Orbit principles

How we create Orbit as an open-source design system for travel projects.

Orbit principlesUI kit principles

These principles help define how our UI kit is built. They should serve as a guide to contributing to the UI kit to help consumers get the most out of it.

Taking away visual decisions

Designers using our UI kit shouldn’t need to think about which color to pick for their components, what can be combined, and what can’t. All components need to have our design decisions baked into them and only give a list of variations to choose from.

This enables even less experienced visual designers to build beautiful products with Orbit.

Practical tips: Visual decisions

  • If possible, have every component variation as a separate component or variant.
  • Use overrides only for the component’s content: texts, labels, icons, and illustrations. That should give designers time to focus mostly on the message they want to deliver, not on understanding how visual overrides work.
  • If there is anything visually related in the overrides, it should be documented.

Use appropriate defaults

Switching between variations or removing default values takes a few seconds for each use of a component. If possible, even default content should help people with their design work, for example in nudging them to the mechanics of our grammar.

Practical tips: Defaults

  • Mobile-first always: All components need to be in the size and look for mobile and have desktop, when it exists, as the second version. The default is 360px for edge-to-edge components (Cards, Modals, …) and 344px for components intended to be inside wrappers.
  • Sort components alphabetically at the root level, but by the most frequently used variations at the second level. This should help consumers find the right component quickly and then use its most common variation.
  • Never use Lorem ipsum or any other variation of dumb content.
  • Use default content to help designers with micro-copy, for Alerts, for example, use a title and description to explain the purpose of each.

Promote consistency

There’s a lot to think about when working with a UI kit. Remove moving parts as much as possible. Consistent naming and scope for our components should help everyone.

Practical tips: Consistency

  • Have every component available for all platforms. If it’s specific, document it and provide an alternative for specific platforms.
  • Use the same names for components and their parts in the design tool as in code. This helps make handover between design and code smoother.

Favor usability over maintainability

Overall, more time is spent using a UI kit than building or maintaining it. For this reason, it’s most important that it’s easy to use a UI kit without time spent learning how to use it.

Using the Orbit UI kit should be easy and intuitive so any designer can start using it without extensive training. All edge cases or exceptions should be documented, ideally with examples.

Practical tips: Usability

  • Use guides to explain how to align or compose more complex components.
  • Speed up designers’ workflow by providing larger reusable blocks as separate components (such as Login, App Frame) that are intended to be broken and adjusted.