Using a Style Guide to Build Consensus

Style guides are often requested as a way to promote a common look and feel but do little to address the real problems in the way user interfaces are developed. In many situations, a collection of rules for visual design and the use of controls can seem like a band-aid; promoting surface-level consistency rather than solving the real usability problems.

Even when a good style guide is created, it is often ignored after release. Worse, the style guide can become a weapon where a user-centered design process is needed. In either case, the style guide has failed to produce the desired effect. What’s missing is a consensus on the scope, ownership, or content. Solving this problem requires a change in the way style guides are developed, distributed, and used.

Three suggestions for teams developing style guides are to start early, to make the emerging style guide widely available, and to plan for long-term maintenance of the guidelines.

Using a Style Guide to Build Consensus