The basic benefits of a design system
Updated 27 February 2023
Find out how implementing a design system can give your website a consistent user experience with the ability to scale quickly.
What is a design system?
Corporate colours, fonts, images and a media hub – some people think a design system and a style guide are the same. But that’s just a little piece of a much larger puzzle.
A design system is a collection of reusable components that follow a centralised design decision guide and can be used by everybody – product teams, designers and developers. It’s much more than a style guide and includes a variety of applications (e.g. buttons, cards, design and code resources) that can be used in combination. Design systems usually act as the single source of truth for your team members.
Read more: A guide to creating design systems
What are the benefits of having a design system?
Having a design system can make a great impact on your business, especially in the long run. It can help with streamlining your goals, workflows and team efficiency as well as enhancing your brand experience for your audience.
Explore 8 design system benefits that can be useful for your business:
1. Stay consistent
Customers like to have a consistent brand experience with your website because it builds trust with your brand and service offering. Having a consistent design system helps to reduce the cognitive load on the end-user and familiar design patterns allow your audience to focus on your brand message and offers.
2. Save time
Leveraging design systems will enable your entire digital team to work more efficiently. That does not mean you won’t need any designers in your team anymore, but it helps with reducing the time that is spent on solving design challenges that have already been solved elsewhere in the system. A design system also enables the entire company to visualise how something will look before implementation. Stay ahead of the competition or at pace with your users through re-usability. Never start from scratch again!
3. Save money
As people like to say: time is money. A design system speeds up the onboarding process of designers, developers, product managers and marketers, so it is not only time efficient, it is also cost-effective.
4. Reduce wasted design
Most companies have an ambitious growth goal, which means their website grows as well. This growth means new features get added and older features get replaced. Reduce your development time, double-handling and miscommunications and create a better user experience for your product. Especially when roles and responsibilities shift, a new person comes on board, or teams become geographically dispersed. A design system will ensure these new features are consistent with existing patterns.
5. Scale quickly
A design system allows you to increase your productivity and produce new features and pages rapidly. Having your functional elements, components and patterns already designed, developed and tested allows you to focus on bigger, more complex and impactful business activities.
6. Be flexible
Editing, changing, updating – gain an increased flexibility and responsiveness to changes in the field of digital which is forever evolving as we know it. With a design system in place you get to stay ahead of any adjustments and adaptations.
7. Improve the design quality
Setting up a design system the right way ensures its of the highest quality for everyone to use. Designers, developers and product owners can together create a very detailed design system that is tailored to your components and products, which makes it easily accessible and customisable. Having various people use it also means it’s constantly tested, maintaining high-quality output.
8. Share knowledge
Having a central guide including all tools, methods, policies and processes will support your team collaboration and create a knowledge base that everyone can pick up from. Documentation helps your team to understand and implement your design system principles and builds a resource touchpoint that everyone can come back to.
When design systems are talked about at any level, they can divide the opinions in a room. Some people will be excited, others will see it as a waste of time, and that time could be better spent in other areas of the business.
Not all designers might be happy at the idea of starting a design system. Some designers worry that this can stifle creativity but a design system doesn’t replace the important skills of a designer, it adds onto it. When your business looks into other design systems, such as IBM’s Carbon Design System these might be overwhelming due to the sheer scale and depth, but these businesses have invested millions of dollars and whole teams (or agencies) to define and create these. You do not need to go to this degree, simply appreciate why industry-leading businesses see the advantages of design systems and how they can work for your business.
By investing in some form of a design system you can also get the benefits that will help the future of your product or website.
Here are a few tips how to figure out whether a design system will work for your business:
Undertake a UX/UI audit of your website and highlight any inconsistencies or potential customer pain points.
Speak to your design and development teams and gain knowledge about the design debt of your website. How long are they spending on redesigns or fixing existing problems? This double handling has cost implications for your business.
Is your business planning to scale or grow quickly? If the answer is yes, is your website ready to scale efficiently and quickly?
A design system is a great way to streamline your business and give your customers a consistent brand experience.
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