Project Clarity: 1 Year of Open Source Success & a New Year of Design Innovation
Project Clarity all started with a need: All our VMware applications had different looks and feel. Because of this, our teams and our customers had so many different ways of doing the same things. To meet this need, our goal was pretty simple: standardize the visual and mic-interactions driving the user interfaces that form the identity for VMware applications.
Just over a year ago, we released the Clarity design system into the open source world. Looking back, our teams and our project have been on a wonderful journey—and I’m excited to talk about the highs and lows in this blog. Even more importantly, I’m excited to share our plans for Clarity’s second year and our goals for the open source and the future.
Project Clarity by the Numbers
In 2017 alone, Project Clarity achieved outstanding support from the open source community, including:
- A weekly release cadence, cumulatively resulting in more than 600 pull requests.
- More than 2.5 million page views to the Project Clarity website.
- More than 600,000 NPM downloads across all Clarity packages.
- 250-plus forks and 30 top-notch contributors.
- More than 2,700 stars on GitHub.
Clarity’s success in the open source community within such a short time has been an amazing experience.
This Is Going to Work!
Within 24 hours of going open source, we started seeing individual bug requests. “I’m trying this thing, and it didn’t work. Can you fix?” Then, we saw the same people filing multiple bugs. This repeat filing signaled that we had people using Clarity outside of VMware, because they’re facing things that you wouldn’t face by just testing it out—a great sign that Clarity was really starting to pick up recognition. Finally, we knew Clarity was really going to work, because regular contributors wrote descriptions, lengthy pull requests and more in-depth contributions.
We had consistent conversations with them in the community. For example, someone using Clarity for internal projects at their company sent us a thank you card because Clarity was so useful to them. This relatively quick transition from one-off requests to regular, enthusiastic contributors really showed our team that Clarity was going to work, both internally for our VMware teams and externally for our customers and partners.
A Year of Surprises & Challenges
What continues to surprise me the most is that going open source helped us drive adoption internally at VMware. The public support and attention from CTO ambassadors, advocates and customers made it so nobody within VMware wanted to miss the boat. Our journey would have been much more difficult without open source. At the same time, this adoption also created a few challenges that our team had to tackle.
One of the biggest challenges we faced was: “How do we set priorities?” We have around 100 product teams within VMware, plus hundreds of designers and engineers outside VMware that use Clarity. Each has their own needs and priorities. To solve this challenge, we focused on setting Objective and Key Results goals—or OKRs.
What’s important is that we keep the community at the forefront of our priorities. In fact, being open source has only helped us set priorities. We keep community first, and in doing so, it helps VMware product managers understand how and when we accept a change or introduce a new feature.
Every week we set priorities the coming week’s release, but all of those priorities fall within our quarterly OKRs. Every three months, the whole remote team flies into Palo Alto for retrospective meetings. What went right? What needs help? What’s been trending within the community? Beyond that, what do the people in our team need professionally and personally? We also establish our OKRs for the next quarter, picking 3-5 themes we want to focus on and the measureable goals that mean success.
[Related blog: Product-Based Open Source Development: Project Clarity]
Looking Forward to Clarity’s Second Year
On the feature/function level, the biggest thing we’re really focusing on is reaching stability with version 1.0 for clarity-angular. We also plan to add a few anticipated components like a search function and date picker.
One of my favorite quotes is from Jeff Bezos:
“We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details.”
On a grander scale, I’m focusing on up-leveling in 2018.
In our first year, we created the standards and components. Now, we need to start inventing. Just like Legos, we built the block design and now we need the Star Wars kit. We have the structure and components down, so now we need to start showing and inventing the possibilities.
Everyone has an idea and everyone has an opinion. But a successful open source project has a clear vision and innovates toward that vision. The core team is not, cannot be smarter than the thousands working on the project. Stubborn on the vision, flexible on the details.