Enhance digital product development with Design Systems for optimal efficacy
A singular fount of knowledge guiding design choices, enabling superior user experiences and heightened efficiency
Streamline the design and development process
A design system epitomizes a company’s guiding principles for the conception and construction of digital products. It surpasses a mere style guide by encompassing the principles and guidelines for the strategic application of design elements, along with reusable code representations for each element.
Reap the benefits of a design system
The creation of a design system may demand an initial investment of time and resources, but the rewards and value it bestows upon businesses far outweigh the initial costs, as demonstrated by successful adopters of this approach.
Save time and resources
Since the system consolidates a centralized repository of components, along with comprehensive documentation on their utilization, teams can efficiently reuse existing elements instead of starting from scratch.
Design systems empower teams to attain consistency, ensuring a familiar appearance and interaction across all user touchpoints, thus bolstering the connection between users and the brand.
Reduce maintenance burden
Design systems not only aid in error prevention but also provide guidance on resolving errors, regardless of their magnitude.
Alleviate team burden
The extensive documentation, combined with reusable components and code within the design system, allows designers and developers to focus on value-added tasks rather than wasting time on redundant assignments or addressing common issues.
Crafting your own design systems
Design systems do not adhere to a one-size-fits-all approach. Typically, systems are created from scratch to align with the specific needs of an organization. Consider the following advice when embarking on the creation of your own system. Take note of the following areas of focus.
Create a design system to construct coherent digital products
Validating your idea through the creation of a prototype is essential to ensure the potential success of your product. By building a prototype, you can make necessary adjustments and improvements before committing resources to the development of a product that may not meet your intended objectives. The main benefits of building a prototype include:
What are design systems?
Design systems are essentially collections of guidelines, principles, and reusable components that form a company’s definitive approach to designing and building digital products. When multiple teams collaborate on different aspects of a product or entirely separate products, inconsistencies in the appearance and behavior of these products inevitably arise over time. Adopting a design system addresses this issue by empowering teams to create superior digital products that deliver a consistent visual and interactive experience across the entire suite. In addition to enhancing the end-user experience, a well-crafted design system significantly improves the workflow and productivity of design and development teams.
Style guide vs. design system
Allow me to introduce you to some fundamental terms pertaining to design systems:
It is a collection of reusable components and interactions, encompassing buttons, modals, and page layouts. A pattern library emphasizes consistency in form and appearance, and it is closely associated with the second component of a design system, the style guide.
Primarily focused on style, a style guide serves as a repository for colors, fonts, logos, and other brand attributes employed in product design. Designers and marketing specialists frequently refer to style guides and pattern libraries.
This resource is utilized by coders and constitutes a chunk of code representing the styles and patterns included in the previous two repositories.
Pattern library, style guide, and code snippet collectively form the Holy Trinity of product design, constituting a design system.
The main distinction between a style guide and a design system lies in the scalability and dynamism of the latter.
While style guides are static and limited, design systems are dynamic and expandable. Unlike a style guide that is handed off at a specific point in time, design systems foster ongoing collaboration between designers and developers. This leads us to a simple conclusion: design systems align with agile methodologies, whereas style guides are more compatible with the waterfall approach. As a result, companies can save a significant amount of time and money.
What should a design system include?
It is crucial to recognize that a design system extends beyond a mere style guide or pattern library created at a single point in time. It represents a living, evolving ecosystem that grows with the organization, bridging the gap between design and development teams, as well as end-users. To be comprehensive, a design system must encompass both a design elements library and documentation.
Design systems are typically built from scratch and tailored to the organization’s specific needs. However, there are common components found in successful design systems:
This is the largest and most significant element, consisting of page templates, UI components, and reference files such as Sketch files.
These are the corresponding code snippets that implement the components from the pattern library. Teams can retrieve this code from a central repository to incorporate it into their products. Coding standards, versioning guidance, and supported browsers and devices should also be included.
Guidelines and Principles:
These serve as the foundation and design principles, encompassing accessibility targets, guidelines for handling animations, and rules for scaling and grids.
Similar to a traditional style guide, this component covers brand identity elements such as logo usage, fonts, color usage, visual language, and marketing materials. It may also include publishing guidelines to ensure consistency in brand voice, grammar, and formatting preferences.
How to choose an agency
When selecting an agency, one of the most important factors to consider is their experience and expertise in building design systems. A reputable agency should be able to showcase examples of previous projects and their outcomes.
While cost is an obvious consideration, it is essential to bear in mind that the cheapest option may not necessarily be the best. Other aspects, such as the quality of work, communication standards, and their understanding of your business, should also be taken into account.
Finally, consider the compatibility and rapport you establish with the agency. Since you will be working closely with them, it is crucial to ensure you are on the same page. Choose an agency that makes you feel comfortable.
How to choose an agency
Understanding the role of a design system is important, but comprehending the value it brings is even more crucial.
According to the enterprise UX industry report, one of the most significant challenges is the lack of design consistency, resulting in costly design debt.
The same report also reveals that collaboration becomes more challenging when developers outnumber designers. This may sound familiar if your company has yet to develop a proper solution. A well-crafted design system serves as a single source of truth and provides the following business value:
Consistency across products:
A design system ensures that brand elements, such as logos, permeate throughout the default user avatars in your app. It establishes a design process and standards for designers to follow, resulting in a smooth and consistent user experience across all aspects of your product.
Documentation enables comprehension for everyone, regardless of their role within the company. A design system facilitates alignment among product managers, designers, and engineers, ensuring they are on the same page.
Improved working environment:
By using a design system, designers can easily find the necessary design elements even if their creative minds wander off. They have an up-to-date playbook to refer to, avoiding confusion and increasing productivity and job satisfaction.
Enhanced production efficiency: Similar to the previous point, a design system ensures that the design team, regardless of its size, is aligned and working harmoniously. This not only prevents errors but also provides guidance on how to address errors promptly, whether they are minor or significant.
In short, make your design system proactive to prevent problems rather than reactive in fixing them.
Who can build a design system
Now, let’s focus on the three primary roles involved in delivering a digital product: product managers, designers, and developers. Each of them has different requirements and expectations. Let’s explore their perspectives more closely.
The finished product is the result of the entire team’s contribution.
For a product manager, the most important objective is delivering a functional product with all the desired features for customers. They value speed and efficiency, so minimizing the time spent on design and development is crucial for the overall health of the business.
From a designer’s standpoint, maintaining consistent designs while managing changes when multiple designers work on the same project is a top priority. The ability to make adjustments quickly is equally important. Designers despise seeing their designs disrupted by careless development. Even small details matter, as the difference between an excellent and a very good product lies in the finer points. As the product team grows, contributions can lead to inconsistencies. Centralized design version control can serve as a remedy.
Developers, on the other hand, expect well-documented designs with minimal changes. They prefer not to guess the designer’s intentions and avoid pixel-pushing back and forth. Developers aim for a smooth workflow with mockups. However, the reality often presents more struggles than pleasant experiences.
Does this sound familiar? While there’s no universal solution to every challenge faced by a product team, based on our experience and the successes of our customers, investing in a design system is worthwhile. A design system addresses these pain points and reduces friction in the process.
Take a moment to reflect on your product and company while considering the following questions:
How to create a design system
Getting started with a design system involves five simple steps:
Conduct an audit:
Review all the designs you have created thus far and identify basic repetitive elements.
Centralize the elements:
Make all the design system elements easily accessible to all stakeholders involved in the product design process, including designers, coders, and marketing specialists. Equal access is essential for effective collaboration.
Promote the design system within the organization: Internal communication is crucial to ensure widespread adoption and usage of the system. If nobody knows about the design system or how to use it, its potential will go untapped.
Continuously update the repositories:
Regularly evaluate your design system components and ensure that any new elements are included in the repositories.
Choose partners with substantial experience in building design systems
Our approach and process are based on our extensive experience working with both enterprise-size clients and smaller companies.
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