Design systems can offer a number of advantages and benefits to companies. Admittedly though, as with almost anything, there is a difference between effective and ineffective design systems — design systems need to be well-crafted in order to have a positive impact. How to go about creating an effective design system is something that we discuss in the next section. As we delve into the positive impact design systems can have on your organization, consider that we are referring to strategically sound design systems.
Back in 1998, B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore published an article in Harvard Business Review - Welcome to the Experience Economy. One of the core principles of that article was quite forward-thinking — for companies to differentiate themselves, they had to focus on providing memorable experiences.
Over the last 20 years, the concept of brand experiences has really gained traction and blossomed into the now well established practice of Customer Experience (CX) . Practitioners and academics have equally weighed in on the importance of providing meaningful brand experiences and have put significant dollars and research in to the importance of CX. We now have a fairly good grasp on the impact that a positive brand experience has on user behaviour when it comes to designing digital experiences. For instance, in one particular study, Khan & Fatma (2017) observed that a positive brand experience will increase consumers’ purchase intent as well increased brand loyal behaviours.
So how do we go about creating meaningful and memorable brand experiences? While that subject is beyond the scope of this eBook, we can adamantly say that a key factor is whether a user perceives an experience as being simple and easy to use. And this is where design systems come in.
A user-centric design system makes it easier for prospects, customers, and users to move across different brand touchpoints with ease and fluidity. Design systems provide a consistent set of design principles across a brand’s websites, mobile apps and in a store experiences that provide users with a clear and consistent brand interaction regardless of interaction point.
Research from citation shows that 65% of people are willing to pay more for convenience. Think about that. By making things easier — and saving money on people, time, and systems — you might be able to charge more for your products and services. We as people and consumers like things that work easily, perform well and we like to feel good about our purchases. Design systems are a catalyst for just that.
In a nutshell, design systems make it easier for a user to interact with a brand, which helps to facilitate positive brand experiences. This in turn, increases the likelihood that they will purchase from the company and develop brand loyalty.
A design system involves the production of reusable assets (e.g. consider the call to action button example from Chapter 2). This should be fairly straightforward — when assets are reusable, companies save money over time (because they do not have to start from scratch each time they need to implement an asset).
This “over time” aspect is important to understand the cost benefits — too many organizations trap themselves in the false economy. A false economy exists when companies reduce their costs at the beginning of a project only to spend more money over time due to wastage or having to create an asset from scratch every time they want to use it.
Yes, creating a design system has an upfront cost to it, but it is one that should be looked upon as an investment. Because of the reusability of assets, over a longer-term horizon, costs are reduced.
Another benefit of having reusable assets is being able to get to market more quickly with design enhancements. There are two reasons for this — one rooted in the actual production of assets and one rooted in the the psychology of decision makers and producers of assets.
A design system involves having a centralized repository of assets. When a change happens within that repository, the change is reflected in all areas where an asset is used. It is this notion of centralization that reduces the time necessary to make design modifications.
Consider the call-to-action button example from Section 2. If there was a desire to change the colour of your ‘Learn More’ button, the change is made within the repository and then pushed to all contexts where that button is employed.
The fact that design changes can be made so easily also impacts the motivation of team members to make design changes. Have you ever been involved with discussions around making a design change to a website? One of the greatest psychological barriers to making design enhancements is the perceived amount of effort that can be required to make changes. It is not uncommon to see companies operating without established design systems de-prioritize design enhancements because they appear daunting.
Because design systems ease the process of making design enhancements, team members (from all departments) will be more inclined to make changes and experiment with new ideas. This motivation cannot be understated - it leads to companies trying new ideas in market more frequently, and in turn, gaining important insight from their user base at an accelerated rate.
For years style guides were produced by a single team in marketing or brand and were “top down” in the way they were produced and enforced. Because design systems are so much more reliant on the partnering of design and engineering they inherently require more collaboration between teams. The more collaboration that is encouraged also adds to the wider adoption of a design system within the organization. Contribution to the system creates team members that are invested and more likely to share and and promote it within the company. One other key factor in improving collaboration is that design systems are not a “one and done” concept and are continuously evolving. Silos, are never good within and are typically avoided by more agile focused companies, design systems play right into this kind of think.
It's hard to argue with the benefits and advantages and really only the way that design can scale to match the fast paced growth of the technology and design required to build a brand that is design driven.
Better digital experiences produce better outcomes. At POWERSHiFTER, we deliver brilliant digital solutions that put people first. Partner with us on your next digital project.
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