How we say thank you

A close up of Patrick smiling against a brick wall

We recently added a side navigation component in the Australian Government Design System. This wouldn’t have been possible without help from our active community. If you look at the component on our website you might notice we highlight the folks who contributed to its design and development. This is something that’s not very common on government websites, so we want to share our rationale for why we say thank you in such a public way.

A group of people having a conversation at the Design System winter 2018 community meetup

Listen to your users

We heard from our users that they’re concerned about ownership and recognition of shared work. We want the design system to be a community orientated open-source product. To encourage developers and designers to engage in the community, we accept contributions from anyone willing to donate their time.

Our users often told us that they have a strong sense of pride in their work and they appreciate when people recognise their efforts. During usability testing, many of the participants made positive comments about the contributors section. They saw it as a way of showing gratitude for their time and effort. When asked if it would influence their decision to contribute back to the design system, some suggested it would encourage them to take part in the community.

A screenshot of the design system navigation component showing the contributors.

Caption: The many contributors for the new side navigation component.

Embrace community contributions and ownership

We encourage, accept, and celebrate contributions from any discipline. This includes developers, researchers, designers, content writers, and accessibility experts. Some open-source projects acknowledge their contributors on GitHub, a community built for developers to share, collaborate and learn. Because our contributions can take many forms, we needed a different way to recognise the hard work that goes into maintaining and growing our design system. After some experimentation, we decided to use contributor badges on each component. The core design system team curates the contributor badges and to avoid the appearance of hierarchy we randomise the order in which they appear. We also seek approval from each individual or team of contributors so we can link to an appropriate profile or government site.

Making a contribution to an open-source project can be intimidating for first-time contributors. They have donated their time and effort to improving the product in some way and we need to celebrate that. As maintainers of the design system, we must make people feel comfortable sharing their work and recognise the effort that’s gone into creating it.

We won’t be able to accept every contribution. Some contributions won’t align with our vision for the product. Others will be outside the scope of what we can reasonably maintain. Or, they might be excellent ideas implemented in a way that doesn’t align with our code or design standards. Solomon Hykes, the co-founder of Docker, sums it up best in this tweet: 

Rejecting someone’s contribution isn’t the same as rejecting the person who made it. To make it easier for us to say yes, we’ve created contributing guidelines to help steer people in the right direction. We appreciate all well intended contributions. We encourage folks to contribute in any way they can; the worst that can happen is we’ll offer our help or ask them to change something.

Join the community today

The Australian Government Design System provides a framework and a set of tools to help designers and developers build government products and services more easily.

We’re working on our main navigation component; if you would like to join the conversation or make a contribution in any form please head to our community forum.  

Content based on GitHub’s Open Source Guides is used under the Creative Commons (BY 4.0) license.