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Components and LEGOs

“We’re going to build a component library — which are like a bunch of LEGOs — so designers/developers can just pick a prefabricated component off the shelf and build with consistency and coherence.”

It’s a nice thought, if you don’t think about it too much. But I recently read Christian Heilmann talking about “componentisation without big picture planning” and it hit me like a ton of LEGO bricks:

Web products these days aren’t built as documents, sites or even includes. They are built as independent components, each flexible enough to be applicable in many different contexts. That’s grand, until people assemble them nilly-willy and as many as they want to.

We often imagine our system of components looking like this:

Photograph of a star cruiser lego set with an instruction booklet showing how to put it together.

But, to Christian’s point, they often look like this:

Photograph of 6 giant buckets of random legos.

Granted, two different things with different purposes.

With a little imagination, the second one can be a horse farm, or a rocket ship, or a castle — or maybe all three at once! The first? Not so much.

LEGOs are a nice, but often you want more than just prefabrication and composition. Design and intention bring about constraints and coherence — “componentisation with big picture planning”.

Just a note to self.