April 2021

The basic benefits of a design system

by Clint McIntyre

So what is a design system (DS)?

You may hear people say 'we have our corporate colours, fonts and images already', but these are not a design system. What they have is a little piece of a much larger puzzle. 

I think this definition from Invision perfectly sums up what a design system is:

“A design system is a collection of reusable components, guided by clear standards, that can be assembled together to build any number of applications.”

What makes up a design system?

At the core of a design system, you will have these key components and patterns.

Design System

What are the benefits of having a design system?

5 benefits a design system can have on your business:

  • Consistency
    Customers like to have a consistent brand experience with your website, it builds trust with your brand and offers. These consistencies also help reduce the cognitive load on the end-user. Familiar design patterns allow users to focus on the brand message and offers.

  • Save time
    Leveraging a design system will enable your entire digital team to work more efficiently. Reducing time 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.

  • Save money
    Fact, when you save time, you save money. A design system speeds up the onboarding process of designers, developers, product managers and marketers.

  • Reduce design debt
    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. Internal teams expand or agencies are hired to help meet the new demand in workload.

    A design system will ensure these new features are consistent with existing patterns. Without one, new designs will be designed in isolation and can feel disjointed. This creates ongoing design debt and will create a poor user experience for your product.

  • Scale quickly
    A design system allows you to scale quickly and produce new features and pages rapidly. They are designed and developed already, allowing teams to focus on other business areas.

Selection of components from Landify design system by Aravind Little Jack
Does my business need a design system?

A very common question for many companies experiencing growth or with ambitious future plans. When design systems are talked about at any level, they can divide opinion 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.

Be wary that not all designers will be happy at the idea of starting a design system. Some designers have a belief that this can stifle creativity, but in reality, a design system will afford them further time to tackle larger design problems facing the business.

When your business looks into other design systems, such as IBM’s Carbon Design System these will 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 but understand and appreciate why industry-leading businesses see the value in a design system 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 questions to figure out if a design system will work for your business:

  1. Undertake a UX/UI audit of your website and highlight any inconsistencies or potential customer pain points

  2. Your team will be the best people to talk to 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.

  3. 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

Want to level up or implement a design system in your business? We're here to help, drop us a line!

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Clint McIntyre

Born and raised in country VIC, Clint is energetic and down-to-earth. After 15 years of working in traditional print design, Clint co-founded Honest Fox, he brings creativity, big ideas and design thinking to the business.

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