How to avoid people challenges around component libraries

Why dysfunction happens and how to avoid it.

David Portelli


If digital products were like lego castles, you could think of components as the individual, unique lego blocks used to build the castles.

In most companies, it’s typical for component libraries to be a shared responsibility and whilst multiple inputs ensures thorough outcomes, it inevitably brings alignment challenges.

The topic of component libraries is worthy of volumes, in this article I merely scratch the surface in exposing typical challenges and starting points for solving them. Think of this as your sigh of relief as you read and confirm that you’re not alone having component wars.

Designers aren’t using the component library

You’ve got a component library in place, mature or not, however the team isn’t using it.

Why it happens

  1. Finding components is tedious and slowing people’s workflow.
  2. The team is frequently unaware of updates made to the library so they create components rather than use what was published.
  3. The library is incomplete, so people can’t do much with it.
  4. The library’s ongoing progress keeps breaking projects so people circumvent the library.
  5. Many components aren’t adaptable across platforms and breakpoints so people need to build their own blocks.
  6. People aren’t happy with what’s in the library and have ideas of their own.

What to try

Ask the team why they’re not using the library and you’ll be surprised with what you learn. Often times people will bypass a library because it’s more practical to do so if using it is a struggle. The issue with this behaviour however is that it doesn’t move the team closer to a solution, instead, it traps them in inefficient cycles, starting from scratch each time.

Are you sure components are findable?