A design system is way more than just a buzzword repeatedly mentioned on every design blog. It provides your products with consistency, streamlines the design and development process, and increases productivity. No wonder that the biggest players on the market, like Atlassian, Dropbox, AirBnb, Shopify, and Audi are investing in design systems. Here’s a bit more on what value they can bring to your business.
In our previous blog post, we’ve shed some light on design systems in general. For those who aren’t familiar with this term yet, a design system is a framework that combines a design asset library and documentation. Together, they define the brand’s core UX and UI, including basic principles like colors, typography and grid, through single components, to patterns and even layouts. The library is served as a collection of reusable components, followed by clear standards. The main difference between a style guide and design system is the scalability and dynamism of the latter.
While style guides are static and closed, design systems are dynamic and expandable. As opposed to handing off a style guide at certain point in time, in design systems the collaboration between designers and developers is ongoing. It bring us down to the simple conclusion: design systems support agile methodology, whereas style guides seem to make for a better match with the waterfall approach. In consequence, it allows companies to save a lot of time and money.
We hope this article will facilitate you grasping the idea of having a design system and comprehend its benefits.
The current state in the industry
The biggest players on the market, like Atlassian, Dropbox, AirBnb, Shopify, and Audi, just to name a few, are investing in design systems. It isn’t another buzzword that will come and go. It’s more like a revolutionary approach to design, putting design & development at heart. The firms mentioned above are big, but is a particular size required to start thinking about creating a design system? Having one is valuable regardless of the company’s size. It just comes more inevitably to those who have wider array of digital products.
From the design in tech report we can learn that 5 out of 10 companies from the top 10 companies by market cap are either exclusively growing by producing software, or software is an important part of their revenue stream.
In the past 12 months, these companies increased their design headcount by an average of 65%. Moreover, designer to developer ratio improved by 2.5x in 5 years. The demand for designers has never been bigger. However, with the new scale, new problems arise. New methods had to be developed to bridge the gap between design and development. Such a demanding industry requires appropriate tools to keep up the pace with the competition.
According to theenterprise UX industry report, one of the greatest challenges is lack of design consistency which leads to expensive design debt.
From the same report, we also learn that collaboration becomes more difficult as developers outnumber designers. It probably sounds familiar to you if your company has not developed a proper solution yet. A well-crafted design system serves as single source of truth and provides the following types of business value:
Product consistency — all of your digital products get a uniform design language.
Clear guidelines — whatever their role in the company, an documentation enables comprehension for everyone. If you have ever wondered how to get product managers, designers and engineers on the same page, now you know the secret.
Increased productivity — a regularly updated design repository and exhaustive documentation enhance your team’s collaboration. Engineers don’t have to ask designers about components’ freshness, because they are in the same loop.
Now let’s focus on 3 primary roles that are present while shipping a digital product.
We have product managers, designers and developers. Each of them have different requirements and expectations. Let’s take a closer look from three different perspectives.
Finished product is a contribution of entire team
For a product manager, the most important thing is to deliver a working product with all the features that the customers want. They hate moving slowly, so the less time is spent on design and development, the better and healthier for the business.
From a designer standpoint, the wish list starts from having consistent designs by keeping track of the changes when more than one designer works on the same project. Being able to make some adjustments quickly isn’t less important, though. On the other hand, they hate seeing their designs disrupted by neglectful development. Even small things matter, because the difference between an excellent and a very good product lies in the details. As the product team gets bigger, the contributions generate inconsistencies. Centralized design version control might be a remedy.
Finally, the developers expect to get thoroughly documented designs, ideally with no further changes. They don’t want to guess what the designer’s intention was. They hate moving pixels back and forth. They want to work with mockups smoothly. However, often times it’s more like a struggle than a pleasant process.
Does it sound familiar to you? There’s no silver bullet for every problem a product team faces, though. However, based on our experiences, knowledge and our customers’ successes, having a design system is worth the initial investment. A design system is supposed to address those pains and reduce the friction in the process.
Think about your product and company for a while with the following questions in mind:
Do you agree that your product’s user interface is consistent: it shares the same design basics and patterns?
Are you happy with the overall pace of your product’s development?
How much time and money could you save by cutting down the time needed for design and development?
How much time and money could you save by reducing the time needed for cleaning up design and technical debt?
Having doubts? Let’s talk about your case!
Let’s quickly sum up the benefits.
Design systems enable scaling design
Your customers will notice the difference hence they become happier
You will deliver better experiences faster
Your company will save time and money
Design system will reduce the cost of further maintenance
Every new person on your product team will be able to jump into a new project more easily
Creating custom design systems is one of the services we can offer at Netguru. We can build one for you no matter how big your company is. We have experience delivering design systems even for enterprise-size companies.
We believe that the aesthetic layer doesn’t play the primary role. The core value lies in a streamlined, predictable process that reduces design and engineering time. From the user experience perspective, it helps to deliver more cohesive interfaces. Your designers and engineers can focus on more important tasks afterwards.
Stay tuned, in our next blogpost we will uncover the process behind creating a design system along with some actionable takeaways.