When building and rolling out a new application or system, the mindset and attitude the team puts out into the organization sets the tone for how it will be used. These complex products need trust and freedom of movement to succeed. To build trust and adoption, establish a cohesive message, as well as a brand and awareness campaign.
The initial rollout cannot and should not catch every use case. Early adopters promoting components into the design system help establish a communal sense of ownership. Use cases need to adapt based on user feedback. As a product, the design system grows stronger through the build-measure-learn loop.
The approach to the rollout changes between large scale redesign efforts and incremental product-by-product releases. The former brings a swifter rollout while also creating a larger overhead. The latter allows for a less intensive rollout that takes more time. For a large organization, a product-by-product release is likely the best path forward. In this approach, prioritize adopting the design system as a part of parallel efforts to build out additional features for products under active development and enhancement. The tactic is like a two-for-one oil change and tire rotation special that’s cheaper and easier than making two separate trips for each service.
It is important to understand the maximum level a product can achieve when adoption the design system. Core system adoption isn’t always possible. Identify ways for applications that are limited to adopt as much as possible to provide a consistent experience.
4 tactics for rolling out a design system
1. Generate excitement with swag
Stickers, t-shirts, hoodies, while simple, if well designed, drive excitement and energy around the new effort. Consider reserving giveaways for early adopters and people involved in the team Then circulate more as adoption grows. Investing in high-quality swag pays dividends in adoption, productivity, and use later.
2. Socialize early
Host lunchtime learning sessions early in development. Openly share how decisions are made, what patterns are being used, and why. Identify the people exhibiting passion about getting involved and engage them in delivery. Building design system champions within the org makes light work of building awareness.
3. Implement an internal messaging plan
Since this is a shared product across teams and departments, there should be an early coordinated messaging plan. The messaging platform, web or email, should use the design system. The team needs to be a consumer of what they’re building.
4. Create an infosite
Build a central website to post news, updated information, and review materials about the design system. The site should be self-service, granting anyone interested access and use immediately. Remove barriers to entry and create a point for users to submit feedback and self-service any questions they might have about the design system.