Shopify Polaris

Shopify Polaris has undoubtedly set a new bar for brand style guides by clearly and effectively combining design, code, and content guidelines in one comprehensive, yet easily digestible website. It's essentially the only instantiation (that I'm aware of) of the holistic style guide I argue for in "Your style guide's missing something—and it's big," but Polaris also stands out for quality of the guidelines themselves. For example, every web professional should read their guidelines on alt text for accessibility. They're just that good.

From the guide

Use language to design a more thoughtful product experience.

Our content standards will help you understand how to think strategically about the language in your products and apps. They’ll also give you clear, tactical suggestions designed to help you use language to craft better experiences.

Each component also includes content guidelines about how to write for specific interface elements.

Respond to merchant needs

Not everyone is a confident writer, but everyone can improve their content by making sure it responds to the needs of merchants. Keep in mind that real people rely on Shopify every day to run their businesses. The product, feature, or app you’re building can make a big difference to the people using it. Take some time to learn about who they are, what they need, and the language they use.

Write for a grade 7 reading level

Shopify merchants are busy people who may be running their online business in addition to having a full-time job, managing their family life, and doing a million other things. They’re also located all over the world, have varying levels of literacy, and some may not speak English as their first language.

Writing for a grade 7 reading level doesn’t mean dumbing content down. It’s about making sure language is straightforward and communicates concepts as efficiently as possible.

TIPS

  • Write short sentences (no more than 15–20 words).
  • Use headings and bullets to make your content easier to scan.
  • Avoid jargon and always choose a short, simple word over a long and complicated one.
  • Only use industry-standard terminology when you have reason to believe it will improve merchant understanding. Spend time researching what words people use, rather than defaulting to what corporations call things.
  • Edit unnecessary or repeated words.
  • Write for small screens first. Constraints can help you focus on the most important message.
  • Read your content out loud. If you get tripped up or it doesn’t sound like something a human would say, your content needs to be edited.
Find your north star at Polaris