When one works in an area — it doesn’t matter whether it’s in the humanities or in building construction — one begins to recognize patterns in how problems are solved. Typical solutions accrue as a body of knowledge and are passed on to new practitioners.
In computer science this has been happening for a decade or more. “Design patterns”, software constructs which have both data structures and the algorithms to efficiently and effectively manipulate them, are becoming more and more well-known and well understood. For example, there is the “factory” pattern, which makes “widgets”, defined by the programmer. This is a common task, so common that it has been done many times. The general principles of how to construct a factory are described, regardless of the software platform or environment.
The idea of design patterns can be extended, and the folks at Endeca have done just that for user interfaces (UI): the Endeca User Interface Design Pattern Library. There is no reason the reinvent the wheel; this library deals with common tasks or problems in programming a UI, e.g., search, faceted navigation, and information discovery. There are other UI design pattern libraries out there, e.g., Patternry.
Why my interest in this? Because Patrick Durusau and I are experimenting with new ways of inter-acting with text, using the rabbinic Miqra’ot Gedolot (the Rabbinic Bible; kind of like a medieval Jewish “study Bible”) as a point of departure for design concepts. We are playing around with various ways of mapping rabbinic ideas of text study to modern UI concepts. Maybe we will come up with a design pattern library for the study of biblical and other ancient texts!