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Design systems that people love

Sharing actionable tips from my agency, enterprise, start up, and life experience with a design and developer twist.

Today I am going to talk about design systems.

Design systems can increase productivity for an entire organization. It gives product teams the affordances to build unified customer experiences and focus on business objectives.

Technically, a design system can be as little as design kits, sometimes called style guides, guidelines, standards, and a component library that teams can install in their apps. Design systems can also be a range from accessible color scales and content guidelines for voice and tone, to a pattern library — a collection of components that make up a design pattern.

Unfortunately, design systems fail.

3 components with wide adoption is better than 30 components with no adoption

Solve real business problems

The first reason I see design systems fail is due to lack of adoption. This is typically because the design system was created without solving real business problems. Product teams have little to no investment.

Talk to the teams in your organization. Sit down with them and talk to them about their product. Go through the product with them and listen. Look at the next few up coming quarters and see what’s coming up on their plate.

Find teams that are receptive to help through these conversations. Help them solve their upcoming product design issues. From those sessions, you will find components that can be abstracted and some evangelists who now have a vested interest.

Be flexible

If you only abstract components from this particular engagement and never change that component, you won’t be solving other teams problems. Enhance existing components to aid in more team adoption.

Apply the 80/20 rule. Maybe 80% of a product team’s features should be using design system components. 20% is custom design and development. Design systems are not intended to solve all design problems. They are intended to create a unified look and feel, voice and tone, and allow product teams to focus on business objectives.

That’s it for today. Happy Memorial Day for those who celebrate!

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