Design Systems - Unlocking the Power of Your Digital Product

23 February 2023
Paul McGillivray

They provide a centralised hub for guidelines, assets, components, layouts, and templates that define the look and feel of your product. By following a design system, your development team can save time and cut costs while ensuring a consistent, recognisable user experience.

Think of a design system as the single source of truth for your application's interface. Each component is carefully crafted to maintain a cohesive look and feel, and styling code is included for ease of use. A well-defined design system can improve user experience and create an intuitive and visually appealing application.

As your product evolves, so does your design system. Updates and changes can be seamlessly integrated into your application, ensuring it stays relevant and user-friendly. 

The elements of a design system to consider are:

1. Elements

Elements are the basic building blocks of a design system. They are the atomic part of the system and can be combined to form components. They are the parts of the interface that are designed and built for use within the interface.

The elements should also be reused throughout the application so that when you need to create a new component. You can pull it from the existing library of elements.

2. Components

Components are the combination of elements that make up the interface. They can be used again and again. There should be a set of standards for each component so that they can be used consistently, and their look and feel can be updated over time.

3. Patterns

Patterns are the standard ways in which components are arranged and used throughout the interface. They are the design rules that are applied to components and enable the interface to be predictable and consistent, while at the same time being flexible and reusable.

4. Templates

Templates are the patterns of components that are arranged in a specific way and are used to create the look and feel of the interface. They’re the style guides that are applied to the components and help the interface to be consistent, easy to use, and easy to update.

5. Structure

The components, templates and layout define the structure of the system. These are the building blocks of the design system. Think of them as single elements that can be combined and arranged in any number of ways.

Design System Benefits

Working with the user experience in mind is essential. A well-designed system will help users find what they're looking for quickly and intuitively.

Using a design system saves time, effort, and money. It allows you to develop interfaces quickly and with a consistent feel while maintaining consistency as the application is updated over time. Not having one can lead to a loss of integrity within the app and lost time and money from changes and improvements that could have been made right the first time if a system were in place.

Remember, your MVP needs to hold all the attributes of a final app but with a smaller feature set. Avoid scrappy designs and aim for functional, reliable, usable, and beautiful interfaces. After all, as far as your end-users are concerned, the user interface is the application. If the design is half-baked, your software will feel that way too.

Don't underestimate the power of a comprehensive design system – it's the key to unlocking the full potential of your digital product.

Paul McGillivray

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