Most companies understand the value of a consistent customer experience. But the bigger your design teams get, the more complex it becomes to maintain this consistency. A good design system helps design teams to create consistent interactions across the entire customer journey.
A design system consists of styles, components and screens that are used by all design and development teams to create customer interactions. It’s a wonderful tool to consistently implement your visual identity in all your (digital) products.
What is a design system, and how is it constructed?
A design system usually consists of three levels:
- Style guide
1. Style guide:
The first level is the style guide, a clear description of all style elements that are used to communicate. The style guide defines all relevant visual elements, and describes in which variants and situations they are used. Added together, these visual elements ensure all of your interactions are consistent and recognizable as your brand. Examples of style elements are:
- Tone of voice
The second level are the components. This is a library of all user interface elements that consist of multiple elements as described in the style guide.
Components can be built in different ways. One example is atomic design. This means that your components are built up like atoms. A single icon or a text is seen as an atom. An icon with text is a molecule. An icon + text with another text underneath is a component. Multiple components on a page is called a page/mockup.
In design tools like Figma it’s possible to build components using auto-layout. This means that you can add fixed margins and padding to your elements.
By making this a “ basic component ” you ensure that all copies can be modified in one central place. If something changes in that version, the component changes everywhere so that the fixed margins and paddings remain consistent.
The third level are the mock-ups/ pages . These are the screens that are built up out of multiple components. Often times these are the screens that will be used by the development teams. In these pages the flows are set up and possible prototypes are made to support the operation.
How to set up a successful design system?
A successful design system must be practical. In order to achieve this, it’s important to take the following points into account:
- Do it right or don’t do it. A design system only works if everything is structured consistently. This starts with the style elements. Make sure these are linked in your library, so you can use them in the the following steps.
- Make it useful. It’s a tool to build consistent (omnichannel) user interfaces that represent your brand at all times. Be mindful of the users and request feedback while building, is it easy to use? What are they up against? Are the components working properly?
- Keep improving. A design system is never finished. It’s an iterative process. Use the basics to further expand the system with more components, and don’t forget to keep iterating on user-friendliness.
The biggest benefits of creating a design system
Besides saving hours of your time, the biggest advantage of having a design system is that it creates a consistent brand experience across the entire customer journey. Besides that, it creates alignment within your teams because all stakeholders are working with the same principles as defined in the style guide. This improves collaboration and creates a foundation on which you can continuously innovate.
Setting up a design system requires time, knowledge and skills. To support you in this as much as possible, we regularly organise webinars and events in which we help both beginners and experts to take the next step in customer-oriented working. If that sound interesting. please sign up below for our events update!