Why do you need a Design System?Alicja Masiukiewicz
Reading Time: 3 minutes
What is a Design System?
In short: A Design System is a living library of reusable and standardized components to build a product. It plays the role of a curator of the project by keeping all actions aligned to the brand’s look and feel. Therefore you can quickly assemble components, build/scale up/re-do a product.
In more detail, we can divide a Design System documentation into three parts:
It’s a set of design principles on how to use branding, creating interfaces, or printed goods. It contains visual examples of good and bad usage of branding. Depending on needs, it can be a basic set of rules, or it can even contain a description of the written and oral communication to keep it aligned with the overall brand look and feel.
It's a set of UI elements that one can (and should) use as building blocks. That is to say, it’s a comprehensive source of knowledge about UI components containing: name, attributes (color, size, etc.), state (active, on hover, inactive, etc.), code snippets, etc.
It’s a collection of components grouped into bigger modules, for instance a header or menu. It provides detailed specifications like breaking points, behavior, states, etc.
As you can see, a Design System is the single source of truth. Most importantly, it serves the entire company. It holds the information about the brand, UX, design, marketing, front-end development, and content.
Moreover a Design System evolves as the product grows. In one place, there is an entire archive of how it developed. Thanks to comprehensive documentation, every new or updated element is visually consistent.
Why is a Design System beneficial?
Creating a Design System is an investment. It’s a must-have for every growing company. As is the case with any documentation, it’s labor-intensive work but in the long run, it saves time, money, and resources.
A Design System is especially beneficial because it’s an interdisciplinary document that makes cooperation between departments smooth, clear, and easy.
As long as the company or product is small you can get away without proper documentation (although it’s not a good idea). Even in a small undertaking, you will be prone to inconsistencies and mistakes. But the moment the project scales up or employees change you will be lost in the chaos. A Design System can help prevent this.
Unified visual language
A Design System makes the perception of the brand strong and consistent. When a company’s visual aspect is aligned on every channel, a user will not question whether they are in the right place. Moreover, they will see the brand as strong and trustworthy. Users immediately recognize familiar UI patterns and structures. And they are more likely to come back.
On the flip side, if the design is inconsistent, there is a higher probability that the user will leave. For example, if eCommerce X uses the payment provider’s checkout template, potential customers can get confused or wary of fraud and drop the purchase.
A Design System gives easy access to all the needed information. It allows for efficient work regardless of who is designing or developing because the guidelines and the principles are in one place.
It means that even if the work on the project were on hold for a while, e.g.you changed the team, opened new channels, etc. you have one easy document to source all information from.
Well-prepared documentation cuts down long discussions and decision-making processes. It removes possible misunderstandings. You won’t get caught in the “reinventing the wheel trap”. Also, the personal tastes and preferences of certain employees won’t affect the look and feel of the brand!
Open for improvements
A Design System evolves, as does the brand. It will grow along, granting that scaling and changing the project remains consistent. With constantly appearing new devices, screens, and resolutions - a Design System provides logic and structure in every case.
Instead of designing every additional element, developing a new module, or reworking UX, available elements you can just copy and paste from the Library. You can use your workforce and expertise somewhere else.
A Design System is an internal document that should be familiar to everybody in the company. While not everybody will be using it on a daily basis - it will be a single source of truth for everyone. The designers and the developers will create its reusable core.
Creating a Design System can be intimidating. It’s a huge time and resource investment. But it doesn’t have to be done all at once. It’s always good to start small. There are plenty of resources to help build a Design System. We at Kiwee use Adobe XD with all its benefits like integrations, extensions, patterns, libraries, etc.
A Design System is an insurance for the company - protecting it from losing its coherent identity, usability, accessibility, and familiarity. It also speeds up and facilitates company growth.