There are a LOT of conversations around the Government of Canada about design systems right now. I love it!

But for all the excitement about consolidation, consistency and efficiencies, I’m worried we’re missing something.

The user experience. The fact that different people are trying to do different things at different times.

We can’t expect a limited library of components and patterns to meet all needs in all contexts. So there are two options.

  1. We create a huge library that has all the components for all possible products, services and context
  2. We break apart the library so people only access the…


Last week, I wrote about design systems, and there’s so much more to unpack, I don’t even know where to start. So, I’m going to list a few topics here for now, and then hopefully work my way through them in the future.

If you want to engage in the discussion, join the conversation on the design-gc-conception.slack.com group or on twitter — I’m at @afhill.

What do we consider ‘design’ in the GC?

A woman on a stage standing in front of a slide that says ‘public servants make more design decisions than the entire design industry’
A woman on a stage standing in front of a slide that says ‘public servants make more design decisions than the entire design industry’
Cyd Harrell at CANUX 2019

We have some people with ‘designer’ in their title, but a lot more people who make design decisions without realizing. …


Alt: a man with a shirt labeled ‘security’ stands in front of some eager women reaching forward towards the camera, holding them back from advancing

I’ve been in a few cross-governmental discussions lately about design systems and shared component libraries (if you’re part of the GC, join us over in the design-gc-conception.slack.com group!).

Some of my favourite conversations have been around the purpose and intended audience of a design system, which have been really interesting as they’ve forced me to re-examine my assumptions.

I’ve spent the bulk of my career in software organizations, where as part of the UX team I worked closely with software developers to implement rich interactive applications. When I first worked on developing a component library (we called them “UI Building…


I’ve been thinking a lot about scaling UX. When I joined the CRA UX R&D team in October, we had a decent-sized team of about a dozen (four of us were hired within three months). We’ve more than doubled in size since then.

When you have a small team, you don’t need to spend a lot of time on communications. You know what’s going on and what decisions are made, because you’re part of them. But as the team grows, communications become more important if you want to maintain some standards and consistencies.

You have to spend more time being…


Monthnotes? April 2021 :-)

It turns out that the work I’ve been most interested in since starting at the Canada Revenue Agency has been focused internally.

They’re the projects that haven’t been really clearly defined. A request comes in, and then as we start to investigate, more layers reveal themselves. The scoping and framing becomes the bigger unknown.

When we are confident in our craft and processes, it can be easy to rush in. We conduct user testing. We prototype screens. We report on results. We know how to do these things efficiently.

But sometimes the bigger question is why. Are we confident that…


Weeknotes: March 1–5, 2021

I moved from Ottawa (Eastern time zone) to Penticton (Pacific time zone) at the end of 2020. This isn’t the first time I’ve worked with coworkers across time zones — when I was in Denver I was on Mountain time while many of my co-workers were on Eastern time — but the extra hour difference with Pacific time has taken some getting used to!

When I was on Eastern time, I generally kept a 9–5 schedule, and enjoyed leisurely mornings to run, journal, or generally just ease into my day.

But if I were to start at 9am PT, my…


Weeknotes — Feb 22–26, 2021

I’ve missed posting a few times over the past month or so, to the point where I’m just going to stop counting posts and/or weeks. Cut my losses and just get back to writing!

Last week I attended my first ever Nielsen Norman Group training session. Their courses, conferences and certifications are probably the best known in the business, but I’ve never attended anything before. Having a virtual event made it easy for me to sign up for a single course mid-week. No travel, no hotel or transportation costs. And, better coffee than at a conference centre! Win-win-win!

The course…


Weeknotes Post #37: Jan 30–Feb 14, 2021

Yes, I know that Jan 30 — Feb 14 is more than a week.. But this is my 37th post since starting with the public service :-)
And I’m not posting this til March. Yikes! I got behind. I don’t think I even quite finished this post, but I’m going to hit “publish” as better late (and incomplete) than never.

This past week I really felt in my element! I started my UX career building HTML prototypes for usability testing, but it’s been quite awhile since my job officially involved any coding. …


Weeknotes #36: Jan 26–29, 2021

Last week, the W3C consortium released the first public working draft of WCAG3.0.

“Ah, WCAG,” you’re thinking. “The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.”
Not anymore. With WCAG3.0, they’ve changed what the letters in the acronym stand for. Now it’s the W3C Accessibility Guidelines (dropping the words ‘web’ and ‘content’).

Dropping the word ‘content’ is a big deal. A lot of knowledge about accessibility had to do with ‘marking up content’. Typically we think of content as being quite static.. so just put alt text on your images and use semantic headers and you’re partway there! /s

But.. the focus shouldn’t be…


Weeknotes #35: Jan 18–22, 2021

I recently had a thought-provoking conversation with a fellow researcher that I need to unpack a bit.

I have two projects on my plate at the moment, and in both cases they seem like “special projects” that aren’t directly tied to a program area committed to action. They’re both somewhat speculative; one to raise the question of whether we should commit resources to improvements, and the other is essentially a technical feasibility study.

Typically in designing a research study, we want to have a sense of the biggest questions we’re trying to answer. What are…

Andrea F Hill

Sr UX Specialist with Canada Revenue Agency, former web dev and product person. 🔎 Lifelong learner. Unapologetic introvert. Plant-powered marathoner. Cat mom.

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