It’s important for your website to have a cohesive, consistent style. If you don’t have a style guide yet, you should consider making one. It’s a good first step for a website rebranding, it gives your clients a better idea of what you’re going for, and it ensures that your branding stays focused throughout your website and on other platforms like social media.
What is a style guide? In essence, it’s a list of components. Your main color palette, secondary colors and when they should be used, your logo and its typefaces, website elements’ styling, and so on. It’s a reference document for you, designers, and marketers to follow when presenting your brand. And it’s one of your best assets to maintain brand unity.
The problem: Style guides can take a lot of work. You may see something like Uber’s brand guidelines and feel completely overwhelmed. How can you put together something so complex yet presented so well?
If you want to create a style guide but aren’t sure where to begin, these tools are perfect for the job. There are tons of resources here that will make the process much easier, so let’s get right into it.
18 Style Guide Resources
You don’t have to code or create a style guide all by yourself. There are boilerplates, generators, and builders already made that massively streamline the creation process. Each one of these tools has a unique feature, so there’s something for everyone here.
The ultimate asset: 570+ (and counting) resources for style guide creation. They’re sorted by articles, books, podcasts, talks, tools, and examples, and there’s a basic tagging system in place too.
Overall, this is one of the best sources you can find because there’s just so much to look at. You could do weeks of research and never run out of helpful articles, beautiful templates, or innovative new programs. Dive in and find the perfect tool for you.
This brand guide template by 99designs is super easy to follow. Just download it in your preferred format and replace the components where indicated with you or your client’s specifications. It’s that easy to put together a stylish branding guidebook.
The file is also available in five different formats: AI (Illustrator), PSD (Photoshop), IDML/INDD (InDesign), Sketch, and even PDF if you don’t have any of those fancy programs. If you’re struggling to find a template that works in your program of choice, try this one.
Need an online boilerplate for your living style guide? A boilerplate is a set of reusable components to kickstart a project faster than starting from scratch, and this demo gets the job done perfectly.
Just download the template and open it up in the browser to start customizing. Take out the sections you don’t need and add your own designs in the others. Since this is an online template you’ll need HTML/CSS knowledge to run and customize it, but that’s all that’s required.
Need a simple, free brand guidelines template to send to clients or co-workers? This little Illustrator document contains sections for logo design/usage, color palette, and typography. It’s a good quick sheet to refer to when you need to remember the exact color code of your palettes, or when to use a certain logo variation.
One big problem with style guides is that they can be hard for developers to integrate into their projects. Living style guides, on the other hand, are often difficult for designers to work with.
Catalog seamlessly solves these issues, bringing together designers and developers. It uses Markdown, which is even simpler than HTML, to create a beautiful style guide page. Premade Specimens, similar to templates, exist to make life easy. And for the devs, it integrates with React to display components live on your site. Besides all that, it’s free and open source for any team to use.
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CSS and especially SASS users should definitely try this one out. This is great if you’d prefer to create an online style guide rather than have to fiddle with documents and Photoshop templates.
While it does support SASS, a powerful CSS extension, pure CSS users can simply disable the extra files and get to work. Replacing the existing resources is super easy, and its creators also make UI components to further customize your style guide. It’s worth noting that some of these components are free to use, as well!
Prefer the popular vector editor Sketch? This simple and clean style guide template is just for you. Made for smaller projects, it has a few essentials: color palette, typography, icons/buttons, and more. It’s nothing super fancy, but it gets the job done efficiently. And you can’t beat free.
Brandy isn’t exactly a style guide creator, but a helpful side tool to help you keep track of all your assets. No more rooting through folders on your computer every time you need to dredge up a hex code or an alternate version of your logo. Just tab over to Brandy.
The program can stick on top of your screen in a small window, so if you’re using something like Illustrator, Figma, or Sketch, just drag an image right into the other window or click a color palette to copy the hex code. You can even manage multiple brands, or add other users who can upload their own assets. It’s a nifty little tool to simplify designers’ workflows.
Most of these resources are “do-it-yourself” templates that require coding or extra design work to really make it yours. This online customizer is closer to a block-based drag-and-drop builder, with templates and collaboration features built in. You don’t need to be a designer or a developer to make the most of the intuitive editor.
Frontify is an all-in-one brand management platform – the style guide creator being just one of their many services. The Media Library and Pattern Library might also be of interest to you. It’s free to start with up to three editors, so jump in and try it out for yourself.
Here’s another style guide boilerplate, this one filled with dozens of template components. It’s presented as one long page with sections you can jump to by clicking the navigation on the left. Just take out the elements you don’t need and you’ll have a concise one-page style guide. This also serves as a good reference for standardized HTML/CSS elements as you’re building a website.
To install, all you need is a web server that supports PHP. Then just add your own CSS, patterns, and documentation.
Confused? The Guides section walks you through everything: installation with Node, generating a style guide, creating and customizing the page, and publishing your guide so it’s available to others while constantly updating with any changes you make to your site.
Free and open source, Styleguide makes creating living documents — online as a standalone project, part of an existing site, or offline in your browser — a snap. Mac users enjoy a simple installer that sets everything up automatically, while other systems just need to execute a few codes in the command line.
Based on KSS, SC5 Style Guide Generator works with CSS and several of its popular extensions. Edit right in the browser with the nifty UI — no need to use an external editor and upload back to the server — then add your own SASS/CSS styles to customize further.
Like many other living style guide generators, you can install it onto a website through gulp or grunt, or directly through the Node command line. The GitHub page offers additional instructions and tips on customizing your style guide.
Illustrator users, here’s another great template for you. The beautifully simplistic one-page document will delight clients and make an easy reference document. There’s plenty of room for all the basic branding elements.
Instructions are included to help you navigate, but just swap out the placeholder elements for your own. Check out the included examples to see how others made the template theirs.
This one is an interesting tool — it automatically generates a style guide for an existing website by extracting its colors, fonts, and logo. You can even download the result as a PDF.
While it’s fun to play around with, this does have a few actual use cases. You could generate a report of your existing website and see what needs to be updated, or compare it against your new style guide to see the improvements. When you want to see any site’s styling, it completely eliminates the need to dig through HTML trying to find the fonts and hex codes.
A website’s design is incredibly complex. There’s so much to keep track of in its UI, and failing to develop an efficient system will result in a design that doesn’t scale well and is difficult to keep consistent.
Fabricator is a UI toolkit that creates modular designs: websites built out of individual components that all work independently and come together to build a larger system. Toolkit-driven development is more efficient, and it works in any development environment and with any code.
What does this have to do with style guides? Fabricator exists to combine toolkit development with a style guide interface. The modular design pieces — input forms, color codes, buttons, and so on — are all displayed in a well-presented document, and you can use the pieces within to quickly build pages on your website.
Much like Fabricator’s design toolkits, Pattern Lab serves a similar purpose by organizing your UI elements all in one place, where it can easily be reused across your entire website. And of course, all of these components can be displayed similar to a living style guide that’s also easy to share.
When you’re working with several designers or developers, a pattern library can smooth out the workflow and make sure everyone’s on the same page. Installation is as easy as running a command in Node, and you’ll need to use the Mustache template system (or other PatternEngines if you wish) to create new patterns.
Built for web designers working with clients and on teams, Style Tiles is a PSD document made for beautifully presenting brand assets. When a moodboard isn’t enough, and a mockup is way too much, it’s time to break out the Style Tiles template.
Like other forms of style guides, it’s a great quick reference page for designers and a perfect deliverable to clients. The website also gives some tips on how to talk to your clients and use the information they give to create the perfect Style Tile, as well as a few examples of personalized designs to build off of.
Style Guides Aren’t Hard
Consistency is the most important part of branding, and a style guide will help you keep everything in order. Creating one should be in your first set of tasks once you start drafting up a potential web design. If you haven’t started yet, now’s the time.
And if you’re a designer, style guides offer a great way to show clients what you’re going for in terms of design elements without having to spend hours on a meticulously-crafted mockup.
Style guides are especially important during a website redesign, where better branding should be one of the main goals. These tools will put you on the right track, allowing you to create beautifully presented guidelines that are both visually pleasing and easy to work with going forward.