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Kingsley Mkpandiok

How can designers contribute to an open source project on GitHub?

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This week, one of our design contributors at CHAOSS Africa came up with a great idea that could enhance one of our ongoing projects. This idea wasn’t listed among the open issues in our GitHub repository. The contributor was unsure of how to proceed with her contribution, which is a common scenario for many designers who are not familiar with GitHub.

If you’re a designer interested in making open-source contributions, here are two key things you should know about contributing to projects in any GitHub repository:

  1. Pick a design issue you’d like to work on and talk to the design maintainer. Once you understand what needs to be done, you can start working on the issue. You can also start a conversation using the comment section on GitHub and seek guidance from others involved in the project.
  1. Look at current projects and see how you can help improve them. Check the open issues in a repository to find tasks that address a problem you’d like to solve. If there isn’t an issue related to your contribution, initiate a discussion with the project maintainer on any communication channel they are available. Then make sure that an issue is added to GitHub before you work on your idea.

Why is it important to open an issue before making a contribution? Identifying a problem in an open-source project doesn’t necessarily mean you have to solve it. Another member of the project may have the technical or design skills to resolve the problem. Also, some ideas may be out of the scope of the project. Either way, identifying a problem or idea is a valuable way to contribute, and done by opening a GitHub issue.

Think of it like testing a mobile app and discovering a usability issue or bug. You don’t have to be the UX designer or the Software Engineer to solve the problem, but your discovery can still help improve the app.

In conclusion, GitHub can be a great tool for project management, including assigning tasks, monitoring progress, and tracking contributions from members of a project. Don’t be intimidated by its technical nature. As a designer, your contributions are valuable and can help enhance projects in your organization’s repository.

I would love to hear from other open-source design contributors on any points I may have missed. Please share your thoughts and experiences on CHAOSS Discourse.