If you’re thinking about creating a new website, there’s lots to consider. From platforms to functionality to content management and more. When it comes to design, you may find yourself juggling different views and opinions, in order to reach something that works well for both your audience and organisation.
Effective website design should be true to your brand, communicate your value and allow users to easily complete their desired action. But it can sometimes be difficult to maintain consistency and efficiency after launch, particularly if you are working with a large team.
That’s where a design system can help.
So, what’s a design system?
A design system is a catalogue of web components, with guidelines on how they should be used. It brings together aspects you might typically find in a style guide, such as colour palettes and typography, with the user interface components you would find in a pattern library. The principles that underpin a design system outline the logic that should be applied to future decision-making, which ensures everyone is working from the same page.
Benefits of using a design system
Design systems are becoming increasingly common, and working with one can bring a range of benefits:
Design systems can be more time-efficient in the long run. Although they sometimes require greater upfront investment, they offer greater returns further down the line. With each new project, designers and developers can cherry-pick the most suitable components from the system, reducing the need to develop new elements from scratch.
Empower your publishers
Using a component-based approach can benefit your content managers too. When existing components are made available within the CMS, it becomes much easier to build new pages. Your content can be pushed out at pace, and if a campaign, event or product needs to be given more prominence, it’s easy to introduce new components without sacrificing the overarching design.
Scale with consistency
If you’re planning to roll out across different regions, or you have multiple brands in your portfolio, a design system can help to standardise your websites, creating a cohesive look and feel across the board. With so many teams working remotely, having a central reference point to work from can help to keep everyone aligned.
Consistency is important for your audience too. By having familiar pathways that are based on established design standards, your users will be more comfortable engaging with your website, which will result in more positive experiences. A design system is a great way to ensure that general design standards are adhered to by your wider team, as well taking into account the principles that relate to your organisation and brand specifically.
It’s important to keep sight of your needs and consider the nature of your projects too, as a design system may not be the right fit for everyone. Here are a few scenarios for context:
Is a design system right for me?
- You have a lean team that works very closely together. A small team that works from the same design files and code repository, with frequent daily communication and a single person spearheading the project, will face different challenges to a larger organisation with more moving parts. You may find that you don’t feel the benefits of a design system until much later down the line.
- You are in the early stages of launching a business. Start-ups often have a limited amount of time to prove viability. Without knowing the longevity of a new product or service, it may not be appropriate to invest in a design system during these early stages.
- Your projects are varied and often have custom requirements. A design system includes a vast range of components that are suitable for use across multiple projects. However, if each website or landing page you deliver tends to have very different functional requirements, this approach might not be suitable as you’d need to think about creating new components on a regular basis to meet your needs.
There are a number of advantages to producing and implementing a design system, so if you have plans to launch - or relaunch - your website this year, it’s definitely worth thinking about how a design system could work for your business.
What challenges do you face with your current website? How might a design system help to overcome them? Suppose you’re looking for a solution that delivers consistency, efficiency and clarity in the long-term. In that case, a design system could be a really valuable asset for you and your team.
How can we help?
We’ve worked with lots of our clients to produce design systems, combining highly effective UI design with strategic guidance, to deliver value beyond the immediate project pipeline. Whether you plan to work with a specific platform, like Drupal or .net, or you’re starting from a blank slate, we can provide honest advice to help you understand the benefits a design system could bring.