The Australian Government Design System (AuDS) has had significant impact on the advancement and unification of government websites. Despite increased popularity and usage, this week (on 9 August 2021) the Digital Transformation Agency announced the end of their involvement by 30 September. Many who depend on the system have been left asking "what now?". One community member asks how next to respond to DSS Criteria 6 - "Consistent and responsive"?
There are more than 107 known sites actively using the system, making it clear the importance, relevance and utility of the library still stands up. This is testament to the significant embedded value, the labour of many years work: having been designed with evidence, is usability-tested and fully WCAG 2.1 compliant, a themeable system, and being able to be used as a website starting point. Making it a multiplier of best practice, and head start to delivery for hundreds of websites.
Despite its perpetuity, without project Maintainers, the reintegration of code such as bug fixes, improvements and features is not able to occur. The absence of central planning and decision-making is another issue. This combination puts downstream dependents at risk of needing to rebuild foundational aspects of their websites to work around problems.
AuDS is too valuable to not have an active and empowered Maintainer group. We believe that to secure the future of the Australian Government Design System, it must move to a community-driven open source model, including the configuration of the Maintainer group. Evidence tells us that otherwise tying this to an alternate government department, risks the internal priorities of that department skewing the development of the platform¹.
Design System AU is an open community of developers, designers, accessibility experts and others set up to respond. Our mission is to provide permanent ongoing management of and support for AuDS, ensuring it will remain a viable solution for existing and future users. We will be shipping AuDS from a new home at https://github.com/designsystemau/gold-design-system, under the new npm scope @gold.au.
We are committed to continuing to make the Australian Government Design System the best option for government. Further announcements will be made shortly.
To participate in Design System AU as a Maintainer and help shape the future of AuDS, please email email@example.com.
¹ Government as a platform - who pays?