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The Best Design System Tool is Slack

There’s a series of questions I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember. The questions have to do with design systems work: Where should we document things? Do we make a separate app? Do we use a third-party tool to document our components? How should that tie into Figma or Sketch? What about written documentation? Should we invest a lot of time into making a giant Polaris-like wiki of how to build things?

The issue with all these tools and links and repositories is that it can become increasingly difficult to remember where to go for what kind of information. Designers should go here and engineers should go there — unless, of course, you’re an iOS engineer, then you need this special resource instead. It can be overwhelming and confusing for everyone that doesn’t live within the orbit of design systems drama and is just trying to ship a feature on time.

After years of struggling with these questions, I think my current advice to my past (and current) self is this: meet the people where they are. And where are most people asking questions about design systems, whether that’s a color variable or a component or a design pattern?

In Slack!

The other day I thought it would be neat to set up some Slackbot custom responses to do a rather simple thing. When someone types color me into a channel, I all the color variables and their hex values are pasted. That way, no one needs to learn a new tool or bookmark yet another link.

Here’s how it works.

We first have to open up the settings of the organization you’re in and click the “Customize” item in this dropdown:

That pops open a new tab with the “Customize your Workspace” settings. If you select “Slackbot” from the options, then you can then see all of the custom responses that have been set up already. From there, we can create a new response like this:

That \n is what breaks things onto a new line so that I can now test it out in a chat with myself once I’ve saved this:

Because this takes up so much darn space, I also made separate answers for each color, like blue and purple. But all of this has me wondering: how else can we use Slack — or whatever chat app or communication tool — to extend the cause of good design systems work?

I bet there’s a ton of other things we can do to improve our lives within tools like this and make design systems work even easier.