How it all began

In 2013 Brad Frost wrote the blog post Atomic web design which popularized the concept of modular design systems. We started thinking about the benefits of this methodology, namely more uniform user interfaces based on reusable components and how it could benefit the City of Gothenburg.

Building a design system based on components that together could form larger components, which eventually form applications and pages seemed interesting. But we saw that it wouldn’t solve practical problems associated with keeping a style guide in sync with production code and keeping applications up to date with the latest code.

A few months later we read about what Lonely Planet had done with their living style guide Rizzo and we decided to spend some time investigating if this approach was something for us as this would also solve the time consuming practical issues.

Inspired by the concept of Rizzo, we started thinking about how we could build a component framework that would work with our technical platform, IBM WebSphere Portal.

The Gothenburg has a population of 550 000 inhabitants and around 45 000 employees and our IBM WebSphere Portal platform is used for both the city’s intranet and public website.

With a central governance in place, a common visual graphic profile and a lot of applications with similar needs and characteristics we thought that we had a good chance to succeed with a common component library.

A few months down the road, we have now developed and tweaked the framework during several iterations and are just now beginning to use it to build applications and pages that run in our production environment.

This publication is meant to describe and reflect on the problems we encounter, the questions we debate on a daily basis, what we did right and wrong looking back and how a modular and style guide driven development process affects the way we work.

This was part 1 in the publication: Our Story: Building a component library