Braid components have a very high bar of quality due to accessibility requirements and their widespread usage across different products and brands. As a result, it’s likely that your existing work will need to be revisited once we start standardising it.
What if I need a new component right away?
Generally speaking, you should never be blocked waiting for Braid.
Our job is to standardise existing patterns, not to hold back new ones. Your team should be perfectly capable of writing new components and custom styling within your project, and you should always err on the side of delivery. Your users are ultimately the number one priority.
When you inevitably create something new, it’s a good idea to let us know in #braid-design-support so that we can keep an eye out for emerging patterns and work towards standardised solutions.
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