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Design Systems are Necessary for Your Website to Grow Efficiently

December 18, 2018
By John Hawley
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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. Instead, we’ll break it down in a way that’s quicker to digest.

We like to look at design systems as a grand library. This library is 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 build it 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 how to use them.

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

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

This allows your website to scale easily with your company. Having one will ensure that you’re building from a solid foundation instead of building new pages from scratch every time. This 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, they 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 this benefit your business? Let’s look at three powerful ways design systems help your business grow efficiently.

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.
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.

1. There’s no Need to Start from Zero Each Time

We understand. Design systems can be an 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? Well, remember what we said earlier?

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.

This only becomes a wiser investment over time. Since designers can re-purpose existing components of the design as needed, the only time spent is on creating new content.

Now that’s some serious efficiency!

2. Brand Consistency Is Always Ensured

As we’ve talked about before in-depth — consistency in design is the key to building trust and recognition for your brand. Naturally, the same principles apply to designing on the web. It’s the foundation of a good user experience, which is critical to the success of a website.

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. This means they understand how to interact with the page. As mentioned before, when we re-purpose select assets from our library we create new on-brand pages with ease.

That said, a design system isn’t about copying and pasting. It works smoothly by knowing and understanding how and why we use certain design elements. This ensures that we aren’t just mindlessly tossing elements on a page. The goal is to avoid 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 of the system. This allows it to become more robust and makes the process of future pages even faster.

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

3. 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 it’s 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 learn 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 looks 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. has a design system built-in 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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