If you’ve ever wanted to know exactly how each and every component of iOS was conceived and defined by Apple’s designers, you’ve come to the right place.
Keeping up with the ever-changing nature of technology has led to a more structured approach to web design. Companies standardise these elements in digital style guides to ensure a consistent user experience across all digital platforms. These elements include code that is compatible with both desktop and mobile browsers, intuitive site navigation, and cutting-edge site features.
A company’s online reputation and longevity can benefit greatly from having a comprehensive set of digital style guidelines established. When it comes to creating excellent user experiences, they are crucial for websites and products.
In this piece, we’ll explain digital style guides in depth and highlight some excellent case studies from well-known brands that have adopted them.
What is a web design style guide?
You can think of a web design style guide, or digital style guide, as a repository for all the guidelines and components that go into creating a website for a particular brand. Developers can use the guide’s graphical components, typography, colour scheme, and other formatting guidelines to create a unified website design.
This style guide is meant to serve as a reference for creating consistent visual elements across a company’s various online properties. The primary goal of a brand style guide is to establish a unified visual language for the brand, including the logo, colour palette, typography, image guidelines, etc., which can then be applied consistently across all platforms and mediums.
Web design style guides, in contrast to brand style guides, focus on digital presentation such as UX/UI rather than on the company’s logo, mission statement, buyer personas, and tone of voice.
But as a UX designer, I’ve always been interested in knowing what information can be found in the digital style guides of major corporations like Apple, Google, and Starbucks.
As surprising as it may sound, many businesses actually do make this data available to the public; it’s just not straightforward to track down. Each time I find one, I save it in my bookmarks. What follows are a few of the best examples I’ve come across so far.
Examples of Awesome Digital Style Guides
1. Apple iOS
Because it describes the process of creating an entire operating system, Apple’s style guide is fascinating. OS X Monterey, one of Apple’s most recent releases, has a cleaner interface than its predecessor, OS X Yosemite. Apple shows this nuanced but tangible difference with stunning visual comparisons and elaborates on the thinking behind the OS’s design at every turn. It’s a glimpse inside the creative process of the designers.
2. Google: Material Design
Material Design was created by Google and is a combination of the more traditional Skeuomorphic Design (with its gradients, textures, and light elements) and the more modern Flat Design (simple, colorful, geometrical.) By doing so, they were able to reap the benefits of both approaches to design while avoiding their respective drawbacks.
There’s a good chance you’ve already used Google’s Material Design on a daily basis (Google Calendar, anyone?). This manual defines Material Design and explains how Google implements it. It’s one of the best style manuals I’ve seen, and that’s saying a lot.
The amount of information contained in such a streamlined style guide is remarkable. You can tell it was designed by developers with other developers in mind because of the emphasis placed on code. Neither a website style guide nor a code library, due to its lack of branding-related elements.
Atlassian’s product suite is massive, so the company’s design guidelines reflect that. This guide has everything you’d expect from a product of this scale, from the bare essentials (such as colour palette and typography) to more complex elements (such as tables and tooltips) to a full-fledged pattern library.
To top it all off, the homepage succinctly summarises the style guide’s reasoning in just three words.
The branding and communication aspects of your digital presence are the primary focus of this guide. Mozilla’s recent emphasis on a “privacy and open web” stance is interesting to note, as is the way this is reflected in the design of their products.
Mozilla’s front page does a good job of explaining how the company’s UX/UI is meant to be usable by people with visual impairments or disabilities, which is both inclusive and essential as technology evolves.
The Buffer style guide is brief and comprehensive, covering everything from grids to modals. Remember that your digital style guide doesn’t need to be fancy as long as it gets the point across. Companies in need of a starting point can study the foundational elements of Buffer’s style guide and use them to create their own.
Looking for a good model of a website style guide? Yelp has you covered. It’s not only comprehensive, but it also presents its Atomic Design system in the form of a cookbook, dividing up the various components of a website as though they were individual ingredients.
Everything from typefaces to layouts to containers to navigation bars to code snippets is here. They do an excellent job of breaking down what each component is, why it’s important, and how to put it to use.
The English government’s website has been held up as a paragon of user-friendly design. Why? Because despite its straightforward layout, it can store a huge amount of data without becoming cumbersome to use.
It’s worth your time to study GOV.UK’s style guide if you’re curious about the components of a genuinely clean and effective design (hint: it usually begins with strong colour usage, typography, and spacing). It’s straightforward and to the point, just like the site itself.
The new DeviantArt style guide stands out from the crowd because it’s more than just a reference. It uses narrative and large, full-screen images to give the user a profound sense of connection to the DeviantArt brand. However, it is only a branding style guide, so it only addresses things like colour and typeface.
Logo, colour scheme, iconography, and typography… This Disqus manual is succinct and to the point. The information is presented, however, in a clean and orderly fashion. Since it covers the basics, this guide can serve as a model for how to begin developing your own style manual.
Feeling Inspired to Make Your Own Guide?
The floor is now in your hands. A digital style guide is a useful tool for conveying your brand’s visual language to everyone from in-house designers and external agencies to advertising partners and even customers.
Include the fundamentals (colour, typography, logo, imagery), usage guidelines (“do and don’t,”), and, if necessary, web components (modules, templates, code snippets). You can learn from the best practises of other companies by looking at their examples. In no time at all, your team will be producing flawlessly unified designs.