Here’s Tyler Sticka with a great article about how important it is for a UI design system to continue to evolve and improve over time. You can’t just get things built and then say, “That’s it! Things must stay this way forever.” The system must constantly adapt to continue to serve the real needs of real products.

What he’s discussing is how important it is to have an environment where UI exploration, iteration, and evolution happen. I talk about the concept of the “workshop” and the storefront” through the lens of my wife’s jewelry business:

Her workshop environment is designed for her to be productive and creative: her tools are easily accessible, her materials are organized, the lighting is a bit too bright so she can see what she’s working on, and she has room to spread stuff around. Her workshop isn’t the cleanest place in the world, and that’s ok. She’s able to put her head down and do her best work.

Similarly, we web designers need our own workshop environment to create and improve UI components. We need a place to prototype. To explore. To iterate. To improve. To fix. And to do that all without worrying about people unintentionally using our still-being-made sausage.

Of course, once that dust has settled and the new or improved component is fully baked, it then gets shipped off to the storefront (the style guide website) to be put on the shelves for people to peruse and implement.

Thanks Tyler for the reminder of how important ongoing work, experimentation, and improvement is to the ongoing success for a design system.

Because design systems that encourage play also encourage progress. Without progress, they’re doomed to become time capsules.