A client I am currently working at has a problem with inconsistent designs.

I have identified the causes and one thing I notice is the lack of a proper language shared by all stakeholders to identify the different UI components in a design.

The size of the organization adds to the severity of the problem and makes it harder to share the vocabulary amongst stakeholders.

The team responsible for UI design re-uses components, but they are not in a repository and do not have a semantic meaningful name. For example: a call to action button is called “the big blue button”. The team members are responsible for presenting the visual design deliverables to the stakeholders when the implementation phase initiates.

My goal is, together with this team, to create a common shared vocabulary to talk about designs and make sure it will be used persistently by all stakeholders throughout the corporation (business, designers, developers).

What are the best practices to approach this?

  1. Creating the vocabulary itself
  2. The things it should contain
  3. Introducing and maintaining the language over time.

Keep in mind we have multiple different channels accessible by our clients that have their own elements and also share many common elements.

I have done this before but never in such a large scale corporation. Anyone else has some experience he/she can share with me on this matter?

  • 3
    Are you trying to develop a pattern language or a domain language? Nov 13, 2011 at 3:46
  • The vocabulary we want to create needs to describe patterns as well as components (there is a fundamental difference). So I guess we are looking more in the direction of a domain language. Nov 14, 2011 at 8:38

2 Answers 2


At more than one enterprise company I have worked with, we created internal style guides, guideline documentation, glossaries and shared code components. It is, I forewarn you, a massive endeavor.

However, such efforts in the long term massively improve UX consistency, development efficiency and reduce the need for constant ad hoc design. If you can convince your management to invest in an internal set of ux guidelines, the payoff for everyone involved can be huge.

  • Nadine, you are right it is a massive endeavor and I am also aware of that. But I believe it is crucial to resolve the inconsistencies we are currently experiencing. They are trying to create corporate UI styleguides for the different environments and work on a re-usable component library is soon to be started. A set of guidelines are also being created. These are indeed very useful tools to enforce the language. Already the styleguides are showing inconsistencies because the language on itself was not created prior to the styleguide. I am looking for techniques for creating this language Nov 14, 2011 at 8:50
  • Dennis: I agree. It's crucial. There is no other way in a large corporation to ensure consistency. I also personally find working on these sorts of projects quite satisfying. Best of luck and success to you! Nov 14, 2011 at 15:47

My goal is ... to create a common shared vocabulary to talk about designs and make sure it will be used persistently by all stakeholders throughout the corporation (business, designers, developers).

Good luck with that. Getting all of the stakeholders in a diverse organisation (who, I suspect, do not talk well together on other things either ) to use the same language is pretty much impossible. I would suggest that you progress by recording the different terms used, and ensuring that you can understand what everyone is talking about. But trying to change the way people do things is very difficult.

  • I agree changing how people do things is hard. However they are creating their own terms to name things simple because there is no meaningful name provided. I do believe it is possible, to provide them with the right vocabulary to reference components/patterns of a design. Nov 14, 2011 at 8:51
  • That may be the case, and you will know the organisation better then me. But it could be that they use their own terms because that distinguishes them from other. Or because their understanding is completely different. I suspect that you may find that in these differences is some significant work to be done. Nov 14, 2011 at 19:40

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