Design Systems Office Hours Playbook
As our company and system scales, it’s important that Design System team members have a common approach to attending and operating office hours. Office hours are our most direct channel of input from the product teams we serve, making it an important part of our work. Below are some of the themes and behaviors you should bear in mind when you participate in or run office hours.
Office hours are dedicated time for product teams to get face-to-face with the Design System teams—but that can only happen if our faces aren’t buried in our laptops and phones.
When attending office hours, refrain from using your phone or laptop to do work. Some exceptions are when you’re taking notes, or pulling up some work to share with the attendees. In these cases, just let the attendees know what you’re doing so that they know they still have your full attention.
This applies to everyone in the room, even if you’re not giving direct feedback. If you’re too busy not to be on your phone or laptop for half an hour, you should find someone who can take your place.
The teams that come to office hours are some of our most devoted colleagues: they were able to recognize the importance of the work we do and want to give us the chance to work with them. For this reason, we should expect that all the work we see in office hours deserves our support and was produced with good intentions.
In cases where teams are in clear violation of guidelines we provide, try to understand how they arrived at their solution, and work with them to find a suitable compromise that puts them back on the right track.
Be Clear and Direct
Just like any other feedback channel, the best feedback we can give to teams coming to office hours should be succinct, clear, and actionable. Avoid simply telling teams that their work isn’t Design System-compliant—that’s probably the reason they’re present—and avoid sugar-coating your feedback. Make your feedback concise and clear, provide actionable suggestions, and remember that this is their time to talk to us, not the other way around.
Sometimes getting to good feedback is hard without the right context, so make sure you have all the necessary facts you need to confidently make suggestions.
Defer and Observe
It’s wonderful when we have a strong Design System presence at office hours—that’s a sign that our team is excited to see the work going on across the company!—but it can quickly become off-putting for product teams when several people have feedback to give.
Don’t feel as though your being in office hours means you have to contribute feedback: use the time to observe and take note of the work being presented so we can better anticipate similar work coming down the pike.
Similarly, let other people drive the feedback if it’s clear they have a good handle on it, and try to defer to other people if you’re not confident you’re the best person to support the attendees.
Share Your Findings
The final thing to talk about is about what happens after office hours. Take a moment to chat with the other Design System representatives about the work you’ve seen to make sure you’re on the same page.
If there wasn’t someone taking notes during the office hours, make sure you agree on who will be responsible for writing notes for the rest of the team to see.
Additionally, just because people weren’t in the room doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in the work being shown: take the work back to your team to share with them in case they have their own relevant information or action items to share.