Alla Kholmatova: Modular design

Orde Saunders' avatarPublished: by Orde Saunders

Alla Kholmatova was talking about modular design at Responsive Conf, these are my notes from her talk.

People are moving away from pages to systems - modularity.  Modules have a string of advantages - they are like Lego.  Appears to be a simple process at first but is more difficult in practice.

Language

A lack of shared language creates problems, creating controlled vocab helps.  Atomic design, Material design are examples of shared vocab.  In the process of establishing them the vocab evolves.  Until you find the right name the thing doesn't exists.  Once you name an object then you define it's future.  A bad name can limit the usefulness of a component - think about the high level function.  Constantly question the function of every element you create.

Modularity needs a strong language formation - must come, at least in part, from the team.

It must be used, become part of the every day culture and be allowed to evolve.

Design process

How can you start with small pieces without the big picture?

  1. Sketch the key environmental
  2. Library of core objects
  3. New modular environments

Even if something is designed as a monolith you can build it as modules.

The process of building a pattern library is a great way to learn how do work with modules.  It makes you think in terms of reusable components.  Designing a kit is very different to designing a one-off object.  Designers and developers need to work together.  Can even give users the components and see what they build with it.

It helps to start with the big picture and deconstruct it.  This can lead to new discoveries.

With little pieces you can create millions of combinations.  How do you achieve balance and tell a coherent story?