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Design Review Guidelines

The design team creates specs to describe the design solutions related to the Mathesar product. Whether small or large, all design issues should be accompanied by a spec containing the solution details and information relevant to its implementation.

The spec creation process begins when a design issue on GitHub is started and finalizes when the spec is approved and merged. When a design issue is ready for review, a spec is created, and a pull request (PR) is opened. Finalizing a design spec means, in most cases, that the design issue has also been fully solved. If this is not the case, or the problem is solved partially, then the reason and additional requirements must be communicated in the associated GitHub issue and documented in the spec. Additional GitHub issues to track the unresolved parts of the design problem need to be created before the spec is finalized.

Every spec goes through a review process so that members of the team can discuss it and ask questions. During these discussions, the reviewers’ unique perspectives and expertise are captured to ensure the design solution is technically feasible, uncover missing implementation scenarios, and, most importantly, strengthen adherence to the product’s vision. A productive review will result in a better design and a smoother implementation.

Design Review Team

This is the list of team members who have volunteered to review new designs.

Name Role
Kriti Product
Ghislaine Design
Brent Backend
Pavish Frontend
Sean Frontend

Process for Authors

  • Clone the Mathesar Wiki Repo and create a new page under the Design Specs directory. Additionally, create a link to it from the top-level Documents page.
  • Please follow the format of the most recent spec. Spec formats may change over time.
  • Add the spec content to the page. Make sure the page date is updated as well.
  • Once you think the spec is ready for review, create a PR that includes in its description:
  • a link to the referenced design issue from the Mathesar Repo formatted as “Fixes <link to the issue>.”
  • an expected timeline for the review, if any.
  • Be sure to include the specific feedback you are seeking.
  • Assign the required reviewers by their GitHub username.
  • Choose reviewers from the Design Review Team section above.
  • Always request a review from all Mathesar members with Product or Design roles (see Team for handles. From the engineering roles, assign both a frontend and backend engineer. If there are multiple engineers with a role, rotate the person assigned for subsequent reviews.
  • Please post the GitHub PR link to
  • If the reviewers request changes or have questions, please make the changes and re-request the review.
  • Once everyone has had a chance to review (or the timeline expires) and you’re satisfied with the feedback, update the spec and ensure that it all fits together nicely.

Spec Content

The spec content will depend on the particular design problem being addressed. However, it is recommended that you include the following parts:

  • An overview or summary of the problem.
  • Assume the person looking at the spec didn’t read the related issue.
  • User Scenarios.
  • Go from simplest to complex so that new details are added incrementally, for example, ‘User opens a table’ to ‘User opens multiple tables at once.
  • A link to a prototype or wireframes or any artifact used to demonstrate the design solution.
  • Including video walkthroughs for prototypes or wireframes can help the team better understand the proposed solution. A Mathesar Loom account is available for design team members for this purpose.

Design Issues

We use GitHub issues to track design work. Issues used to track design problems are marked with the work: design label.

Process for Reviewers

  • Assignees are required to review specs. Everyone else should feel free to add reviews.
  • Check for outstanding design spec review requests at least once a day.
  • Comment on the GitHub PR with feedback. Please follow the general advice below. Once you’re done reviewing the document, approve the changes or unassign yourself from the PR if you don’t have any feedback.

  • Request changes explicitly if you want them included in the spec before it is finalized.

  • By sharing feedback, you actively participate in the UX process; make sure you read the context documents and are clear on the user’s needs. If needed, ask questions, don’t make assumptions.

Advice for Reviewers

  • Describe the problem with the design but don’t assume a specific design solution
  • Strive to think from the user’s perspective, not your own
  • If you find inconsistencies in the design, describe what you expected to encounter instead
  • Adapt your feedback to the design’s fidelity level
  • e.g., pointing out alignment issues on wireframes is not useful because they are not meant to be high-fidelity
  • Avoid ambiguity, try to articulate problems clearly and concisely
  • Use descriptive words such as “clear”, “helpful”, “obvious”, “confusing”, “complex”, rather than “bad”, “wrong”, “off”, etc.
  • Think backwards from the end-goal
  • Don’t highlight only the negative aspects of the design. Positive feedback provides valuable information.