Why invest in a design system?

Design systems seem to be a hot topic nowadays. What's more, I've been working with the design systems myself for the past 18 months and already have seen the benefits of them to both - the customers and the businesses.

Nathan Curtis in his Medium post said:

"A design system offers a library of visual style, components, and other concerns documented and released by an individual, team, or community as code and design tools so that adopting products can be more efficient and cohesive."

From my experience, I can definitely say that a design system can save hundreds of thousands of dollars for business while offering a better experience for users.

So what is a design system?

A brand book? UI kit? Guideline? Even more!

A design system is all about solving complex user problems with beautiful and meaningful solutions, building positive user experience, and helping people fall in love with the product.

And it's about a system that connects design and development: creates a visual language (colors, fonts, sizes), connects it all inside components in code, and gives the designer a library of components, patterns, and templates for making and prototyping the UI.

Why invest in a design system?

Create consistent product design

For designers, the design system will look like a library with components, patterns, and templates to be used in their designs.

By using those unified components and patterns, designers can focus on solving the key customer tasks, not on creating another variation of the button.

Design systems should be always supported with clearly written guidelines or documentation on when, where, and how to use each component or pattern.

My design mate (and an experienced product designer) Dave Hughes said that without documentation, an interface that uses a design system will look like a LEGO sculpture built without instructions: it will be using the same LEGO pieces (components) but the way they used will be not the right one.

Design and build products faster

With the system at their hands, designers and developers can spend less time creating repeating elements and pieces of code which means both will make their work faster.

Making the hi-fidelity mockup of the screen and building it can take less than a day for each part. As proved in practice: screens designed and approved today will be developed and passed to production tomorrow.

From the facts above we can make a conclusion that faster product shipping leads to quicker user testing which allows more iterations that will result in better user experience.

Companies who understand the real value of the design systems can go from idea to production in days, not months.

Reduce the cost of design and development

Again, repeating the previous point, both designers and developers will spend less time designing and writing code when they have a system in place. As a result of this - the cost of design and development reduces dramatically.

Repeating my own words from the beginning of this post: I've seen in my own eyes how investing in a design system saved hundreds of thousands of dollars for a company.

Reduced cost of implementation means that the company also can spend more money on investigating critical user problems and come up with solutions for them.

It also doesn't mean that designers won't have the work to do. It means that the type of work will change from "making the rounded corners for a button more smooth" to "helping the user complete the task faster".

Make design and dev talk the same language

Investing in a design system also means investing in design to dev collaboration. Well made design system creates a common language for both teams and makes the handoff process very smooth.

With that said, designers will still need to create specs and do the manual handoff for the critical parts of the UI, while the design system will do the rest for them.

Taking the advantage of the design tokes and variables will help maintain the same level of quality communication and will make the process much more efficient and smooth.

As you can see, investment in a design system - is a good investment. It will pay off very quickly and bring more value in terms of improved user experience and, as a result, the company's profits.

Even if it might sound easy, the design system is not that simple to create. It requires a very well throughout the process and a lot of collaboration between designers and developers, as well as the involvement of product managers.

If you still have some questions about design systems, feel free to ask them in this thread.

Social media image by Balázs Kétyi.