Building a successful design system that will continue to provide value to the entire business over time requires the combined efforts of a cross-functional product triad of design, engineering, and product management. Design systems can significantly speed up the development process, improve the quality of the product, and save money.

In this post, we will cover what a design system is, how it improves communication between designers and developers, and its importance.

What is a Design System?

A design system is a group of reusable components. Design systems minimize hand-offs, decrease the number of QA bugs, and encourage greater cooperation. Designers can combine them to create a wide range of applications. Explicit guidelines direct these parts. You will often hear the terms "style guide" and "component library" used to describe a design system. However, each of them is a part of a design system.

So, what is a design system? It is a comprehensive approach to product development that includes rules, values, philosophies, and programming. It highlights a team's design process, making it an excellent tool for expanding your design practice.

There is no consensus on what constitutes a design system. However, most agree that it consists of the following parts:

  • Design language: the overall design of a digital product that helps the team “speak one language.” Information architecture, typography, colors, and iconography are all defined on this basis. The core of your company's brand in a digital setting. It is kept up to date in the code as design tokens.
  • Design kit: A collection of standard designs, icons, or elements that product teams can use to create or test new user interfaces. These symbols are updated to always be in sync with the JavaScript components from the component library. Design kit speeds up both design and development processes.
  • Component library. A collection of version-controlled JavaScript building blocks used to create one or more products. Team members can take blocks from the library use them to build bigger elements of the product. As the result, the development process goes faster and becomes more reliable.
  • Sandbox: a tool for writing structural or visual tests, use case documentation, and component development in isolation. This is for the designers of the design system. For example, a sandbox allows developers to create a complex component in isolation, and then to apply it throughout the site and rely on it in the future. Without a sandbox, redesigns would have to be done on the fly. Sandbox allows developers to do it in isolation, test it first, and then apply.
  • Documentation: a design system comprises standards for consumption, design, and development considerations and thorough documentation for each component tying everything together. The documentation site frequently provides a live playground for users to test out the design system in the browser. In a design system, components and code are so atomized that they can be a documentation themselves.

A design system enables your product teams to collaborate across silos, prevent duplication of effort, and concentrate more on user experience than UI issues.

Improving Communication Between Designers and Developers

Before design systems, each screen of the product was first drafted by designers. Then, an engineering team, in collaboration with a product manager, divided the mock-ups into tickets for developers. This page-based technique had many drawbacks. This approach's segregated structure made it challenging to address concerns from either side.

Among the issues caused by miscommunication between designers and developers were developers blocked by designers, poor product decisions, inconsistent design of the product wasted time on resolving the same problems, and problematic maintenance. It was obvious that teams needed a better strategy.

Both designers and programmers sought ways to streamline and improve their processes. The former started to adopt style guides that evolved into entire design systems. Design systems compelled designers to organize their work and conceive of it in terms of components. Developers working on the front end already did this.

When design systems were established, developers and designers surprisingly began to think and communicate in the same language. Use of the same components speeded up the development itself. As a result, more work was completed when coworkers began using the same language and collaborating to solve problems.

The Importance of Design Systems

The main advantage of design systems is their speedy design replication through prefabricated UI elements and components. Teams might employ the same components again to lower the possibility of unintentional inconsistency. Let’s look at other points that make using design systems critical.

Speeding up the Development Process

Design needs to serve the user. In this instance, it doesn’t serve your product's customers, but rather the development team members. Developing a single design system will hasten the design process and aid team collaboration. Design systems help to avoid overhead and improve communication between team members.

Things get done when everyone speaks the same language: good design. Moreover, the use of reusable components increases the speed of the development process and minimizes the number of QA bugs. Ultimately, the team accelerates the rate at which products are updated and released when everyone in the business is on the same page.

Elimination of Inconsistencies

An audit of all the product's visual elements is typically the first step in developing a design system, serving many purposes. One of the most apparent advantages is that an audit can reveal where your designs have the most inconsistencies. For example, unifying the design of the buttons, etc.

Additionally, an audit can help your team identify the most significant and frequently utilized features and parts of the product. It can also highlight the shortcomings of the current visual system, which can be shared with the entire company to assist with support for implementing a unified system in the future.

Increase Consistency for the User

How can improved internal communication benefit the user? We can decrease the cognitive strain caused when switching from a mobile app experience to a desktop browser experience by providing a consistent experience for the user.

For example, a user checking Google Calendar on their phone, then rechecking it on their browser shouldn’t feel frustrated by inconsistency in the appearance and behavior of the same app on different platforms. With sound design systems, people using digital products will have better experiences enjoying a consistent language they can understand.

Reducing Design/Development Debt

As businesses grow, design and development debt is becoming an increasingly significant issue. Standards can evolve, adding new features and outmoding existing ones. Design systems can expand along with the products they are being developed to support since they are continuously updated and maintained through a lone, centralized staff or a federalized model.

Example of Design Systems: The Techstack Case

The Techstack team was working on a software platform for fundraising. The business eventually attained Product Market Fit and began to generate revenue. As the design and development team grew, the need for standardization and process scalability arose.

The team was searching for a solution and thought about a tool that would help all team members to “speak the same language.” That was how we decided to implement a design system. Designers and development both invested their time into implementation of a unified design system. First, they migrated the main components, then other components such as controls and buttons followed one by one. With time, the new design system was implemented on all pages and screens of the product.

The design system was unified on several platforms such as web, iOS app, and Android app. It ensured consistent design on all platforms and raised users’ brand trust. Users enjoyed a tailored design on every device.

Implementation of a unified design system allowed to reduce costs on development process and came with the following benefits:

  • The speed of the development process after the appearance of the reusable components has significantly risen.
  • The amount of QA bugs has reduced.
  • Design review and user acceptance testing time became several times shorter as it was a review of ready components and their combinations.

Speed Up Your Development Process with Techstack

A brand's capacity to introduce new products quickly can be make-or-break in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. To remain competitive, businesses must design, iterate, and launch products under stringent deadlines. Design systems can be helpful here.

Providing set standards organized in a design system understood by designers and developers helps avoid inconsistencies, accelerates the development process, and leads to higher customer satisfaction.

In 2021, Techstack’s design team doubled in size. We provide neoteric UX/UI services utilizing the industry's top design systems. Working with our team, you will get a user-friendly, easy-to-use, appealing user interface to make your company accessible to users. We will offer a solution that will work for the market and assist you in achieving your business objectives.

Contact us to discuss how your UX/UI challenges can be solved.