At Kind, we often work with large organisations, such as universities and cultural organisations, that have a complex digital presence comprising multiple online properties.
Maintaining consistency on how these properties look and function can be difficult. A Design System aims to alleviate these difficulties by acting as the foundation which all properties are built on, or from.
So, what is a Design System?
Many people see a Design System as a set of components that can be used as “building blocks” to create websites, applications and other digital properties, while maintaining visual consistency throughout.
While this is one of the key constituent parts of a design system, it alone does not represent the entire system. In fact, this could be better described as a pattern library. If anything, a pattern library is an output of the design system itself, made for internal users, such as interface designers and developers to work with.
A design system is more than that. It is a consolidation of an organisation’s visual identity, strategy, brand values, purpose and audiences into shared practices, design principles and finally a pattern library, templates, themes and digital properties such as websites and applications.
Ok, so do I need one?
Well, not always.
Smaller organisations with a single, uncomplicated website wouldn’t benefit enough from using a design system to make the investment in building and maintaining it worthwhile.
As with all systems integrated into an organisation, the overhead to create a design system needs to be outweighed by the benefits and this balance generally occurs in large, complex organisations with an array of online properties and multiple designers and developers. Regardless of whether those people are internal or external to the organisation.
What are the benefits?
The most obvious benefit of using a design system is the visual consistency achieved across a suite of online properties. However, it’s not just visual consistency a design system helps to deliver. There will also be consistency in terms of accessibility, tone of voice and functionality, meaning your organisation’s brand can live and breathe online just as well as it does offline.
Increased Speed, Quality and Creativity
Design Systems are particularly beneficial to organisations that are regularly updating their online properties because, having a clear set of base rules and components makes doing the every day work a breeze.
The bonus of reducing repetitive and menial tasks is that a design team can invest more time coming up with creative solutions to your more complex user needs.
They also have more time to dot the i’s cross the t’s. Quality assurance, which is regularly squeezed on urgent work, suddenly appears much more possible. Or, even better, it’s already been done because your new work is reusing existing components!
Because of the improvements in speed we save time, and therefore money, when creating new properties or maintaining our existing ones. Win win!
Having a single overarching project that underpins everything you deliver online, helps bring teams together that might otherwise be working in silos on separate projects, aligning their goals and giving them a singular focus.
And, educating new members of the team is much easier as there’s clear documentation and a focal point for training.
Ready for anything!
A design system is constantly evolving. A living thing. And as such is never ‘delivered’. This means that, as your organisation grows, as the number of online properties you build and need to maintain grows, as does your design system.
You could say that a design system is made for the future of your organisation.
If you’d like to learn more about how a design system could help your organisation maintain consistency, speak to one of our experts.
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It's been just over a year since we started working with Sheffield Hallam University to create a design system for their website and other online properties.