jigsawUX Matters is a cracking website for reference and this article on components certainly caught my eye. Recently, I completed a project for a large European portal and certainly using components created many a saving in time and coding effort.

The plan was relatively simple.

From across the range of channels that were to be redeveloped, I researched which channel would provide the most reusable components so that as the project streams progressed, in theory, less work was required. The channel chosen did indeed allow us to pre-create, using Axure, a shared online library of components. Unsurprisingly, the really big effort was up front in terms of defining requirements and detailing the modules’ measurements etc.

Sadly, there was no time for user research or testing but using raw data, a good understanding of the brand and the channels, I was able to build on the back of previous work (previous work was based on a smaller grid) and so using Axure, Photoshop and a WIKI, we had a library of Axure modules that could be shared to build wireframes, JPEGs for rough mock ups. Due to the speed of the project there was no time to build the raw code but that too could have been done using Axure or importing HTML and applying it to modules.

The theory of reusing code was a sound one and bar some unforeseen issues with regard to the content publishing system, we would have been able to cut down the code rewrite even more than we managed. As it was, working in an Agile way, the volume and success rate of the series of projects has been good and getting better.

What the project taught me was that the reuse of components is a sound theory but like all new processes, it needs to be tested on a small test case, for example, a one brand website, and then applied to larger projects i.e. channels for a broad service.

Axure is an excellent tool for this purpose but in order to create usable code, I would have need many more weeks writing and testing the code to really build out a complete library. This is definitely a process, I’ll seek to apply to new (smaller) projects and would recommend it.