Design Systems: Streamlining Efficiency and Consistency in Product Design

Design Systems

In the fast-paced world of digital product design, maintaining consistency and efficiency across multiple platforms and products can be a daunting task. Design systems have emerged as a solution to this challenge, providing a comprehensive framework that enables designers and developers to create cohesive and user-friendly experiences. In this article, we will explore the concept of design systems, their benefits, and how they can transform the way organizations approach design and development.

Today, any product interface is primarily a solution to the problem. The faster the user of the interface will figure out where to click, the higher likelihood he will continue to use the product — and will not leave you for the competitors. Design system changes the attitude of users to the brand. Firstly, a common approach to the UX and UI designing makes the product more accessible and understandable for customers. Secondly, the uniform visual style of all projects increases the company’s recognition in the market and the quality standard for competitors.

The preconditions giving rise to the design system were also the understanding by designers of what works better and what is worse — and, accordingly, the rejection of unsuccessful decisions. As a result, the average user of the interface gradually formed expectations from the product interface (user-friendly or not user-friendly). And based on the analysis of user experience, designers, in turn, improved existing solutions.

A systematic design approach generates the right user experience. A single pattern — an approach to designing interfaces — should be in everything: in navigation, icons, fonts, and the name of the tabs.

Design system infographic
Well-known design systems

There are several of them that have gained popularity in the industry. Here are a few examples:

Material Design: Developed by Google, Material Design is a comprehensive design system that provides guidelines and resources for creating visually appealing and interactive interfaces across different platforms. It emphasizes a clean and minimalistic aesthetic, along with consistent use of colors, typography, and motion.

Apple Human Interface Guidelines: Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) provide design principles and guidelines for creating user interfaces on Apple platforms such as iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. The HIG focuses on creating intuitive, user-friendly experiences that are consistent with Apple’s design language and guidelines.

IBM Design Language: IBM Design Language is a design system developed by IBM, aimed at creating a consistent and cohesive user experience across their products and services. It provides guidelines for layout, typography, color, icons, and interactions, with a focus on accessibility and inclusivity.

Bootstrap: Bootstrap is a popular front-end framework that includes a design system with a set of pre-designed UI components, CSS styles, and JavaScript functionality. It allows developers to quickly build responsive and visually consistent web interfaces.

Salesforce Lightning Design System: The Salesforce Lightning Design System provides a set of design guidelines and resources for creating user interfaces in the Salesforce ecosystem. It offers a range of components, patterns, and utilities to ensure a consistent and efficient design process.

These are just a few examples of well-established design systems, but there are many more available, each with its own unique approach and set of guidelines. Design systems provide a framework for designers and developers to create cohesive and user-friendly interfaces, saving time and effort by providing ready-to-use components and design patterns.

Design system creation
So, what is a design system?

The design system is a visual programming language that is technically described by the code and turns the entire structure into a designer of blocks that harmonize and intercommunicate. Simply put, the design of control elements on the web application interface is drawn and raised as a rule. Moreover, all important rules are written in the code: where these elements are located and how they are animated.

The process usually involves a designer who develops the elements themselves and their application according to certain templates and a front-end developer who is engaged in technical implementation. For example, a «Contact Us» button should always be from the bottom right and when you hover over the mouse respond with the same animation.

Why do we need a design system?

A design system is essential for creating large websites, services, and mobile and web applications that consist of numerous repeating elements. Here are some key reasons why a design system is necessary:

  1. Time-saving: By providing a library of pre-designed components and templates, a design system saves time for designers and developers. It avoids the need for small iterations, especially when working with existing, constantly updated content.

  2. Dynamic and easily updated: A design system allows for dynamic and easy updates. When changes or improvements are made to a component or pattern within the system, those updates are automatically applied to all instances, ensuring consistency across the entire product.

  3. Ready-made design resources: A design system serves as a ready-made toolkit for designers. It provides a comprehensive set of design guidelines, principles, and assets that can be used consistently throughout a project, ensuring a cohesive visual identity and user experience.

  4. Interface standardization and bug minimization: By standardizing interfaces through a design system, inconsistencies and bugs can be minimized. Designers and developers can follow established guidelines and utilize reusable components, reducing the chances of errors and enhancing the overall quality of the product.

  5. Efficient collaboration with front-end developers: A design system facilitates the handover process to front-end developers. With the logic and specifications already thought out, developers can easily translate the design into code, saving time and promoting smoother collaboration between design and development teams.

  6. Scalability: A well-designed design system allows for easy scalability. As projects grow and evolve, new components and patterns can be added to the system, ensuring consistency and efficiency in design and development workflows.

An excellent example of the practical application of design systems is in the banking industry. Banks often have both a mobile application and a website that require similar interfaces. By adopting a design system, they can establish a unified approach to design and development, enabling separate teams to use common components and patterns. This not only streamlines the redesign process but also allows for centralized updates across all projects simultaneously.

Key Components of a Design System

A design system encompasses various elements that define the general direction of design, the brand’s philosophy, and the approach to specific projects or products. Some key components typically included in a design system are as follows:

  • Style Guide: A reference document that outlines the brand’s visual style, including color palettes, typography, iconography, and other design elements. It ensures consistency and serves as a support for maintaining the brand’s identity.

  • Design Patterns: These are reusable design solutions or templates for common user interface elements, such as buttons, forms, navigation menus, and cards. They help establish consistency across different projects and enable designers to work more efficiently.

  • Frameworks: Design systems often include front-end frameworks or libraries that provide pre-built components and styles, making it easier for developers to implement the design system in their code.

  • Unified Methodology: Establishing a shared methodology between designers and developers helps streamline the design and development process. This includes naming conventions for layers, files, and folders, ensuring that both teams are aligned and can easily collaborate.

  • Motion Guidelines or Interactive Patterns Catalog: Guidelines for incorporating motion and interactive elements into the user interface. This includes defining how animations, transitions, and micro-interactions should be used to enhance the user experience.

  • UI Kit: A comprehensive set of user interface components and assets, specifically tailored for a particular platform or device. This includes the UI flow for mobile design, which defines the thoughtful transitions between all components for a seamless user experience.

  • Documentation and Recommendations: Clear documentation and guidelines that provide rules and recommendations for implementing the design system. This helps developers understand how to effectively use the components and design patterns, ensuring a successful implementation of the project.
How to create a design system?
The most common tools for creating design systems are Figma, Sketch, or Adobe XD. Ui designers select the main pages of the web resource with no detailed elaboration of the system. Then, the experience of these pages is systematized: fonts, all sizes, paddings and so on are registered. Finally, on this basis the design system and all other pages are built on the principle of atomic design.
Style guide
By the way, it’s not a fact that the content of the first pages will survive to the final in its original form — everything is moving and worked out for each task. This is up to each specific design team what specific tools and methods to implement. So, a separate page is created containing all the minimum parts and components, which will then be broadcast on the remaining pages of the product user interface. Specific software is not needed to create design systems, but updates and plugins for tools will help speed up and simplify many processes.
Implementing a Design System

Implementing a design system requires careful planning and collaboration. Here are some key steps to consider:

  • Research and Analysis: Understand the needs of your users, study existing design patterns, and identify pain points and opportunities for improvement.

  • Establish Guidelines: Define the principles, styles, and components that will form the foundation of your design system. Create documentation and guidelines to ensure clarity and consistency.

  • Build the Component Library: Develop and document reusable components that cover the most common UI elements used in your products. These components should be flexible, scalable, and easily customizable.

  • Adoption and Iteration: Encourage teams to adopt and utilize the design system. Provide training and support to ensure a smooth transition. Continuously gather feedback and iterate on the system to address evolving needs and challenges.

How a Design System Can Drive Cost Efficiency in Project Budgets

It can do this in several ways:

  • Streamlined Development Process: A design system provides a comprehensive set of pre-defined design components, styles, and guidelines. This allows designers and developers to reuse existing elements instead of creating them from scratch for each new project. By eliminating redundant work, the development process becomes more efficient, saving time and reducing costs.

  • Consistent Design and Branding: A design system ensures consistency in the visual elements and branding across different projects. This consistency not only improves the user experience but also reduces the time and effort spent on design revisions and iterations. By maintaining a unified design language, teams can avoid costly reworks and achieve faster approvals.

  • Improved Collaboration and Communication: A design system acts as a shared reference point for designers, developers, and stakeholders. It establishes clear guidelines, naming conventions, and documentation, facilitating smoother collaboration and reducing misunderstandings. Effective communication and alignment among team members help avoid costly errors and delays.

  • Enhanced Scalability: As projects grow and evolve, a design system can easily scale to accommodate new features, functionalities, and platforms. By providing a structured framework for expanding the product, the design system ensures that the interface remains cohesive and adaptable. This scalability reduces the need for significant redesigns or redevelopment, saving both time and money.

  • Reduced Dependency on Highly Skilled Resources: With a design system in place, common design patterns and components are readily available to designers and developers. This means that less time and effort are required from highly skilled specialists for routine tasks, such as creating basic layouts or UI elements. By utilizing the design system, companies can allocate their skilled resources more efficiently, resulting in cost savings.

  • Increased Efficiency in Maintenance and Updates: A design system promotes easier maintenance and updates. When changes or improvements need to be implemented, they can be made centrally within the design system, and the updates will automatically propagate to all projects using it. This simplifies the update process, reduces the risk of inconsistencies, and minimizes the time and effort required for maintenance.

As you see, a well-implemented design system can drive cost efficiency in project budgets by streamlining development, ensuring consistent design and branding, improving collaboration, enhancing scalability, reducing dependency on highly skilled resources, and increasing efficiency in maintenance and updates. By leveraging the benefits of a design system, companies can optimize their project budgets and achieve higher return on investment.

Design systems have become an indispensable tool for organizations striving to create consistent, efficient, and user-centric digital products. By providing a unified framework that guides design and development, design systems enable teams to work more collaboratively and efficiently. They foster consistency, reduce time and cost, and ultimately contribute to delivering exceptional user experiences. Embracing a design system can be a transformative step towards achieving design excellence in the ever-evolving

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