How to Build a Design System That Improves Your Product’s UX

A well-crafted design system is vital for enhancing the usability of your product. Most of the time, it’s the first design asset we supply for our clients. We believe in its value a lot.

If you don’t already know, a design system is a comprehensive set of standards intended to manage design at scale by reducing inconsistencies and increasing the speed of design and development processes.

Here’s how design systems can significantly improve your product’s usability and quality:

1. Consistency and Coherence

Imagine if every time you used a different feature of an app, it looks and behaved a bit different.

It would get annoying pretty quickly.

A design system provides a unified language and a set of reusable components, ensuring that the user experience is consistent across the entire product.

This consistency goes beyond just the visual elements; it encompasses the way interactions are handled, ensuring that users don't have to relearn different parts of your product.

This coherence builds user confidence and reduces cognitive load, leading to a smoother, more intuitive user experience.

2. Efficiency and Speed

With a design system in place, teams can work more efficiently. That’s one of the main reasons we insist on a design system for our clients.

Designers and developers can reuse components and patterns, significantly speeding up the design and development process.

This not only accelerates time-to-market but also ensures that there’s more time available for actual innovation and iteration.

It turns design into a modular process, where building blocks can be assembled to create new features or refine existing ones without starting from scratch every time.

3. Improved Collaboration

Design systems serve as a single source of truth for both designers and developers, fostering better collaboration and understanding of one-another.

They bridge the gap between design and development teams by providing a shared vocabulary and clear guidelines.

This shared understanding reduces misinterpretation and improves the quality of the end product, as both teams are aligned towards a common goal and don’t have to keep revisiting work.

4. Scalability

As your product grows, a design system makes it easier to scale not just your product but also your team.

New team members can get up to speed quickly, as the design system provides clear guidelines on how components should be used and how designs should be implemented.

It also makes it easier to manage design at scale, as updates to components are centralised and automatically applied across the product, ensuring consistency.

For example, when we build a client’s Webflow site, we ensure they use a design system for properties and components. This means if they want to tweak a button or change how block quotes look in their blog posts, the change can be made in one place and propagate across the whole site.

5. Accessibility

Good quality design systems include accessibility guidelines and best practices as foundational elements, ensuring that products are usable by as wide an audience as possible.

By embedding these guidelines into your components, you make sure that accessibility considerations are addressed right from the start, rather than as an afterthought which is all too common with digital products.

This not only helps in creating a more inclusive product but also in complying with legal standards.

What makes a successful design system

Design systems can vary based on the complexity of your product, but generally include these key elements and properties:

  • Design Tokens: Atomic design values like colours, typography, spacing, and other foundational styles.
  • Components: Reusable UI elements such as buttons, input fields, modals, and navigation bars.
  • Patterns: Common interaction and layout patterns like forms, data tables, and navigation flows.
  • Accessibility Standards: Guidelines and standards to ensure the design system is accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.
  • Visual Language: Consistent use of design elements such as colour, shape, and typography that reflects the brand and enhances user experience.
  • Responsive and Adaptive Design: Guidelines and components that ensure the design works across different screen sizes and devices.
  • Version Control: Mechanisms for managing updates and changes to the design system, ensuring consistency and integrity over time.

Typically, we recommend and create design systems for our clients in Figma as they support the design system being exported as a library which can then be imported into other Figma design files, allowing us to easily reuse defined properties like colours and typography quickly.

We also recreate our design system in Webflow if a client wants us to work on their marketing site, so the design language between product and site is consistent.

Additionally, there are numerous tools for making your design system easily available to others, including FigMayo, Knapsack and Zeroheight.

Finally, one of the most key aspects of a design system is maintenance.

In some cases, you may be able to create a simple design system and it will last for a while. But with larger sites and products, sometimes you need to tweak and enhance the design system as you go.

And that’s fine, and completely normal.

But it does take a bit of effort to ensure the design system is always accurate and updated. That effort though, pays off in the end as you get a consistent, inclusive, great-looking product.

If you’re interested in getting a design system built for your startup, feel free to book a call with us to see what we can do.

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