Joe Dawson

Joe is the director of Creative.onl and oversees all of the design and technical work that we produce. Find him on Twitter.

In our recent article ‘What are design systems and why do you need one?‘ we talked about how to differentiate with your USP to help increase your ROI from your in-house digital teams.

We discussed how implementing a good design system can help to improve your team’s efficiency while at the same time maintaining or improving user experience. 

And we explained how this can be achieved by ensuring your product developers have the right elements in place, they understand which rationale to apply and what assets they can use.

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In this follow-up article, we aim to discuss the next step of how to successfully implement and manage your design system.

Demonstrate the problem-solving solutions 

Your design system may need some drastic or costly changes made to bring it on board. For this reason, you may need to seek approval from your shareholders or investors to be able to fund the implementation.

In these cases, it is sensible to write up a strategy with a proposal that you can deliver to those who hold your company purse-strings. You need to be able to justify the value of your design system.

The main aim of your proposal is to clearly demonstrate how your new design system will help to solve a major (or a few minor) problems within your current system.

Focus on your key pain points where people waste a lot of time performing routine operations or repeated actions that your design system can resolve or drastically reduce. 

Demonstrating how this new design system can save the company a lot of time and boost productivity levels to improve the company’s bottom-line can be a convincing pitch. At the end of the day, enabling cost-savings and increased profitability means higher dividends for shareholders. 

Building bridges with your design system 

Your design system should be assimilated into your organisation’s core practices to help your design team create and deliver a more consistent user experience and bridge the gap between your design and your development processes. 

It is a way for you to create a new product faster and more efficiently by making your design system flexible and reusable. It can speed up your new product creations by following a repeatable system without your creative team needing to start again from scratch with each new product.

Adopting your design-system

You may spend a lot of time developing your new design system to make sure that it is effective and pretty fool-proof. However, your new system will not be of any use unless you can encourage your creative team to fully adopt it. 

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Remember that your new design system may be a radical change of direction for your established team that has been used to doing things a certain way. 

It can be difficult for your staff to shake-off ingrained behaviours or long-repeated methodologies in the workplace, so you will need to make sure that you encourage everyone to adopt and use your new design system for it to work properly.

You only need to look at how the ‘big boys’ manage their new design systems to see why everyone in your company needs to be on board with your changes. 

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When Microsoft redesigned the Xbox software with its new, company-wide design system, they applied the principles outlined in its Fluent Design guidelines.

‘Fluent Design’ is Microsoft’s new design system created to take over all of Microsoft’s products, from Windows 10 to Skype, to Xbox. Imagine what chaos could have been caused had Microsoft failed to bring everyone on board with their new company-wide design system.

Communication is key

When your design system is ready to roll out, you must communicate to your team the rationale behind your new system. You will need to explain the importance of the system designing phasein the design system development.

This will help everyone to get on board with your design system and answer any lingering doubts or questions your team may have about why you are introducing this. You need to deliver them with a vision statement that defines:

If you can answer these fundamental questions then you will be ensuring your creative team will have a shared vision. 

Once your design system is up and running your creative team should be encouraged to share their experiences with their team members. By doing this your team will learn to solve problems in a systematic way rather than in an individual way.

Early adoption of a good communication culture will help your design system to become better embedded and encourage wider adoption of the new system.

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Using shared language

When you want to encourage your creative team to collaborate and use your new design system then it is of great importance to use a shared language. Developing a shared language will allow your team member to understand and follow the steps involved in creating a product.

Having a shared language will cut down on the confusion over giving names to essential components, actions or procedures needed when communicating your needs in conversations with others. 

Tweaking the system and communicating changes

There is no exact formula to follow when devising a new design system, so although everything looks good on paper, once the system is being used in product design, you may discover a few elements that need a little further tweaking.

Any changes made to the system must be communicated to all of your creative team members as well as the entire organisation. You can keep a changelog that you update with new changes that you can circulate to everyone. The log should detail what changes have been made and how the changes may impact on their work.

Establish regular feedback sessions

Encouraging a culture of communication is a positive step to ensure that everyone adopts and adheres to a well-structured design system. However, you should also establish a routine of regular feedback sessions between the creators of the design system, the users and the shareholders.

It is quite common for a creative team to work around existing problems within a company design system and these workarounds can be adopted and used for many years in some cases without ever being addressed. This can seriously impact on productivity levels, design efficiency and costs.  

Regular feedback sessions will enable the creative team that is using the design system every day to report back about what is working well and what isn’t working so well. 

Drawing attention to processes that need improvement or possibly even need restructuring will help your company to develop a better design system with in-built flexibility that can adapt to new changes and better serve the needs of the business as a whole as it moves forward into the future. 

At Creative.onl, we aim to ensure that you have all the tools available to deliver a user experience that really counts. Contact us today or book a free consultation to find out how we can help you develop the digital strategies that work for your business. 

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