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Product Design

Design Systems

Why Nurturing Your Design System is Not Risky Business

Norton King

August 01, 2022

You advise on cryptocurrency. Your investment portfolio is impressively diversified. You stick to your workout routine and have an equally structured diet to match.

You’re no stranger to making savvy investment decisions. But have you realized the importance of investing in your brand’s design system?

It’s not enough just to establish a design system for your brand. You must also consider the tool as a living, breathing entity if it’s to remain effective. You have to nurture it.

Whether your teams have seemed disconnected from each other or your product has evolved from what it once was, taking the time to give your design system much-needed attention will do everyone good.

Your Brand Experience is Only as Good as Your Current Design System

You know your brand experience should be cohesive. Whether your users visit your landing page, navigate through their account, or scroll via your social channels, they should be buckled up for the same ride at every touchpoint.

But that gets harder to pull off as more details and elements evolve, especially if your design system then goes untouched. This neglect manifests in a disjointed, confusing journey. Suddenly your brand experience starts to resemble abstract art — and not in a good way.

  • Inconsistent brand language

  • A dull UI

  • Discordant patterns that no longer solve a user’s needs

And don’t think your users don’t notice. They can tell when something is off — they either become less interested in your product or drop off before converting altogether.

But if you have a current, relevant version of a design system from which everyone thrives, you have a successful product. Your brand’s fresh fingerprints show up all over the place with a frictionless, fun experience worthy of a five-star review.

To be sure, a cohesive brand experience and an updated design system go hand in hand. But that’s not the only thing a design system positively contributes to. Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of people's faces and various logos

A Healthy Design System Enhances Team Happiness and Productivity

In order for your teams to work together and produce exceptional work, you must have alignment throughout the process. Even the best teams experience bouts of miscommunication, misalignment of priorities, and frustration sometimes.

Throw an outdated design system into the mix and your team’s troubles can have a ripple effect. Designers think the product should look one way according to the design system, but developers might be working from a very different version. Making things worse, perhaps marketing’s recent content guidelines were announced over email but never made it into the design system. Blame the designers, again.

So much can go wrong when several teams are working from what they think is the source of truth, but is really a source of confusion. Changes in brand tone may be known, but unless these shifts are updated in the design system, the gaps will continue to eat away at morale.

When everyone works together to keep the design system accurate and refreshed, the one source of truth remains as such. It may be that you already have a person dedicated to gatekeeping your design system. If so, great! They should be notified of any changes from any team. If you don’t have that person, delegate the right people from each team.

Guaranteed: Teams are happier and more productive when they don’t have to question what the guidelines are and argue with their colleagues about who’s right; they can simply consult the current design system. Additionally, their time is freed up to work on higher level issues, ideas, and iterations.

And this shows up in a better and much-loved product. Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of piggy bank and various logos as coins

Making the Investment to Keep Your Design System Fed

By now you understand that an updated, refreshed, nurtured design system is key. But what does this look like in practice?

The truth is, it’s an investment that will take time and energy to remain effective. You should factor in time for teams to:

  • Get aligned on changes

  • Communicate the changes

  • Remove discrepancies

  • Erase redundancies

  • Eliminate outdated information

While it may feel like you have to take several steps back to accomplish this work, know that it will put you several more steps ahead in the long run, experiencing compounding returns:

A short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. Just like your daily salads instead of daily pizza. Illustration in blues, purples and oranges of light bulb floating above a hand

Wield the Power of Design Systems Like These Digital Products

We are no strangers to a good design system. We love how united and unstoppable it makes us feel and operate as a team. And we’ve helped our clients see the light, too.

GoSite, a digital platform for small business owners, needed a way to keep teams aligned as they rapidly scaled. (Think 40 people to 250 in just a few short years.) They needed a North Star everyone could access, reference, and contribute to as the product evolved.

We created a robust design system that connected their web, mobile, marketing, and enterprise teams. To us, it was a no brainer. But to a team that hadn’t relied on a design system before, it was a game changer. They saw ten times the revenue in just 12 months.

Online personal empowerment program, Optimize, realized the importance of a good design system, too. They lacked a solid system that supported a multi-channel experience. And without that, they couldn’t increase user engagement. After releasing the webuild-designed Optimize platform, the product grew from zero to over 10,000 members across the web and mobile apps.

Finally, there’s us. We rely on our design system daily. But we also utilize what we’ve learned to apply to current and future projects, storing insights and components from a variety of design systems in a central library to leverage for all clients. It’s the design gift that keeps on giving.

Of course, a good investment is made better when you have a trusted partner by your side. When you’re ready to go all-in on your design system, let us know. We’ll realize your investment together.

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