USWDS Monthly Call - February 2024

How to suggest a new component for the U.S. Web Design System

Thursday, February 15, 2024 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM ET

Hosted by and the U.S. Web Design System

View the slides (PowerPoint presentation, 5.8 MB, 81 pages)

Slide 1: Welcome everyone, to the U.S. Web Design System monthly call for February, 2024 — This month we’re celebrating Black History Month with shades of green, gold, orange, and brown. As well as Valentine’s Day yesterday with shades of pink.

Slide 2: My name is Dan Williams, he/him, and I’m the USWDS project lead — and here on-screen is my avatar: dark hair, blue sweater, collared shirt. Today my physical self is wearing a plaid flannel shirt and a fleece, because it’s still winter. On my fleece is a green button with some sprouts on it that my son made for me.

As Jeannie mentioned, we are recording this call, and I’m happy to say we’ve started to be able to share the recordings of these monthly calls publicly. You can find pretty much everything from the last year’s worth of monthly calls — back to January 2023 — on our website, at We typically post videos within a week of the monthly call, and we also link out to the slides and the script, hosted at We’ve posted a link to our monthly call page in the chat.

We’ll be posting other links and references into the chat as we go along, and I encourage you to ask questions in the chat at any time. If any member of our team can answer your question in the chat, we’ll do so, otherwise there’ll be some time for questions and answers at the end of the hour. Also, be sure to introduce yourself in the chat as well — it’s nice to know who’s here. It’s good to have you here today.

For those of you who find the chat distracting, you’re welcome to close or hide the chat window during the main presentation. You can reopen it later during the Q&A session at the end of this call.

So thanks! And, with that, let’s get started!

Slide 3: So what’s our agenda for today?

We’ve got a couple nice new site and feature launches, a couple product updates, and then we’ll spend the rest of the time talking about a USWDS component lifecycle model and our new approach to new-component proposals.

Slide 4: Let’s get into it with site launches.

Slide 5: First,, an exciting new initiative from the team at the Department of Health and Human Services. provides a centralized location for grant seekers to find and apply for federal funding opportunities. is a new site from the team that’s using a transparent, iterative, and agile process to document their progress modernizing and improving the service. It’s an exciting project where they’ll be building software out in the open, and I for one, am pretty interested in their approach and their progress! The homepage features a simple, text-focused layout, with a large blue hero field and the words “We’re building a simpler!”

Slide 6: Next, is starting to roll out hosted search results pages powered by USWDS code.

You know, right? It’s the search engine by and for the federal government, a free service powering search results on over 2,000 websites. Earlier this year they released a beta of a USWDS-based redesign of their hosted results page. Now is the first site to be able to use it, hosting a USWDS-powered search result layout! and DigitalGov — a real chocolate and peanut butter combination in my book.

On this slide we see the search results page for the keyword “usability.” We see a clean display of search results, as well as a way to select between all search results and just videos.

Slide 7: Congratulations and great work! Be sure to let our team know when a new site launches, either with an email or a note on the USWDS public Slack channel!

Slide 8: Now for a few product updates…

Slide 9: First USWDS 3.8.0. Last month I said that it would be coming in January… but that didn’t happen. We got super busy with a lot of the component lifecycle work we’re talking about today, so we had to delay the release.

Well it’s still coming — and it’s still a release that has a number of good improvements largely contributed by the community, like sticky headers in tables, alignment improvements for icons in buttons, and indeterminate checkbox styling — but we’re now aiming for the end of this month. And this time, we will hit that deadline, and you can check in on our progress on our public project board — we’re posting that link in the chat.

Slide 10: Next, I’d like to give an update on the accessibility tests we launched last month.

Slide 11: This month we’ll be launching accessibility test pages for three more design system components: table, icon, and typography. We’re just finishing these up as well, and we’ll be publishing them alongside USWDS 3.8.0 by the end of the month. And that’s it for product updates!

Slide 12: So today, we’d like to talk about work we’ve done to outline a USWDS component lifecycle model, and improvements we’re making to new-component proposals.

Slide 13: At the end of last year, we did a lot of thinking about where we’re going as a design system; what we value, and where we’re going to spend our time and energy. At the end of that thinking, we came to the monthly call and talked about updates to our mission and vision. And also about our Polestar, where we’re pointed as a product.

Slide 14: Polestar: We help government teams align, design, and keep their websites and services up to date.

Slide 15: Vision: Empowered and supported digital service teams. Familiar and easy-to-use digital services.

Slide 16: Mission: Shaping the future of government digital services.

Slide 17: As we come into 2024, you may ask, “Why component lifecycle now?” It may seem surprising that we’re talking about a component lifecycle model — about how components are proposed and developed, how they make their way into the design system, mature, and how sometimes they’re deprecated and retired. Why is this a priority now?

Well, a component lifecycle is not just for devs and pedants. Today we’d like to talk about how it really connects to our mission and supports the kinds of connections and activities at the heart of our product.

Slide 18: Thinking about how components start, grow, and mature is something of a scale model of how the design system itself grows and matures, since components are such an important part of what we deliver.

Slide 19: Specifically, we’re really focused on how USWDS can be a place to connect digital design and delivery teams across government, to better know what we know, and learn from each other.

Slide 20: You know, I hate to be the person to tell you this, but our government is big.

And collectively, in the aggregate, we know a lot. There’s incredible skill, talent, sensitivity, craftsmanship, and care across our teams, our agencies, and our products. If you take a long view of what we, together, are building, I believe it’s inarguable that government digital services are improving — and I would argue further that government digital services are improving faster than the internet as a whole.

If government is the tortoise in the race between the tortoise and the hare, I’d say the tortoise has the momentum these days.

Slide 21: And I’d say that’s because of a real mission-driven commitment to human centered design and to our inclination to pitch in, to help out, to share what we know with each other, and keep pushing forward. Because for sure, while momentum may be on our side, there’s a long way to go, and honestly there’s never really a finish line.

Slide 22: It’s long been our challenge here at USWDS to facilitate collaboration and contribution, to share and scale effective solutions from anywhere in government. To convert the skill and experience that we clearly have in the aggregate into a common infrastructure that supports and elevates any team and product. And that’s been a tough nut to crack.

Slide 23: Today we’re going to get started on this challenge through the angle of splitting bigger problems into smaller problems, and trying to build a framework for solving complex problems — and building complex solutions — a little at a time. Lowering the barriers to participation in the service of delivering high quality finished work.

We’re going to approach this from two angles: one which you might call the food truck scenario, and the other which you might call finding the elephant. Or, you might not yet call it that, yet, but I am!

Slide 24: First, the food truck scenario — or simply that it is hard to start something really big like a restaurant. It’s complicated, expensive, and can take a huge amount of resources and risk to even consider building an operation like that. It really limits who can participate.

I live in Portland, and one solution to this problem that’s popular here and now pretty much is popular everywhere else as well, is the food truck. What if you could begin to reduce the resources and risk to participate? What if you could prove an idea at a smaller scale? Or like a pop-up restaurant that exists for only a week, using an existing restaurant and kitchen. All these smaller-scale solutions to the problem of the restaurant — of getting food — still need to be safe, they still need to be up to code, and they still need to deliver good food.

Slide 25: But in general: what if there were smaller steps between nothing and everything?

In our world, the “restaurant” is something like the component. Delivering a final component requires design, development, and research of course, but also a complete guidance page and now accessibility tests. Developing a new component is a big commitment, and contributing a component to the design system is a big risk and a lot of work, like trying to get a big new piece of furniture into a tiny walk-up apartment. There’s really no guarantee you’ll actually be able to get it up the stairs and into the door.

Slide 26: So how can we lower the barrier to participation by creating smaller steps between nothing and a component?

Slide 27: How can we enable contribution by defining what we need at each phase?

Slide 28: How can we help get component contributions into the design system with fewer up-front requirements?

Slide 29: And how can we establish cross-team and cross-agency conversations and communication as the continuity between these phases?

Slide 30: Let’s get into it with two of my colleagues… First, Amy Leadem, a contractor and a developer on the USWDS core team. Amy, can you introduce yourself and give a brief self description?

AL: Absolutely. Hello everyone, I’m Amy and I am a contractor on the engineering team here at USWDS. I am a white woman with long, wavy brown hair, and today I am wearing a light pink sweater. My pronouns are she/her.

DW: Thanks Amy!

Slide 31: I’d also like to introduce Anne Petersen, the Experience Design lead on the core team. Anne, can you introduce yourself and give a brief self description?

AP: For sure. I’m Anne Petersen, my pronouns are they/them. I’m a white person with short brown hair and small glasses in a dark blue shirt today.

DW: Thanks Anne. First, I’d like to pass it to Amy, to walk us through our new component lifecycle model.

Slide 32: AL: Thanks, Dan. This is Amy and I’m going to show you how we structured the steps in the component lifecycle model, starting with what we’re calling phases.

Slide 33: The overall shape of the lifecycle covers the progression of a component on the way up from just an idea to a mature, stable component published in the design system and in use in projects. It also covers the — as yet unused — process for a component on the way down, deprecating and retiring components that we no longer recommend or support.

The overall shape is a bit like the rising and falling shape we see on the slide as the life cycle progresses: rising to maturity and falling at the end.

Slide 34: These main phases in our component lifecycle may seem familiar to you. They are:

  • Proposal: These components are under consideration for development through public discussion and a formal proposal. This part of the shape is now colored gold.

  • Development: These are the components undergoing active design, development, testing, and documentation before public release. This part of the shape is now colored blue.

  • Released: These are the components we’ve released to the public in our distribution package and documented on the USWDS website. This part of the shape is now colored green.

  • Deprecated: These are the components that do not meet requirements or are no longer needed. This part of the shape is now colored pink.

Slide 35: But what’s perhaps less familiar are the sub-phases (or steps) within these larger lifecycle groupings. We’re putting a lot of work into establishing smaller steps with clearer transitions between steps.

Establishing sub-phase steps allows us to know precisely what is happening — and needs to happen — with the component at any point in the life cycle. This clarity allows us to define specific responsibilities and requirements for each step, which not only will help us know what needs to happen next to keep the component moving, but also will present opportunities for community contributors to help fulfill those requirements as well.

Slide 36: I’d like to call out a new step we’re introducing in the Released phase: Experimental.

The Experimental step of the Released phase — now colored in darker green in our diagram — is a bit of a pilot. To Dan’s earlier point, we’re considering Experimental to be something of the food truck to the brick-and-mortar of stable USWDS components. We’re hoping we can use an Experimental step to release promising components earlier to help collect more real-world usability research. These components might have fewer documentation requirements, less research backup, maybe a few unanswered questions — along with the expectation that they might change more than stable components. But they would include accessibility tests and would be OK to use in production websites.

Today, we’ve published an overview of all of these phases and steps on our new component lifecycle page on our website. Let’s take a look.

Slide 37: Our new component lifecycle page gives an overview of each phase and step of the component lifecycle. This page covers:

  • What happens in each step,

  • When each step starts and ends,

  • How you can contribute during each step,

  • Where you can find the components that are in each step.

You can find this new page at And now, since every component — from idea and proposal to stable and deprecation — is in one of the steps of the life cycle, we’ve also been able to build a new component status page to help you know what’s happening with both components we’ve released in the design system and components that aren’t in the design system yet.

Slide 38: Our new component status page lists all of the USWDS components — and component ideas — currently in the life cycle, and shows which phase the component is currently in. We also provide a link to the most current information on the component. Depending on the phase, this link might point to the discussion, issue, pull request, or component page. You can find this new page at

And it’s worth repeating that this page will list components that are in the Proposal phase as well, so it can serve as an important reference if you’re interested in whether the design system has a specific component, or whether a component you need has a proposal already in progress. If there isn’t a proposal, or if you want to speed up the proposal process with your own contributions, well… that’s what we’ll talk about in just a moment!

Slide 39: But first, I’ll pass it over to Anne to talk about what’s next with the component lifecycle.

Slide 40: AP: Thanks Amy, this is Anne. That’s a great question. How will this component lifecycle evolve? What’s next for it, and next after that? The exciting part is that we don’t know. Iteration! In action! We’ll find out, basically, as we go.

Slide 41: But we do have some assumptions. We think that it’s going to be important to get more and more clear and provide more and more detail about how a component moves from one step or phase to another, to develop specific requirements and criteria, and continue to remove ambiguity.

Determining things like: What’s necessary to release a component as experimental?

Or: When we evaluate proposals, what criteria should we use?

We’re still working through these questions and we hope, eventually, that more clarity will empower folks like you to contribute. But right now we’re figuring out how this initial version works in reality. Where might people not feel empowered or comfortable to participate? Will the detail we need to make sure the components we offer are practical and grounded and are well-tested mean an extra burden for you?

So we’ll have to pay attention, see it in action, and listen. To you. We want to hear from you.

Slide 42: And when we’re thinking about all these details, requirements, and evaluation criteria, we’re going to be starting from our stated values. We’ll go back to our mission, vision, polestar, and design principles, and product values, and proceed from there.

These values are our best articulation of how we think about our own priorities and decision-making, and ultimately the direction of USWDS. They’re where we start, and where we’ll ground our evaluation considerations.

You’ve maybe heard the platitude that tells you how to think about whether to say things out loud: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? This is our version.

Slide 43: In order to be effective, the transitions between phases need public, practical, easy-to-understand requirements. They’ll need to be concrete and clear. And in order to be fair, we’ll need to publish any requirements before we start any evaluation.

Slide 44: So there are still a number of things to work out. This process itself is in beta.

I feel like I’m always the one to get meta in these calls, so here we go again. I’ll try to keep it brief.

This whole thing is something we’re trying out. Our first but maybe-not-best attempt; though certainly the best we think works right now. We don’t know how well it will work, so we’re open to change here. As we put it into action, I bet we’ll quickly find out if we need to revise. Tell us how it goes.

Slide 45: So: let’s try it out! And we think that the best place for folks to start to engage with this process is at the beginning. How does this process start, for you, right now? Dan, want to give us that starting point?

Slide 46: DW: Thanks Anne, this is Dan again. Since we’re actively building a process we hope to refine with real contributions and community participation, it makes sense to start where we think we’ll need participation from lots of perspectives: at the beginning, with the component proposal process.

Slide 47: And in our process, we’re starting with a discussion.

Slide 48: As I’d mentioned earlier, our second metaphor for solving complex problems is one I’d described as finding the elephant.

This is like the story of the blind sages who each encounter only a specific part of an elephant, and thus, individually, can describe only that specific aspect. The trunk appears as a snake, the leg as a tree, the tail as a rope, the ear as fan. This is often understood as a parable about the limits of perception. But the ultimate moral depends on if and how the sages react to the knowledge of their peers. Their knowledge is distributed, their understanding is necessarily influenced by their perspective, so where do they go from there? What can they do with this distributed knowledge? How can they coordinate these different perspectives into an integrated, coherent model?

I will say that here at the design system, we wish to find the elephant. And we aim to build a place and a process where we might collect and expand our perspectives in the service of an integrated understanding.

Slide 49: In our case the elephant in the room is a proposal for a component.

What do we need to ask about it? What perspectives do we need to understand it?

Why this component? What interactions does it support? When do you use it? When should you consider something else? What are its accessibility considerations? How do you use it when you can’t see it? How might you control it with only your voice? What harm might it unintentionally cause? What should a team need to know to start development? What do we already know that can help a development team start from a place of known knowns and known unknowns?

Slide 50: To that end, we need every component to begin with a discussion.

Slide 51: And the point of that discussion is to describe the shape of a proposal.

Slide 52: Not a requirements doc, but a case.

Slide 53: Not a prescriptive document, but an actionable one.

Slide 54: And we believe that the more participation we can generate, the better the proposals we can deliver.

So to talk about the process we’re launching today, here’s Amy.

Slide 55: AL: Thanks, Dan. This is Amy again. Our new proposal process is how we introduce new component ideas and evaluate them.

Slide 56: Our first goal was to make the process intuitive for all kinds of contributors. We wanted something that was more welcoming to anyone who has a perspective on components: folks like designers, usability experts, accessibility pros, and writers — not just developers.

Slide 57: Our second goal was to make the process incremental. As Dan mentioned earlier, we wanted to lower the burden on contributors suggesting new component ideas. To lower the barriers to participation at each step.

So we knew we wanted to make the component proposal something we all can build, collaboratively, a bit at a time. Not something where a single person or team needs to put their heads down for a month and return with a finished document, then repeat and repeat. This is more like how the process was working before, and, honestly, it wasn’t really working.

We’ve developed a new component proposal process that has two distinct parts, sort of a frontstage and a backstage.

Slide 58: The frontstage is a new Component Proposal discussion board that will be the persistent home for public, community conversation about new components. You can find this new discussion board at On this slide, there’s a screenshot of this proposals board, with a pinned post reading, “Getting started with USWDS component discussions.”

Slide 59: The backstage is a new proposals repo, uswds-proposals, at

On this slide we see a screenshot of this new proposals repo. It features a README with the text, “USWDS component proposal process.”

This is where the USWDS core team collects what we’ve learned from these discussions into formal component proposals. It will be the new place where we document our decisions and reasoning. If you’re familiar with the concept of Architectural Decision Records (or ADRs) that’s pretty much what we’re starting here, starting with new component decisions.

But really, the discussions are where the action will be. So let’s take a look at how we think discussions can work.

Slide 60: The new Component Proposal board in GitHub Discussions is the central hub for community discussion about new USWDS component ideas. This is where the community should work through all the merits, risks, and potential design of the component.

Slide 61: We chose to use a GitHub discussion board because it’s a tool we’re already using, and it’s designed for conversations. And these discussions are conversations, not issues or pull requests. You don’t even need to know what an issue or a pull request is to get involved.

This discussion board has a lot of the tools folks expect for managing discussions:

  • There are threaded comments to help organize different topics of conversation.

  • There are simple ways to sort and filter discussions, and labeling as well.

  • And discussions also offer native upvoting functionality, which gives everyone an easy method for expressing interest in a component, and gives the USWDS team an easy method of assessing that interest.

Slide 62: What do you need to know to start a discussion? Really, just two things:

  • Are you interested in suggesting a new component?

  • And, is there already an existing discussion about that new component?

If you are, and there isn’t, go ahead and start a new discussion!

Slide 63: Discussions are meant to be incremental. You can start with a lot or a little. The person who authors the discussion doesn’t need to know everything. We’ll work it all out together eventually.

Discussions are meant to be informal. Of course, be formal if that’s your style, but we aren’t expecting to post and exchange formal briefs, we’re trying to work out a common understanding together. But it’s also worth pointing out that we all agree to a code of conduct to participate. Informal doesn’t mean uncivil.

And discussions are meant to be persistent. We want to have a single discussion related to a component that we can all use as a common reference and a common place for communication as a component moves through the Proposal phase and into assignment and development.

Slide 64: So if you want to check out new component discussions and maybe start a new one yourself, head over to

We’ve been converting existing component-request issues into discussions, and the current contents of that board should be up to date, but if you know you’ve submitted a component-request issue and don’t see it there, let us know.

See a component you’d like to see in the design system? Get involved in that discussion.

Got a new component idea that’s not yet on the board? Select New discussion and start a new one.

Slide 65: So - What do we hope to get out of these discussions? How do we turn discussions into proposals? And what happens next? For that, I’ll pass it back to Anne.

Slide 66: AP: Thanks Amy. This is Anne. While proposal discussions are freeform, we are looking to collect a few specific bits of information that will help us understand the component better, and lead to the proposal that could form the practical starting point for component development, which is the next phase in the life cycle.

Slide 67: First, we want to address some general information about the proposed component:

  • What’s the common name (or names) of this component?

  • What gap does it fill in the design system? And how is this different from existing USWDS components?

  • And does this component directly support any federal laws, guidance, or policies?

Slide 68: As well as potential design ideas and context:

  • What’s the potential core functionality of this component?

  • Are there any examples of how the component might work?

Slide 69: We’ll want to address what this component is used for.

We want to outline the appropriate use cases:

  • What common interactions does this component support?

  • What does this component need to do to be successful and effective?

  • What kind of content — that is, information inside it — would be ideal for this component?

Slide 70: And also scenarios where this component would not be the appropriate choice:

  • Are there common ways this type of component is misused?

  • Are there similar interactions that would be better supported by other components?

  • What kind of content should teams not use with this component?

Slide 71: We also want to understand any usability considerations, with supporting evidence if possible.

From a usability or UX perspective, we want to understand:

  • What are the characteristics of a successful interaction with this component? How does that interaction go?

  • What would make this component less usable?

  • What are common pitfalls or implementation mistakes associated with this component?

  • How might the mobile context affect how folks use this component?

Slide 72: From the accessibility perspective we want to understand:

  • Will this component cause difficulty for people who use any assistive technologies?

  • And could this component be difficult for any other audiences?

Slide 73: And finally, we want to identify potential stakeholders, advocates, and volunteers related to the component. These are folks willing to help design, develop, or test the component, and any significant support from an agency or group.

Slide 74: These questions are the common criteria we’ll use to create a formal proposal document. We’ll prompt discussions to make sure we cover all this, then we’ll collect it into a formal proposal in our uswds-proposals repo as a decision-record candidate.

Slide 75: When the formal proposal is complete, we’ll post it back into the discussion for a final comment period of at least 45 days before we evaluate it.

The comment period is an opportunity to tell us what works and what doesn’t about this proposal, before we evaluate the proposal as a team to consider how the proposed component fits into the system and its needs, including the needs of the teams who use it. So again, your input is important.

If we approve the proposal, it moves to the assignment period: where an individual or team can take that proposal into development. This might be the USWDS team, but it doesn’t have to be.

Slide 76: Throughout the process, we’ll highlight active discussions in our newsletter and in these monthly calls. We don’t want to overwhelm folks with these, but we’ll be working hard to get you — the USWDS community — involved, and highlight opportunities to contribute from month to month, and keep everyone up to date as we refine this process.

We want to make this as easy as we can. Help us understand what will work for you, to facilitate your contributions and thoughts and experiences. We can all help, to help each other.

Slide 77: And if interacting on GitHub isn’t an option for you, you can always email us at, and we can cross-post your proposal, comment, or vote. Now I’ll pass it back to Dan to wrap things up.

Slide 78: DW: Thanks Anne. We’ve done a lot and we still have a lot to do.

And I’d like to acknowledge that getting this far has been a really big team effort for us, and I appreciate how our team’s been able to put this work together.

This is important because this process stuff is what everything else is built from. I think what we’re beginning to develop here is the nervous system for the design system, and perhaps, by extension, a nervous system for digital service practitioners across government — helping a complex system move with coordination and intention because we’ve connected activities and information from across the network.

Slide 79: We’re still working to take baby steps, but this is really what it’s all about when I think about the USWDS mission: Shaping the future of government digital services. This process of shaping is complex and interesting and can be really challenging and satisfying. And it’s something we can only effectively do together. And I know if we keep at it, there’s going to be an elephant in there… somewhere.

Slide 80: Q&A

Slide 81: Thanks for joining today’s USWDS monthly call. We’ll be back in March with a dev-focused call, about building new things with USWDS that feel like USWDS. It’ll be a nice follow-up from this call, as we start to think about how the component lifecycle moves from proposal to development!

If you have a question we weren’t able to answer in the call, or thought of later, please head into our public Slack and ask it there. We’ll be around after the call to answer questions.

Have a great day and we’ll see you next month!

Join the U.S. Web Design System (USWDS) team to learn more about the complete lifecycle of a USWDS component.

In this session, you will learn:

  • How to suggest a new component
  • What to expect throughout the proposal process
  • What comes next in the component’s lifecycle

This event is best suited for: Developers and designers (all levels)


  • Dan Williams Product Lead, USWDS
  • Anne Petersen Experience Design Lead, USWDS
  • Amy Leadem Developer, USWDS Contractor

Join our Communities of Practice

This event is part of a monthly series that takes place on the third Thursday of each month. Don’t forget to set a placeholder on your personal calendar for our future events this year.

About the USWDS

The U.S. Web Design System is a toolkit of principles, guidance, and code to help government teams design and build accessible, mobile-friendly websites backed by user research and modern best practices.