Design systems have been making a lot of noise lately. Airbnb, Salesforce and GE are just a few of the notable companies that have built and discussed design systems publicly. Where I work today we've recognized our own need for a unified design language and have worked on our own system.
So why build a design system? Why invest the time and effort into building a design system for your team? For us we saw a few key benefits:
Small, young engineering teams can often move at breakneck speeds. Moving fast is a great benefit of working inside a small team. But this benefit comes at a cost. A lot of companies start to see what can happen when everyone is heads down and focused on shipping. Some sort of design language may have been implemented early on but it doesn’t mean it was consistently and continuously enforced throughout each iteration of the product.
Companies moving fast need to get designers, developers and stakeholders on the same page. Building a design system and developing a process for it across your company will help to ensure your design will stay consistent across the entire experience. A more consistent experience will give your customers more confidence when they use your product.
Design systems are also great for increasing efficiency inside teams. Ultimately, they provide a source of truth. This source of truth helps your team to worry less about how things should look and gets them focusing more on how things should work. Design systems can also help lower your companies' need for the tedious process of consensus building. Knowing that a new iteration has adhered to the guidelines set in place your team can trust that the product's design integrity hasn't been compromised and a consistent customer experience continues.
As your team grows many of the maintenance issues that exist will only compound. Putting a plan and process now can minize this risk.
At TrueAccord we're leaning heavily on the Atomic Design methodology to build our system. We're taking a modular-based approach and building small sets of components that can work together to form a cohesive look and feel for our product. Working this way we can worry less about the design as a whole and focus solely on smaller parts of the UI.
So the next question you might ask yourself is whether your team should build their own design system?
Every team is different and needs may vary. But a team is never too small or too young to build their own system. Investing a little effort today to get something in place will provide a foundation for your team can build on for the future. I wish we would've started 2 years ago instead of today.