Design , Product Design — 10.27.2020

How Design Systems Enable Product Teams

Sara Croft, Principal, Growth Marketing

Good ideas spawn successful products, but digital products can only be successful if they provide a positive user experience (UX). This is why product design is so important. Beautiful, effective, and user-friendly products attract, engage, and retain customers. While product design research and planning is a significant undertaking, it is vital in developing a design system that, once in place, is easy for internal product teams to utilize and will be referenced time and time again.

What is a design system?

A design system combines the many components of UX and user interface (UI). The UI component is similar to brand guidelines, including the design elements you see – logos, colors, fonts, buttons, visual assets. The UX component includes the information working behind the scenes – code snippets, documentation, tone, page layouts, processes. Design systems, simply put, consist of both visual and non-visual components with corresponding processes that dictate how each can be changed. The design system as a whole acts as a standard playbook that can be viewed by any internal team members and used to ensure brand consistency, save time, and keep all stakeholders on the same page.

Playbooks help you scale faster

It may seem like a design system doesn’t leave much room for creative leeway, and that’s true in a sense (and also a key point of them). The system is built upon information accumulated through extensive market research and user surveying. The resulting playbook speeds up and simplifies the ability of a designer to work. This allows them to focus on scalability and innovating in other ways, as the design system is set up with the user in mind. And as mentioned previously, good design is a critical component of a digital product’s success.

Design systems lead to cost savings

Design systems are incredibly robust. They include any piece of information that takes the guesswork out of design components. Design systems eliminate the need for engineers to do the same work over and over again. With code and other redundancies avoided, designers can spend time on other things, resulting in time and cost savings for the company.

There are ample benefits to having a design system. From ensuring everyone including designers to developers are on the same page, to guaranteeing visual consistency for users at every touchpoint, design systems simplify processes and keep brand uniformity top-of-mind for all. Whether a company has a single designer, or twenty, having a design system in place is a worthwhile endeavor for any digital product leader that cares about producing and standardizing the best user experience possible.