Nick Dominguez

I'm a product designer and sometimes musician living in the Nashville area. Connect with me on Twitter or follow some of my work on Dribbble.

Why We're All Building Design Systems

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 begun to recognize our own need for a unified design language and have begun working on our own system as well.

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:

Consistency

Small, young engineering teams can often move at break neck 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.

Efficiency

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.

Maintainability

As your team grows many of the maintainence issues that currently exist will only begin to compound in the future. 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 whole and focus solely on smaller parts of the UI.

So the next question you might be asking yourself is whether or not 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 your team can build on for the future. I wish we would’ve started 2 years ago instead of today.