I’m pretty sure that you have heard that term a thousand times last week, and more than you will, design system is one of the trends in product design particularly, that big companies such as Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, and others are adapting and putting into practice when building their products and seems that has come to stay.
There isn’t a real definition of what design systems are, other than the fact that the name is quite self-descriptive enough to give a clue of what they are. Some people will define them as a set of elements that combined between them, can make easier build products, but it’s more than just that, and the levels of complexity that it includes can be frightening.
What are design systems?
As I said before, there’s no specific definition of what they are, especially if we apply the term to digital products, there’s no real definition of what’s a digital product, moreover depending on the approach you want to make of it, but in order to set a basic definition with what we can work:
A design system is a set of reusable elements, definitions and patterns that combined between can be used to build a product.
Let’s be clear, design systems are more than UI components that put together can generate more complex designs, design components aren’t templates either. Design systems are the DNA of organized digital products. This includes also the identity of the brand or product that is being built for, the information architecture, the tone and approach, and finally the criteria of usage of each of the components that form the design system.
You can make a design system as complicated as you want, you set the level of fragmentation of the components, how in detail on each component you want to design and build from, that will set the rules for when using them on building or improving your designs.
Why you should start using them?
Design systems are an extension of templates, personalized tailored and detailed templates that take into account every aspect of a product and set the bases of the scaffolding of any piece of content that can be built with them, below there are some of the perks of setting up a design system when building a project.
Almost effortless prototyping
A design system doesn’t need to be a definition of the final components or modules on the final product per se, it could also be made from elements from a set of wireframes that need to be tested with users before coming up with the final solution. But when working with high fidelity prototypes, having a design system could mean that you could propose different solutions for the same problem and test it against users.
Come up with high fidelity defined prototypes would be as easy as creating a new page and calling the right components of your design system and connect them with the different endpoints of your user journey.
Initially, it will take some time to define each component and each variable and attributes that will form part of the design system, but once each element is in place, coming up with pages, screens or features will be a matter of arranging the specific components in a certain way and push it live.