Harmony and you Intuit Developer Community Blog

Create invoices, take photos of receipts or see your company’s activities from the QuickBooks mobile app anytime, anywhere. We hope the toolkit gives you valuable insight into how to build with us, and help us all create a cohesive operating system! Let us know what you think of it in the comments section below, and join our webinar next week to learn more. Creating a roadmap for enabling developers to integrate their solutions into the QuickBooks Online user experience.

It could be … We added a new color to our color palette because we realized that we’re having some accessibility issues with one of our colors in particular. It can be a whole range of things, and the delivery … so the artifacts of delivery also can range quite a bit. Then, when we became more involved with Intuit design system, what we decided is there needs to be a central team to drive this, so at the Intuit central or group, we hired a small team, and that was a designer, a developer, and a program manager since they like … That person acts basically like a product manager. Coming out of an agency where all I felt like I was constantly selling even really large clients like in Intuit on how to build, and design, and even ship your product, but really not having experience that from a large software company perspective, so that was really what I was looking for in my career. Then, the small business group, basically QuickBooks side of Intuit, had had a design system working for a while known as “Harmony,” and so I took over when I started for the previous person that was managing Harmony, and it was just an interesting … I just found it an interesting challenge. We’re looking forward to talking with you in detail about the Harmony Design System next week Tuesday, January 13, during Intuit Developer’s monthly webinar.

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We should be, how to calculate stockholders equity say, story completion time that it took us to build that component, but now we’re taking it to the max level, and we’re actually looking at how many instances of that component are being used in the product and where, and we’re also starting to look at how much traffic, how much customer traffic is actually going through that component. Essentially, if we don’t have component code yet, then we would start production, but a lot of these things will finish with a code component, but it could be other things. It could be adding styling variables to our CSS framework.

I’m the representative for QuickBooks. There’s another equivalent for TurboTax, Mint, and ProConnect. Then, we meet multiple times a week going over … reviewing proposals, talking about what we’re going to do next, aligning our roadmaps together, and then we try to involve different designers and teams from each of our businesses to actually be the boots on the ground so to speak.

Since you’ve started working at the design system, have you seen changes or improvements to the product development process?

At some point, you don’t want to step on the product designer’s toes and be so prescriptive that you’re really restricting them from doing their job, which is figuring out how to make a great experience, and so there’s definitely a balance there in terms of … I think we’ve made the mistake plenty of times of probably being over-prescriptive. We try to develop this concept in Intuit design system of having what we call “fixed” and “flexible” elements as a way to help give guidance … depending upon your use case or however, whatever context you’re going to use it in. We’re anticipating all these elements will change, so we’re trying to do that. I had the benefit of coming in with that sort of groundwork already laid for me. Ours is called harmony because building the QuickBooks ecosystem is all about creating a harmonious experience for our customers, across all their apps and devices. It’s because of our design system that our ecosystem of products can share a common look, feel, behavior, and data across platforms and devices.

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A reactive, card-based UI framework built on UIKit for iOS developers. Currently investigating a way to provide you the ability migrate your existing QuickBooks Online “classic” company to a “harmony” experience. Once I find out how, I’ll post a follow up here. Then, once they got back to their product teams, the other advantage of that was those people had just been involved in the design system work, so who better to be an influencer of that product than that person? We found a lot of those people and took them out to coffee and beers a lot. Really, what I was looking to do was take the design system to the next level, figure out how to add some pieces to it maybe that were missing.

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  • One of the first things we wanted to get right was making sure we’re taking more of a bottom-up approach in terms of not only what gets proposed to be added to the system, but then also, how decisions get made and then how decisions get disseminated.
  • When we looked across that landscape, it was very disparate and very all over the place, and so the company’s mindset had shifted to thinking about really the product only being the core tenant of the experience to looking more holistically at that, what we call the “end-to-end experience,” so that was one change.
  • The other things we’re doing are adding like continuous integration, so some CICD stuff where we’ve got linkers, we’ve got automated functional tests both locally like an automated unit test, and then we fire off a more significant set of functional tests, functional automated tests the minute you try to submit a poor request, so we’re trying to like tighten up our CICD of our library.
  • That can be really frustrating to people because most of the design systems are not on the bleeding edge of innovation.

One is basically a single-page application show that we can embed in a native app that allows us to show web experience seamlessly. Having a defined process, so like I said, it’s really important actually to have creativity for some set of requirements initially about, “What are you trying to accomplish? ” Hopefully, that’s backed by some customer or some business benefit, so I think as funny as it sounds, I think it is crucial to at least upfront spend a little bit of time defining that stuff. Whereas you come in, you go, “Hey, look. We’re changing the whole ecosystem. We’ve done a lot of customer testing, and we’re getting really good results in this visual language.

When I came in, there was a … If we just take, let’s say, our web products, there was a variety of JavaScript-based UI component libraries out there. JQuery, a little Bootstrap over here. Another initiative I was part of was essentially looking at re-platforming the web technology into something more modern. We had another team on angular as an example. That was also where we looked at … We borrowed from the salesforce lightning tokens, design tokens idea of, “We could at least develop like a CSS framework or a set of CSS variables.” We can even transpose or transform those variables into like whatever syntax or format we want, so that helped become this bridge between the design system and the disparate at technology. Then, each of the business units have assigned representatives that really drive the initiatives forward.

QuickBooks Enterprise

I was talking to Nathan Curtis yesterday, and we were talking about this same kind of concept. Keep your existing QuickBooks Online “classic” companies, because it’ll be a while before your your existing QuickBooks Online customers will be migrated to the “harmony” experience. I think the answer would be, “What problems does your organization or your product have that you feel like a design system could provide a solution for? Especially, can you explain that to executives and stakeholders, and even quantify that problem, sometimes you need to, down to a dollar amount, or a time amount, or some sort of customer experience metric or whatever? Then, based upon that, I would decide what is the design system that we need that fits our org, that fits the problem we’re trying to solve for our org. QuickBooks in and of itself has a whole bunch of products under it, and QuickBooks … Just to give you an idea of scale, the small business group or the QuickBooks group has 170 designers in it.

The way they build their UIs is really progressive, and so they can bring a set of expertise to the table that we can all benefit from and vice versa. QuickBooks too has been doing some really interesting stuff in terms of … The new sort of text stack we’re moving with is something that the whole company actually really likes that new text stack. I think those are what we’re seeing now on the horizon as a big value add that the system can bring to the company. Then, the other thing is there are some business units that don’t have a design system, don’t have a team, don’t have resources, and for them, it’s nice to get a whole bunch of stuff that’s highly involved and been tested essentially for free. If you do believe that your job as a design system is really to enable the products to do the best work that they can and to support them, but not to be the determinant factor of what gets released in products. To be honest, we’re still in the midst of it.

That can be really frustrating to people because most of the design systems are not on the bleeding edge of innovation. Brad Frost actually had a great article about this recently called like “The best design systems are like the really boring ones,” and there’s some truth to that. Like it depends on what the artifact of the system is and how we would measure success, but we’re definitely … Velocity is huge to us, and then also making sure that what we put out is being contributed to a lot, and then is being adopted by teams a lot.

I think that’s really the key skillsets of design system folks because you’re the connective tissues with all these different people, and so it’s those social and the soft skills that come in the most handy more than I think technical skills, and that’s hard. When people come on my team, it’s like I know they just want to put the headphones and start cranking away a sketch, but it’s like unfortunately, you’re in a lot of meetings because you’re having to influence people or you … The other part of it is you have to see the breadth of what teams are designing in order to have those conversations in order to figure out like, “Oh, wow. That’s a new emerging pattern that we’re seeing happening right now. That is a really nice addition.” You have to be there and talk to those people to be able to experience that. The other 30% of my time, I’m trying to dedicate to the Intuit design system and make it more over time. Another change was that mobile became more of a focus.

The creative brief is then reviewed by essentially like the drivers board, which I’m on. Joe explains how to sell a design system, strike a balance between consistency and creativity, and other lessons learned over the years. Check out the full video and transcript below.

Whereas when you sit down with them, and you open up the IDE, and you start changing the code, boy, it was a lot faster than anyone expected. When we looked at it, we said, “Hey, look. We’re not on the same technology stack, so what can we develop that will help accelerate adoption and help with cohesiveness or dare I say consistency, which was a CSS framework? First, I brought in two contract front-end developers to work with the design system team, and then we actually built out a design engineering team that works in parallel with design systems. That way, we could really have a nice blend of designers and developers, but again, we were still operating mainly under QuickBooks with that model. Arriving at a process, and a contribution model, and a decision-making framework that we could scale, especially where all the businesses of Intuit felt like they had ownership, felt like they had a sense of the design system is by the people, for the people.

What’s your background and how did you come to join the Intuit design system team?

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It’s going to be a long journey, but I think what we were getting to see the fruits of creating the model of our process in terms of working together as brands because we have really different customers and use cases on it, so I think that’s the biggest challenge for at least Intuit design system. That’s what’s hard about … especially in the existing design system. I could see on a small company that doesn’t have a design system where it’s just like, “All right. We’re not going to talk to you guys until we have V1 out, and then we’ll figure out how to have other people start contributing.” When you get to the point of … You’re at V2, V3, V4, and you really want to involve other people in terms of them feeling like the design system is theirs, that’s where those skillsets change of being more soft skills of a designer. Then, the other part of that I think would be the … This is the difference between a component and a pattern, most people would say, so like you think of components as being really reusable, really modular.

How did you evolve your technology stack with the design system?

The Python OAuth client provides a set of methods that make it easier to work with Intuit’s OAuth and OpenID implementation. Dotnet component that enables us to structure asynchronous tasks in a Hierarchy. That calculates overall progress, allows caller to start the execution of child tasks in concurrent or serial fashion. Or, if you are more of a hands on person, you can give the new “harmonized” QuickBooks Online a test drive yourself.

Sorry about that, the boots on the ground so to speak, doing the work. Harmony is a living design system that unites Intuit’s small business products, brand and marketing experiences across devices and ecosystem. Here is where you’ll find guidance, information and resources for creating delightful experiences.

Design systems can become dated or they can become irrelevant to companies for a variety of reasons, and so part of what I found interesting and challenging was how to make it more relevant and how to make it solve problems that the company was having now when I joined, which were different from when the problems it was trying to solve when they started Harmony. To find out, we spoke with Joe Preston, Director of Design Systems and Engineering at Intuit. Co-founder of the enterprise UX consultancy Momentum Labs, he joined the Intuit team in 2016 to help them scale their design system across all products.


So we want to keep you in the loop with the latest information regarding these exciting changes. As well as, provide some heads up on things you should do on your end to prepare. Get tips on hiring, onboarding, and structuring a design team with insights from DesignOps leaders. First of all, we align all of our roadmaps, and we make sure that the design system hopefully is going to provide solutions that we need by X amount of time. That was crucial to get right because before I got to the company, there had been central top-down-driven initiatives to try to get all the brands to adhere or be cohesive, and those initiatives from my understanding had failed just from the standpoint that they were top-down-driven.

I think some executives can think of like in design just seem like, “Okay, cool. So, you work on this for a couple months, and then we’re done, and it’s all good? Awesome.” I think it is important to set that expectation of like, “No, we have a milestone we’re going to hit, and you’re going to see some success from that.

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If you are interesting in providing requests or learning more about the roadmap, please post your comments below. Spot opportunities and challenges for increasing the impact of design systems and DesignOps in enterprises. UXPin is a product design platform used by the best designers on the planet. Let your team easily design, collaborate, and present from low-fidelity wireframes to fully-interactive prototypes. I think you can go really big like I would actually say we probably maybe have too big of a design system sometimes or you can go really small.

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