The all-inclusive design systems guide

How to design and deliver consistent product experiences with the right tools, people, and process

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Understand the organizational benefits

As workforces and processes become increasingly digital, modern enterprises replace forms and phone calls with digital products. Whether investing in a digital transformation or product-focused since inception, the applications businesses use (and need to maintain) expand over time. The growing portfolio likely spans multiple tech stacks and design philosophies. 

While the investment plays out on efficient development operations, the experience side of the equation grows stale as a result of aging style guides and brand positioning PDFs gather digital dust in cloud folders long forgotten. Previously successful patterns feel outdated on touch screens. The association with aging patterns diminishes trust and how people view the company, damaging the organization’s reputation. 

A centralized hub documenting reusable components with clear guidelines for building and maintaining products in the organization’s portfolio seeks to remedy these potential pitfalls. Untangling and actively addressing issues drives better outcomes.

There are four critical ways businesses, teams, customers, and products benefit fro design systems.

Team performance excels. The impact of a design system is felt across product organizations. It aligns operations, engineering, testing, product, and design behind a common language and approach to building products. Solutions like design patterns and components become shared and centralized, rather than every team solving for each independently. This allows teams to focus on building software rather than multiple similar mockups of how the software should look. Delivery speed increases. The team spends energy on addressing complexity and opportunity rather than solving for pixel placement.

Customers stick around. Rather than struggling to navigate otherwise clunky applications, consumers enjoy the comfort and familiarity of a cohesive family of digital products. Each interaction across products and within those products presents in a similar way, which reduces the learning curve. The person using the tool then focusing on the task being done rather than how to use it.

”It’s not just about making great experiences. It’s about taking the customer on a journey as you make all your products better.”

- Chris Bernard, Vice President, Head of User Experience & Design at CDK

Operations run smoother. Building design systems inevitably identifies constraints and inefficiencies within the product organization. Working to integrate across departments and groups reveals broken decision-making structures, hidden product debt, and subpar consumer experiences. These inefficiencies can manifest as disconnected marketing efforts and product teams, performance issues between mobile and desktop applications, or help desks tasked with responding to a high-volume of customer complaints. These fractures take the form of unnecessary approvals, conflicting direction from multiple departments, or multiple definitions of truth behind product decisions. For a design system to be successful, these operational inefficiencies must be resolved alongside the effort to build a consistent product language.

Systems grow stronger. By addressing the core operational challenges and the product needs, the design system and organization grow stronger and more valuable together. The far-reaching impact of the design system allows fors systems-level solutioning within the organization. The greater level of collaboration across teams and the consistent working language reduces the total cost of ownership of applications and the barrier to address shifting product and market needs.

”Design teams accomplish tasks 1/3 quicker than without a current design system.”

- Clancy Slack, Data Scientist at Figma  

Continue to:Determine when to add a design system