Style Guides and Style Tiles for the Discerning Designer
The process of web design is an intricate and intensive one-you have to come up with a concept, design it, construct it, test it and then deploy it ready for use. When it comes to creating brand-focused designs, this process is even more intensive. You need to come up with creative tools that act as guidelines for you and the entire development team. Two such creative tools are style guides and style tiles. Sometimes people use these interchangeably, while in truth, there are differences.
What Is A Style Guide?
A style guide is a creative tool used to set some form of standard regarding the patterns, UI modules and creative preferences being used. This way, some consistency is set, such that were another design team to take over, they would know how to implement the remaining design. Style guides are especially important for branded identities where you have to combine the brand into the interface design.
As a designer, it is up to you to define the level of detail you wish to go into. You can stay as detailed or as sketchy as you wish, as long as you provide some guidance. The only way you could go wrong with a style guide is if you prepare something that other designers cannot understand. In which case, confusion ensues.
Some people will opt to create style guides that are accessible online and publicly while others will require designers to login in or use an intranet to access style guides locally. Either way, the aim of style guides is to ensure that the colors, patterns and visuals chosen match the overall theme of the website.
How Style Guide Can Be Useful?
On the other hand, style tiles are tools that narrow down to a specific aesthetic. This is where you drill down to a particular detail and specify how you wish this to be captured in a manner that fits into the brand theme. Style tiles are a great way of letting a client know how a particular feature will be implemented visually. As such, it might help to create more than one style tile so that your client can have the privilege of choice.
It helps to include some sort of description of the tiles when presenting these to the client. Remember, when the client has a say in the initial design choices, there is a less chance of having multiple requests for revisions and redesigns.
Style Guide Lifespan
While style guides will usually last as long as the project, it is usually the case that style tiles live only for the duration of the early period of the project, after which they are overtaken by mockups, wireframes and prototypes. Also, style tiles tend to be an economical alternative for smaller projects as style guides might exceed the budget set aside for such projects.
Usually, it is upon the designer to decide what works best for each particular client, and then proceed to choose whether to design style guides or style tiles, or if to do without them at all. Some clients will actually opt to forego either, and have you jump right from wireframes to detailed mockups.