What is Storybook: Visual Testing and Component Documentation made easy

How to utilize Storybook to make visual testing and component documentation easy, simplifying maintenance and allowing your project to scale faster

What is Storybook: Build better components for your app

Published

Jul 24, 2023

Last Edited

Jul 24, 2023

Read Time

4 mins

Category

Insights

We’re constantly looking for ways to build higher quality software, faster. As an agency, we pride ourselves in creating solutions that work at any scale, from small teams to organisations.

We’re big fans of component-driven development, an approach to building where you create components that work in isolation and are easily reusable, being independent from any page.

Storybook is a powerful tool that simplifies development by encouraging your developers to create components that are reusable and testable, perfect for any business but especially large businesses and enterprise software who regularly add and update code.

What is Storybook?

Storybook.js is an open-source, user interface (UI) component development environment that enables developers to build, test, and showcase their components in an isolated environment. It's particularly useful for enterprise solutions as it streamlines the development process, makes collaboration between teams easier, communication around components simpler, and helps maintain a consistent UI throughout complex applications.

Key features of Storybook

Component isolation
Develop and test components without the need to work within the entire application, which speeds up development and reduces the risk of unwanted side effects.

Visual testing
Test the appearance and behaviour of components across different states, ensuring a consistent look and feel, and prevents accidental visual defects.

Addons ecosystem
Extend Storybook's functionality with a rich library of addons that cater to various needs and use cases.

Cross-framework compatibility
Storybook.js supports most popular UI frameworks making it a versatile choice for any development stack.

Exploring the Storybook interface

The Storybook.js interface is designed to make it easy to preview and interact with your components without having to attach them.

Example from the Skyward design system Storybook file.The above example is from the Skyward design system Storybook file.

Key sections include:

Canvas
A live preview area where you can see your components in action and interact with them.

Docs
Automatically generated documentation that provides detailed information about your components, including their properties and usage guidelines.

Controls
A panel that allows you to tweak component properties in real-time and see the resulting changes.

Actions
A way to track events, such as button clicks or form submissions, making it easy to test component behaviour.

Why Storybook helps businesses

Storybook is not just a cool tool for developers, but it creates an environment where everyone in the team has a better understanding of the frontend solution. The best part about it is that you get all the benefits by just starting to implement it in your project, making the value of Storybook incredibly high for the little effort it takes to get started.

Better code through isolated components

By ensuring code is reusable and that it works in isolation it makes it easier to maintain long term. Reusable code reduces the amount of code needed to be written and maintained, and using Storybook to document it makes that maintenance easier.

Testing ensures fewer accidental changes and better guarantees quality

Because you’ve separated your components out into isolated instances, that means you can test them. Storybook allows you to pass in test data and see the components in different situations using realistic content and, with the power of chromatic, you can take snapshots of your components and compare them between releases to guarantee you’re not breaking anything with your changes.

Documents your code simplifying workflows with other team members

By design, Storybook automatically documents code, allowing your team members to easily see how features are able to function. This is great for understanding how other developers have put a feature together in order to make changes, but it’s also simple for other teams to see exactly how components are designed to go together which makes scoping out feature changes for project managers and designers much easier.

How we integrate Storybook with Enterprise Solutions

We’ve been bringing Storybook into enterprise projects for years now. When you’re looking at a huge project, especially when it contains lots of legacy code, it can be overwhelming thinking about how to introduce an entirely new system without having to dedicate months rewriting code around it. Storybook is designed to make it as easy as possible to implement it in an old or new project without causing any disruption.

Adding Storybook to legacy projects

When we’re working with our clients on their enterprise solutions that have existed for years, one of the first things we do is add Storybook to help us improve their frontend code effectively.

We start out by adding Storybook. This is usually just a single line of code to implement - npx sb init

Once Storybook is set up, we can run it without needing any components implemented.

Next, we’ll work on a feature that a client requests. This can be a new or old feature, but whichever it is it’ll be implemented and tested using Storybook. If we need to update an old component to implement the new feature, that’ll go into Storybook too.

That allows us to start using Storybook within the project and, over time, more and more features will be added.

This helps provide the benefits of Storybook without getting locked into doing an entire rewrite of all the code in one go, so you can start seeing those benefits instantly.

Who uses Storybook

Storybook is used by a wide variety of enterprise teams across a wide variety of industries.

Each of the links above takes you to the Storybook docs for each team, so you can see exactly how they put them together.

Enhancing functionality with addons and plugins

Everything I’ve described above is just a basic function of Storybook, but you can enhance its functionality greatly by using their addon ecosystem.

Storybook addons offer a wealth of options to further improve the development experience, a few of which include

Accessibility
Automatically test the accessibility of your components to ensure they meet the needs of all users.
Storybook addon a11y

Design system integration
With Figma you can integrate your design system with Storybook to ensure consistency and improve collaboration between designers and developers.
Figma Storybook Connect

Pseudo States
Quickly toggle between browser pseudo states within your Storybook components to test user interactions like ::hover and ::focus
Pseudo States addon

Read this article to see commonly used addons highlighted by Storybook if you’d like to learn more.

Conclusion

Storybook is a powerful and versatile tool that can significantly improve the UI component development process for enterprise businesses. By adopting Storybook, you can streamline development, enhance collaboration, and maintain a consistent and accessible UI across your applications.

If you're looking to take your project to the next level and make it easier to create new features, and maintain old ones, consider integrating Storybook.js into your development workflow. With its rich feature set and extensive addon ecosystem, Storybook.js is poised to revolutionize the way your team builds and maintains UI components.

And if you’re looking for help on how to do that, let us know and we can get you started making your frontend code easier to work with.

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