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How do we know if we need a design system?

Without organization, there is drift from order towards chaos

Without intervention, the universe drifts gradually from a state of order into a state of chaos. Product design is no different.

We see evidence of this gradual disorganization everywhere from physics to the state of children’s playrooms. In product design we intentionally begin chaotically, and as we gain affirmation of the soundness of our concepts we invest more time in raising fidelity and organization. Once a product is ready for a more concrete design investment, taking the extra step to identify, create, and codify the logic of its design system can create a kind of order in our design universe that prevents inevitable chaotic drift.

Designs may progress over time towards more order with the help of a design system

What benefits are there of creating a design system?

Before the design system, particularly in a multi-app portfolio or large multi-faceted product, there are duplicated efforts:


Duplicated efforts can lead to disharmony and inefficiency


After the design system, shared design and development choices are made

Creating a shared system streamlines our most commonly used design and front end UI patterns. This leads to:

🏎 Enhanced Speed: Ensuring a faster path to production via both the design and development side

🎗 Higher Quality: An opportunity to align on best practices across the entire portfolio

💮 Cohesive Branding: Customers can immediately recognize the unified look and feel, which increases trust

👉 Ease of use: If the suite of applications works in a consistent manner, users will be able to better predict and understand which interface actions will lead to them achieving their goals on the site

⏳ Legacy: Well documented design and code patterns enable team members to move on and off projects more easily when needed

Who will creating a design system be helpful for?

🎨🔬 Designers: Create building blocks for designs, a common language, and shared decisions. Usability testing on common components lifts all boats with the rising tide

💬‍🤝 Product Managers: Will see their products realized more efficiently and effectively

💻💭 Engineers: Have shared building blocks for common styles and components, saving time and improving code quality

🔐👩‍⚖️ Legal, security, and compliance: Fewer designs means fewer legal contracts, licenses required including image and font licensing, and fewer security checks (e.g. checking for hosting on foreign servers).

👔 🎙 Leadership: A cohesive style improves perception of your overall brand as being more trustworthy and effective. You will also see teams moving faster and collaborating more effectively

👥 📲 The people who use the product: Due to increased consistency, your users will recognize that the part of your system they interact with is endemic to the same parent organization. This measurably increases trust. There are also efficiencies gained due to the predictability of the workings of the system.

How do we know if our product is ready for a design system?

Some signs you may be ready for a design system:

✅ 🔬 You have a research-validated idea of who your user groups are

✅ 👥 You have researched your user needs and how they might map to your system needs

✅ 🌎 You have or plan to have a large or multi-faceted product (think Amazon or Netflix)

✅ 📲 You have or plan to have a suite of related products, such as an app portfolio (e.g. Google Suite; Sheets, docs, forms, mail, etc.)

✅ ⌛️ The product has had time to establish potential for a strong product–market fit.

✅ 🚓 Design cop: It’s important to you to get ahead of the curve on establishing early design and development standards

✅ 🖼 You may already have a sense of what kind of look and feel may appeal to your user groups

Some signs you may not need a design system yet:

?👥 You’re still figuring out what product to make and/or which user groups to target

?💰 You’re still in the early stages of navigating product/market fit and value

?🔬 You haven’t finished conducting your discovery and framing (D&F) research phase

?📲 There is only one lean product so far that is not intended to become part of a broader product portfolio

?🏡 It’s a small product that is made by and for your local community (e.g. a friendly local New Jersey Apiary’s website)

If product management, development, and design strategy is the kind of thing you are looking to get started for your business, here at Tanzu labs we proudly partner with companies in the public and private sectors to enable them to create design systems, find a winning product-market fit, build and modernize apps, and more.

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