Design systems have been rising in popularity in recent years due to companies like IBM, Shopify, and Microsoft making their design systems available for public viewing. But due to the size of these organizations, there’s a misconception that only the biggest companies can benefit from having a design system. The truth is many types of organizations aside from the aforementioned top tech companies should have a design system in place.
This article will give you a better idea of the scenarios a design system can be very helpful.
A design system is a collection of editable and reusable components with a set of standards on how these components should be used and work together to build one or multiple digital products.
Organizations use design systems to eliminate multiple problems involved in designing and developing digital assets like websites, webpages, apps, portals, etc. - the most common ones are ensuring consistency of design and reducing time to market.
To help you decide whether your organization needs a design system or not, we’ve outlined some of the most common scenarios wherein a design system can be beneficial.
Tally your score and if you get a total of 15 points, your organization should create and maintain a design system.
Whether your design should be applied across different platforms, operating systems, or companies, a design system can help you eliminate design debts and ensure that even the smallest components are applied correctly and consistently at any moment and any screen size.
A design system acts as a single source of truth when designing new assets which means that there’s no room for reinterpretation for anyone who will work on the project even if they are new to the organization.
With a design system, team and cross-team collaborations are much easier. Designers work on the same file to improve visibility on changes and feedback. Less time is also needed by designers to explain how design elements should be coded because every detail is specified in the file. Onboarding new designers or external teams also doesn’t take much time because guidelines on proper usage are clearly outlined.
The most common reason why organizations opt to create a design system is to significantly cut their development time and costs. A study by Figma showed that teams who have a design system achieved their goals faster by 34%.
Since the components are reusable, developers don’t have to code the same elements over and over again. Designers also don’t have to design from scratch when designing a new screen or page that has the same purpose as a page in the system.
Multiple people and teams can work on the design file at the same time and the same thing goes for the code repository which means multiple teams can create different parts of the product while maintaining consistency of the design and code. This translates to a faster way to launch or scale a product.
Unlike a brand guideline or a UI library, a design system offers more flexibility when it comes to updating designs. A design system acts as a source file which means that if a component is updated, all other instances will also be updated at once - removing the horrifying task of auditing and updating them manually.
It is inevitable for websites that have undergone many changes to have inconsistent code especially if multiple developers have worked on them. This results in a messy code and poor performance.
By using a design system, developers will have a single view of all the code. This gives them the opportunity to avoid duplicating and align the new with the existing ones.
Having consistent code and layout also translates to a consistent experience for users when interacting with the same components, sections, or pages whether they are moving from one device to another, next stage, or another website of a sister company.
This predictability makes it easier for users to interact with your digital products.
Since designs are broken down into the smallest components in a design system, designers have a better understanding of the relationships among the components. The start of the transition into adopting a design system also serves as an opportunity to audit designs that don’t work with the rest of the system.
A strong cohesive design and consistent application of that design across any platform also give the brand a memorable visual identity.
Government entities are great candidates for creating design systems. Having a design system eliminates the need for departments, branches, agencies, or locations to decide on how common elements should look like.
The GOV.UK design system was designed to be flexible enough to work for multiple disciplines while still allowing for customizations needed by each entity. They also created a community backlog to allow users to submit or propose new styles to keep the design organic.
Organizations that own and manage multiple platforms should also have design systems. A great example of this are insurance companies since they typically have a main website, portal for agents, portal for clients, and mobile apps.
AXA created a design system to address both their multiplatform and multilocation needs.
Companies with multiple products or sub-brands could also greatly benefit from a design system. A consistent design helps customers associate related brands much easier. Additionally, popular brands from the same company can lend brand equity to newer or lesser popular sub-brands or products.
Aside from the Office suite, Microsoft also owns Xbox, Skype, and Power BI, among many others. Applying the same designs across all of their sub-brands strengthens Microsoft’s position as a leader in the tech space.
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