A Design System: So Much More Than A Component Library

Over the last few years a new element has gained traction in the world of digital development: the ‘Design System’.

“A Design System is a collection of reusable components that are guided by clear standards and can be assembled together to build any number of applications,” explains Igor Provod, Senior UX Designer at Architech.

For the uninitiated, the definition of a Design System may sound a lot like what a component library is.

Au contraire.

“A component library is just a collection of visuals i.e. colours, button stylings, fonts, etc.,” states Igor. “A Design System takes it to the next level by including standards and documentation around the look and usage of each component. The Design System acts as the single-source of truth.”

The fact that a design system incorporates standards and documentation is the reason why it’s beneficial on so many fronts, including:

  • Reduction in time to market
  • Less money spent on development
  • Cleaner code because it’s already been vetted
  • Cleaner design
  • Consistent styles
  • Accessibility standards are adhered to
  • A better end-user experience
“What do Shopify, IBM, AirBnB, Microsoft, MailChimp, BuzzFeed, Apple, and Salesforce all have in common? They all use design systems to improve consistency and scalability.”

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A Catalyst For Collaboration Too

Another plus to having a Design System in place is that it encourages collaboration amongst team members.

“With a component library, it’s mostly designers who use it,” points out Igor.

With a Design System, its users are anyone involved in developing a component which means it could be a designer, developer,

“Having a Design System in place encourages your whole team to come together and collaborate which leads to a better product.”

Enhancing team collaboration leads to something else, as well.

“People will get to work with people they haven’t worked with before, allowing them to build relationships, which in turn helps create a stronger company culture.”

Don’t Set It And Forget It

For a Design System to deliver the most value, it can’t be a set-it-and-forget-it proposition.

“A Design System is not just something that is created and then handed off,” Igor stresses. “It’s something that needs to be maintained and governed on a regular basis.”

It only takes a month or two of negligence and a Design System can be out of date and out of sync, and that can derail things in a big way.

“That’s why our team meets at least once a week,” emphasizes Igor. “I wholeheartedly recommend that companies have regular meetings about their Design System.”

What actually happens at these Architech meetings?

“We discuss how we document things, what changes we think we need to make to the system, initiatives we can take to clean up the system, and more,” explains Igor.

“It’s really how you keep the system maintained and going in the right direction. It’s so easy to build something and say, okay, we are done now, and then three months down the road you notice that no one is using it. Maintaining the system as a group creates buy-in and weekly meetings keep team members engaged in the Design System.”

To learn more about how Architech employs Design Systems, email us at sales@architech.ca.

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