2017 year end review

2017 marked the first year in our new home. We got it (mostly) decorated and have loved having guests over to enjoy some dinner, games and conversation.

My dog, Nugget
In 2017, we got our first puppy. He was about 6 months old when we got him and has been quite a handful!

This post is one of my favorites to write every year because it allows me to look back on the year and evaluate what I’ve learned and determine where I’ve made progress.

Design systems

This is the year that I spent a lot of time reading and working on a design system. I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about the challenges in implementing and maintaining a design system, and even wrote a few blog posts about design systems.

Jeremy Keith linked to one of my blog posts, calling out my Venn diagram as similar to how he thinks about how design system, pattern libraries, and style guides all fit together. This simple thing was a huge boost to my confidence as it sent a signal to me that I’m thinking about these things the right way.

I feel as if we made significant progress in our organization to implement a system of components. However, an unseen (yet ultimately positive) circumstance arose that temporarily halted progress on the design system, which was an accessibility complaint.

After this holiday vacation, one of my top priorities is going to be completing a design system that we can build on for years to come.


I crammed so much accessibility knowledge into my head this year because of a complaint we had filed against us by OCR (Office of Civil Rights), which claimed that our website was inaccessible.

While the situation was at times stressful, in hindsight I view it as an incredibly positive experience for a lot of reasons:

  • Definitely “leveled-up” my accessibility skills a LOT
  • Created a sense of urgency and importance about the topic within our organization
  • Offered opportunity to revisit old processes and policies to ensure people understand accessibility
  • Got me out of my comfort zone and gave a couple accessibility workshops on campus
  • Again, got me out of my comfort zone to be involved and contribute to in a campus-wide accessibility working group

As part of our organization’s commitment to accessibility, I was sent to WebAIM training in beautiful Logan, Utah. The training was highly valuable as it clarified a lot of the misconceptions I had about accessibility and solidified my understanding of when to use ARIA attributes vs HTML5 elements when it comes to accessible markup.

Templating languages

While working on design systems, I’ve experimented with a lot of templating languages. These are a delight to use because they fit in perfectly with component based design and allow for rapid front-end prototyping. Throughout the year I stumbled on 3 different templating languages that I got the opportunity to play with.

Pug — Thanks to CodePen, I’ve learned how Pug templating works. CodePen’s new Projects feature is an amazing tool to use when prototyping.

Twig — At work, the current version of our pattern library is in PatternLab which uses Twig to template components. This has allowed me to learn the ins and outs of Twig and get up to speed with it quickly. It is such a good fit because as our organization eyes moving to Drupal 8, learning Twig will prove to be a good investment of time.

Handlebars — I use Assemble.io to build certain custom designed, special projects which use Handlebars to template out partials and layouts.

Governance and policy

This isn’t a technical achievement, but it’s note-worthy nonetheless. While sometimes I wish I could focus on the tech part of my job 100% of the time, it is necessary to be competent in writing and communicating in order to be truly effective and successful in your career.

This year marked the first time I’ve taken a serious look into governance policies, which our organization sorely needs. I like to think I helped get the ball rolling on that initiative by creating some drafts of policy documents that I shared with my superiors who see the policies as a necessity are now using their status to get buy-in and carry the project across the finish line.


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