Design Systems: 5 Tips for Ensuring Adoption

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In 2017 and 2018, design systems became common in companies from startups to large enterprises. However, without adoption from designers (IA, IxD, UI, Visual), engineers (front-end developers), product managers and owners, and others (content, accessibility), your design system will decay and quickly become obsolesced.

5 tips to ensure the adoption of your Design System

1.     Bring people into the fold from the beginning.

A design system team is best when it is cross-disciplinary and invites key stakeholders to participate at key moments. It will help build cohesiveness and allow concerns  to be heard early on.

2.     Tailor design system roll-out based on company, business, and product needs.

Your design system rollout is dependent upon business size, the number of teams, and the number of products. Teams approach work differently, and the deployment should reflect that. A rollout positioned as modular is typically better than the all or nothing approach. When working on new versions of products, managers, designers, and engineers work best as an integrated group to prioritize and create stories based on the needs of the product, business, and team.

3.     Communicate the design system value and its usefulness.

A well-crafted design system allows you to decrease design and development debt by leveraging reusable components and creating a consistent style. Designers will be able to spend the time saved creating a more compelling user experience. Developing rapid experiments and quicker variations of prototypes will also allow you to iterate faster with fewer lines of code. Communicating the usefulness of design systems will also result in your team spending less time in Q&A with a clean codebase.

4.     Make design system assets and documentation cross-disciplinary and easily available.

The product team(s) must have access to the documentation, assets, and codebase in the right form. Provide the design system resources as a single destination that contains the pattern library and other documentation in a manner that is aesthetically appealing, inviting, and easy to navigate. Hunting and pecking on Google Drive or Dropbox is not a pleasant experience to find the needed information. A designer may want a sketch file while a developer likely needs code snippets. Most importantly, documentation depicting explicit usage and guidelines will keep your design system in-tact and decrease variants used.

5.     Deliver design system training and support.

Your training and support plan may differ based on the size of your company and product teams. In the beginning, you may choose to set up groups within each discipline including one person from the design system core team. Providing workshops, webinars, and tutorials also helps unite teams and facilitate adoption (hub and spoke model). During on-boarding of a new employee to your team, take time to walk through the design system, where to find the documentation, and with whom to liaise if she or he has questions.

Conclusion

Design systems influence order and design and development standards and enable efficiency, consistency, and scale. With planning, training, and teamwork you can achieve adoption of your living, breathing, design system, and remove the information, process and communication friction. 

What are your thoughts on design systems? How are you implementing them and what are your findings? Are looking for help creating your design system or deploying it? Please drop us a line.

Rachael Guay