- What is a Design System?
- Terms to Know
- The Pros and Cons of Using a Design System
- 8 Steps to Implement a Design System
- Working With an Agency to Build Your Design System
Design systems are increasingly becoming a fundamental aspect of product design and development across various industries. Here, we'll explore the importance of design systems and how they can benefit businesses and organizations. We'll also provide an all-encompassing rundown of what design systems are, including an explanation of why they are important, how to create and implement them, and 8 suggestions for those new to the concept. Whether you're in B2B SaaS, education tech, e-commerce, or any other industry, understanding and utilizing design systems can greatly enhance your product design and development process.
What is a Design System?
A design system is a collection of design standards, guidelines, and components that product teams use to create consistent and cohesive digital products. It includes a set of design principles, a common visual language, a pattern library of reusable UI components, and a style guide that documents all design elements.
Design systems matter because they help organizations create products that are consistent, efficient, and user-centered. By establishing a set of design standards, organizations can ensure that all digital products are cohesive and align with their brand identity. This, in turn, improves the user experience and increases customer satisfaction.
Design systems also help to streamline the design and development process by providing a set of reusable UI components that can be easily integrated into new products. This reduces the time and effort required to design and develop new products, allowing teams to focus on creating new features and functionality, leading to more efficient iterations on the product. Design systems also promote collaboration and communication between design and development teams, resulting in more efficient and effective product development.
The implementation of a design system allows organizations to create digital products that are user-centered, efficient and align with their brand identity, which leads to a better user experience and ultimately to more customer satisfaction.
Terms to Know
When creating a design system, there are several key terms and concepts that a team should be familiar with:
- Design principles: The fundamental guidelines that underlie the design system and inform all design decisions.
- Visual language: The collection of design elements, such as typography, color, and iconography, that make up the look and feel of the design system.
- Pattern library: A collection of reusable UI components, such as buttons, forms, and navigation, that can be easily integrated into new products.
- Style guide: A document that documents all design elements and guidelines, including color palettes, typography, and UI components.
- Accessibility: The practice of making digital products usable by anyone.
- Responsive design: The practice of designing digital products that adapt to different screen sizes and devices.
- Atomic design: A methodology for designing UI components, which is based on the idea of building design systems from small, atomic elements that can be combined to create more complex UI components.
- Interface inventory: A comprehensive list of all UI elements and states used in a digital product.
- Design Tokens: The smallest possible elements of a design system, they are the atoms of a design system, and they are used to store design information such as color, typography, spacing, and more.
- Automation: use of scripting or other methods to automate the generation of design elements, such as design tokens, color palettes, and UI components.
- Governance: The process of maintaining and updating the design system, including design principles, visual language, pattern library, and style guide.
- Alignment: aligning the design system with the organization's goals, values, and overall branding strategy.
- Testing: testing the design system with users to validate its usability and effectiveness.
Understanding these terms and concepts is essential for creating a comprehensive and effective design system.
The Pros and Cons of Using a Design System
While there are many benefits of using a design system, it's important to also consider the potential drawbacks and challenges you may face before implementing one. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of using a design system. By understanding both the benefits and the challenges, teams can make an informed decision about whether or not a design system is the right approach for their needs.
Pros of building a design system:
- Consistency: A design system ensures consistency in design and development, resulting in cohesive and user-centered digital products.
- Efficiency: By providing a set of reusable UI components, a design system streamlines the design and development process, reducing the time and effort required to create new products.
- Collaboration: Design systems promote collaboration and communication between design and development teams, resulting in more efficient and effective product development.
- Scalability: A design system allows organizations to scale their digital products by providing a consistent and efficient design and development process.
- Cost-effective: Building a design system saves time, effort, and money in the long run, as it reduces the need to redesign and rebuild products from scratch.
Cons of building a design system:
- Initial investment: Building a design system requires an initial investment of time and resources, which can be a significant cost for some organizations
- Overhead: Maintaining and updating a design system requires ongoing effort and resources, which can be a significant overhead for teams who don’t approach it correctly
- Lack of flexibility: A design system can limit the flexibility of design and development teams, making it difficult to create unique or experimental products
- Lack of stakeholder buy-in: If stakeholders do not understand or support the need for a design system, it can be difficult to implement and maintain
- Resistance to change: Some members of the design and development teams may resist using a design system, as it requires a shift in their existing workflow and processes.
8 Steps to Implement a Design System
- Start by defining your design principles. These principles will serve as a foundation for your design system and guide all decisions related to design and development
- Create a design language that includes typography, color, iconography, and other visual elements. This language should be consistent across all platforms and devices
- Develop a pattern library that includes reusable UI components such as buttons, forms, and navigation. This will ensure consistency in design and development
- Create a style guide that documents all design elements, including color palettes, typography, and UI components. This guide should be easily accessible to all members of the design and development teams
- Establish clear guidelines for accessibility and ensure that all components of the design system are compliant with accessibility standards
- Continuously evaluate and improve the design system. Regularly gather feedback from stakeholders and incorporate it into the design system
- Make sure that all members of the design and development teams are trained on the design system and understand how to implement it properly
- Utilize design tools that support the implementation and maintenance of design systems. This can include design software, style guide generators, and pattern libraries.
Related Content: How to Create a Strong Style Guide
Why Work With an Agency to Build Your Design System
Working with an agency to help build a design system can be beneficial for a number of reasons:
- Expertise: Agencies typically have a team of experts with experience building and implementing design systems at scale, who can provide valuable guidance and best practices
- Resources: Agencies often have the resources and tools necessary to create a comprehensive design system, such as design software, style guide generators, and pattern libraries
- Objectivity: An agency can provide an outside perspective, which can be helpful in identifying areas where the organization's design system may need improvement
- Scalability: Agencies can help an organization scale their design system as the organization grows and evolves
- Time and cost-effective: Building a design system can be a time-consuming and expensive task, working with an agency can help an organization to speed up the process and reduce the overall cost
- Governance: Agencies can help to establish and maintain governance for the design system, ensuring that it stays up-to-date and aligned with the organization's goals and values
- Alignment: Agencies can help to align the design system with the organization's overall branding strategy, ensuring that the digital products are consistent with the organization's image and identity
- Testing: Agencies can help to test the design system with users to validate its usability and effectiveness.
Overall, working with an agency can provide an organization with the expertise, resources, and objectivity needed to create a comprehensive and effective design system. Additionally, an agency can help to speed up the process, reduce the overall cost and ensure that the design system stays aligned with the organization's goals and values.
Building a design system is a powerful way to create consistent and cohesive digital products that align with your organization's brand identity, improve the user experience, and bring efficiency into the development process. By understanding the fundamental concepts, terms and best practices involved in building a design system, organizations can streamline their design and development process, improve collaboration and communication within the teams, and ultimately enhance the overall user experience. Remember that a design system is not a one-time project, but it's a continuous effort that requires governance, regular evaluation and improvement to stay aligned with the organization's goals and values. By partnering with a team of design system experts, and using the right approach, a design system can be a valuable tool for any organization looking to improve their product design and development process.