Graduation Day: Yahoo! Design Pattern Library Bids Adieu to the Pattern Detective

Yesterday marked the end of my tenure as curator of the Yahoo! Design Pattern library, a role I held for more than three years, longer than any of my predecessors. Speaking of which, let me take a moment to thank the following people:

  • Erin Malone, who envisioned the library, championed it, and brought into being
  • Chanel Wheeler, who built the core infrastructure in Drupal for the first-gen library
  • Matt Leacock, the first curator, who established the processes and set very high standards for pattern shepherding
  • Bill Scott, my immediate predecessor as curator, who brought the library to YDN (and hence to the public) and produced the influential set of rich interaction patterns that established the library’s reputation

When I started in January of 2007, the library had gone for a few months without active curation. A lot of the processes used to generate and publish patterns had gotten rusty. I did what I could to reform these processes based on what worked and what didn’t, and spent a fair amount of time reviewing and cleaning up unfinished and obsolete patterns. Meanwhile, I worked at pushing more patterns through the pipeline and publishing as many as possible.

There were 24 patterns in the public version of the library when I took over. Today there are 59. I also took it upon myself to delineate and describe a subset of social design patterns, a project that led to a book and an independent wiki.

When the library started, it was intended as an integral part of Yahoo!’s internal design processes, guidelines, and standards. It was created to be more flexible than a style guide and more focused on fundamental principles, as well as a tool for promoting consistency at Yahoo!.

Over time we found that the pattern collection excelled in the area of identifying universal design patterns. In recent years, the pattern library has been liberated to focus on general web-wide design patterns. This has given me a great deal of freedom to track down and document the patterns that I’m observing, creating a valuable reference that will be as useful for designers everywhere else as it is continues to be for Yahoo! designers.

The patterns in this library are shared with a Creative Commons license that permits anyone to take, reuse, adapt, and even commercialize any of the patterns in the library. The YUI Blog also includes many entries about Yahoo! patterns.

Curating this library, being the “pattern detective” has — beyond a shadow of a doubt — been the best job I have ever done in my life. I am brimming with gratitude toward the many fantastic people at Yahoo! who have advised me, helped me, guided me, challenged me, entertained me, and educated me. I will always be proud of the work we do here on behalf of the community of people who make the Web.