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Not every Design System Pattern should be represented by a component (CSS-Tricks)

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My point with all this is that it’s easy to see every problem or design as a new component or a mix of currently existing components. But instead, we should make components that can slot into each other neatly, rather just continue to make more components.

An interesting observation from Robin Rendle who leads Gousto’s design system.

Not every design pattern in a Design System should be represented by a code-based component.

His example is of the common link-with-icon pattern (but the theory could be applied elsewhere).

Gousto already had <Link /> and <Icon /> components, each with their own relevant props (e.g name etc) but because the designs often featured links-with-icons they decided to build an <IconLink /> component too.

This new component introduced new, repetitious but slightly divergent prop/attribute names.

Robin’s point is that the new component essentially:

  • just duplicated what the existing components did, and thus
  • created margin for divergence and error, and
  • added additional maintenance overhead.

So Gousto eventually realised that an additional coded component didn’t make sense. Instead, just combine the existing components by nesting an <Icon /> inside a <Link />, e.g.:

<Link>
    <Icon />
<Link>

I like his thinking!

Basically there doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be, to avoid coding error and UX inconsistency) a 1:1 relationship between design patterns and coded components, so long as the pattern can be created by composition using existing components.

Note that I think it’s still key to document how to recreate the design pattern in code – for example we could have a section at the bottom of the component docs for the Icon component detailing how to create a link-with-icon by combining it with a Link component.

Basically I like the idea of reducing the amount of

  1. “which component do I use?” head-scratching; and
  2. margin for divergence/inconsistency

…by having less components.

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