What is a design system in UX

Design Systems

Design systems have become essential components for large and small companies in recent years. Design systems can be daunting to develop, implement, and use when in reality they are based on fundamental principles and simple practices. But one by one. First of all: what exactly is a design system? In simple terms, it is a collection of reusable components guided by clear standards that allow a variable number of applications to be composed uniformly. It's not just a collection of components and resources used to create a digital product; there is an almost infinite amount of parts that can be reused as strategies, markets and trends develop. Think of it as a box of Lego's ™, the contents of which are uniform but can be put together to form almost any conceivable structure. A high quality design system requires persistence while maintaining structure and meaning.

Sample libraries, UI / UX and style guides within design systems

Now that we have a basic understanding of what a Design System is, let's dig deeper into some of the different fundamentals within the Design System (DS) and alternatives such as pattern libraries, UI (User Interface) kits, and style guides.

While a design system contains the full set of design standards, documents, and principles, as well as the UI patterns and code components, these other elements are all part of the DS. The Pattern Library is a sub-class within the Design System that is used across platforms to ensure a consistent brand message and style. A style guide is a further subclass of the design system that represents the static documentation and description of the DS itself. The style guide defines how products should look and feel, defines use cases for UI patterns and correct typographic scales. The UI kit is a collection of graphic files and resources that help designers create UI's for various applications. This usually includes UI components that convey meaning while providing functionality to users, i.e. buttons, check boxes, widgets, and progress bars.

Comprehensive service for a solid design system

At Bright, we are committed to providing comprehensive DS services and helping teams be more efficient, consistent and scalable when creating digital products. Our services include everything from typography and color palettes to layout and code rules. Regardless of the size of the company, our team creates a single resource that enables designers to create consistent user experiences (UX) across platforms, products and touchpoints. Our DS implementation is not a static document, but an evolving ecosystem that supports a new, increasingly modular approach to digital product development. Bright enables sales and marketing teams to achieve unified communication and brand development through effective design system implementation.

One vision across different products and platforms

Using a design system bridges the gap between designers and UI engineers working together on multiple products and enables new creation and duplication by other teams. Effective communication is essential so engineers and designers can focus on solving bigger problems.

Design systems are best viewed as the “single source of truth” for any product experience, and an ideal design system is based on a foundation of reusable components guided by certain principles, rather than a pre-defined guide like every page or screen should be designed. This leads to a rapid increase in both design and development, as an effective design system must be balanced, consistent, and scalable. Bright builds design systems that allow developers and designers to use the same available components, which increases the productivity of the teams as it becomes more efficient for the teams to create an engaging customer experience across different products and platforms while also being able to scale efficiently to enable.

Implementation at every stage of development

As businesses are founded or begin to expand, it becomes increasingly apparent that the need for a well-constructed design system is of paramount importance. At its most basic level, a DS, when properly implemented, provides a collection of best design practices and processes, patterns and components that are used by business owners and their teams to maintain consistency across products and platforms. As products move through companies, key design components can be lost in the process, and a solid design system is the best way to ensure consistency. A well-designed DS will save teams countless hours re-creating detailed design specifications that contain all of the variable measurements the developers need to create a new screen, a new side of the entire UX flow. If your company is developing multiple products, a design system is one of the best ways to scale your team's output as it enables developers and designers to prototype faster, more effectively, and more regularly, while helping to ensure that design knowledge is shared across the company.

The driving concepts behind DS creation and implementation are the libraries and documentation; Together they define the core of the brands UX and UI and are similar to the visual assets such as logos, typography, colors and grids. The design system also contains UI components and their documentation with code, which makes it easier for developers to use them across products. Another way of thinking about a design system is through the rules, constraints, and principles that are implemented in both code and design. These elements apply to everything from color, spacing, typography, and layout, and also include non-visual elements such as tone of voice, grammar, lexicon, and audio cues. While all of these components are designed separately, they are combined to create a single source of truth. Like the front and back end design, these reusable components are visual, although we've codified their counterparts for consistent use by developers.

Innovative solutions increase productivity

Creating and implementing an effective design system is one of the best investments in a company's future as it reduces the risk of communications failure, which saves a tremendous amount of lost productivity and money. A design system is a living product that develops and changes together with a company or product; it is not a project, but a product that serves other products. Some may argue that building a solid design system while managing new product features and other requests slows down teams. That is why using a third party to develop your design system is one of the most efficient ways to use its advantages while meeting existing deadlines and product deliveries.

Bright has provided Design System solutions to a number of international organizations in many industries that have enabled them to maintain consistency throughout their expansion and digital transformation. Without an established design system, even simple design changes can cause chaos, resulting in lost revenue and productivity. By integrating all of your systems into one design system, you can efficiently make design changes when an update is required. An example that illustrates this point is as follows. Your design team decided to change a text button to increase customer loyalty. If you have a design system in place, your design team can easily change the relevant parameters and when that change is pushed online it will be automatically updated for each product that is integrated into your system. In this scenario, there is no need for your developers to waste time scrolling through the code to update multiple CSS button tags for a button text update. This enables quick updates and efficient further development.

Save money by creating a unified design system

Developers waste countless hours writing and rewriting code logic as designers create new concepts. The incessant back and forth that arises in this process is inefficient, inelegant and unnecessary. A properly developed and implemented design system enables agile, lean product development and cross-team communication. Another benefit of a design system is that new team members essentially have a workbook to look up that enables efficient training while maintaining a consistent product image. This gives new team members a good grasp of a brand's identity, voice, and tone of voice and a better understanding of your company's unique design language.

Stay in control of your product and marketing materials

An unwanted advantage of design systems is that they create transparency and at the same time eliminate knowledge silos. If a developer or designer has the key to all information about a product, this can create an imbalance in the balance of power within companies, which in extreme cases can put an entire product at risk.

End-to-end design creates seamless UX / UI

One of the best examples of an effective design system is Apple's Human Interface Design Principles & Guidelines. They started with a simple but focused mission - design simplicity. Apple's goal was to create products that were easy and intuitive to use right away. By creating a solid design system, Apple has been able to create numerous products that have been hugely successful because of their intuitive user interface and UX, not just their visual merits. Another prime example would be Atlassian's design language, which they define as “Design, Develop, Deliver”. This straightforward language relies on consistent design to create seamless experiences. Or take Google's Material Design, which supports touch experiences on the screen with numerous functions and natural movements that mimic real objects. All of these design systems are basically the same; they start with a vision and enable efficient, effective communication between designers and developers. Bright has developed a similarly rich design system for numerous platforms including Amazon Web Services, Cognify, Commercetools, Java and others.

Conclusion and final thoughts

A successful design system is reusable, but many companies face the same problem: team members have developed components that are too focused on being used in a single case. As a result, the systems become too inflexible and developers and designers are forced to create new components on the fly, which leads to productivity and money losses. To ensure proper reusability and scalability, the components of a design system must be modular and self-contained to reduce dependencies. Composable components are another requirement as they can be selected and put together in variable combinations to meet specific needs. By combining components, users can create new components, thereby creating new scenarios exponentially. It is important to maintain flexibility within these systems so that users can adapt or expand components for a wide variety of platforms. The consideration associated with introducing a new component always begins with examining how it will work across platforms. Seamless transitions and performance are key to developing a solid design system.

Choosing a design system is an important step for any business, and it is not an easy decision. Since they are not static, design systems and products need to evolve, and companies need to adapt and evolve to serve the ever-changing markets. They have to change with fast development cycles and product developments and at the same time scale efficiently. It has become critical for companies to weigh the challenges and benefits of their design and development processes and find the best solutions for their individual needs. A solid design system is one of the most efficient ways to increase productivity between developers and designers while reducing redundancies, ensuring brand cohesion and increasing ROI.