Design Systems are Necessary for Your Website to Grow Efficiently

January 11th, 2018

Design systems ensure that your website remains future-proof


You might have heard about design systems before, said another way. Pattern libraries, modular design, component design, atomic design, design language, user interface libraries… the list of nuanced terms goes on.

In particular, the principles behind Brad Frost’s “Atomic Design” lend themselves the most towards explaining how design systems work. However, the chemistry metaphor he uses can be a bit daunting, so we’ll break it down in a way that’s quicker to digest.

Instead, we like to look at it design systems as a grand library, filled with all of the information about your website’s visual assets, design styles, and guidelines on how to use them. When you need to create something new on your website, you don’t have to sit down and try to figure it out the hard way each time. You can simply check out the book that will tell you everything you need to know.

Design systems are a repository of design styles and the ways on how to use them.

In its simplest terms, design systems are about establishing the framework for how your website is built.

That way, you have a system set in place so you aren’t guessing what a page, button, or menu should look like. Going back to our analogy, your “library” (design system) is filled with the “books” (your visual assets) that make up every pixel on your site.

This allows for your website to scale easily with your company. A design system will ensure that you’re building from a solid foundation instead of building new pages from scratch every timethis is what we mean by future-proof.

Of course, design systems aren’t just about making individual visual assets and design styles for your website, they’re also about designing a system that explains how to use them in a meaningful way. Not to mention, a design system should be constantly updated and iterated upon to add new visual styles and modules, without losing any of the established visual consistency of your brand.

But let’s get to the juicy part. How does a design system benefit your business?

Design systems may be a bigger investment up-front, but as your site expands, it becomes much easier to maintain. Creating new pages becomes quicker, and therefore less expensive over time versus the traditional way of designing for the web.

There’s no Need to Start from Zero Each Time

We understand that a design system may initially seem like a more expensive investment upfront when starting out with a new website. However, if you’re in it for the long-run, the design system will always pay off in kind.

But how? We touched upon this earlier, but when we create a design system for your website, there’s no need to start from the ground-up each time you want to build out a new page.

This is because the design foundation has already been laid out—the style guide and branded visual assets have already been established. That means that when it’s time to roll out new pages, designers can create them at much greater speeds and efficiency, saving you a lot of time and money. And this only becomes a wiser investment over time. Since designers can easily reuse existing components of design as necessary, the only time spent is on assembling the page and creating new content.

Now that’s some serious efficiency!

Brand Consistency Is Always Ensured

As we’ve talked before in depthconsistency in design the key to building trust and recognition for your brand. Naturally, the same principles apply to designing for the web.

When creating new pages for your website, we want every design we create to be synonymous with each other. We design our systems and pages so that when a user goes from Page A to Page B, they’re already familiar with the overall feel of the design, and understand how to interact with the page. As mentioned before, when we reuse select visual assets from our library we create new on-brand pages with ease. 

However, a design system isn’t just about copying and pasting. By knowing and understanding how and why we use certain design elements from our system, we ensure that we aren’t just mindlessly tossing elements on a page, creating shallow pages that are visually stagnant. 

A design system will also make it easier to expand the system as well and explore new avenues of design. Since there’s a strong foundation, there’s more leeway in experimenting with newer styles to avoid stagnancy, while still keeping the overall feel consistent and on-brand. Even better yet, every new design becomes a new extension to the system, allowing your design system to become more robust and making the process of future pages even faster.

That’s the magic (or science) of a design system.

Design systems scale with the size of your company

The best part about design systems is that they can scale to any size of a company, large or small.

In the end, it’s really about building up a library filled with rich visual assets and designs that have specific, intended uses. The design system can always be improved and added upon, as long as its well-documented.

If a business already has an in-house team of designers, or even multiple teams, then there’s a great need for a design system. Without the system, they might be constantly asking each other “what’s the format for the headers?” or, “how do our forms need to look?”.

Instead of wasting time trying to find those answers, having a design system in place allows them to simply reference the answers on the system. 

Especially when the team grows, this eliminates the redundancy of having every new person learning the ropes without anything to reference. Instead, the new hands on deck can more quickly grasp how each of the visual assets and design styles look and function. Not to mention, then they’re able to expand upon it in a way that is consistent with what has already been built.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, if your website doesn’t have a design system in place—you’re missing out on saving yourself some serious time and money down the line, and also slowing down the expansion efficiency of your organization’s website.

There’s a reason why corporate behemoths like Google and Airbnb have such an enormous emphasis on them!

Are you ready to create a design system for your organization? 

Mighty Fine Design Co. creates a design system for every website we work on, so if you’re interested in taking your site to next level, let’s chat! We can answer any questions you may have.

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