How Can Design Systems Impact Your Business Strategy?

1024 539 Andrew Machin

Design systems are integral to business. Whether it is saving time, improving overall user experience, or the stress-relieving organisational properties of these systems, they are highly valuable to the product development process.

By working within design systems, product designers can find a sense of order, calm and organisation in developing new products. At the same time, these systems allow them to remain flexible and adaptable. This is simply due to the way good design systems evolve alongside products. In other words, they present a tangible ‘truth’ that runs throughout the entire development cycle. But, if we’re not careful, the impact of a design system can become lost during this process.

We love a well-considered design system. But it is essential to be aware that a design system is worth nothing if it’s not actually used. It sounds obvious. But so often, we come across a “build it and they will come” approach to solutions, including internal solutions (such as design systems). 

Vital to the success of a design system is the inclusion of the people who will have to use it. This gives them a sense of ownership and buy-in while you as the product manager benefit from their experience.

Keeping this in mind, it can be tough to measure the impact a design system is having on overall business strategy. If you want to know how design systems can impact your business strategy and how to measure their success, read on.

What Makes a Design System Successful?

Whether you are well-versed in design systems or have more to learn about them, identifying the ways in which you will quantify success is crucial. 

Essentially, the focus should be on the internal development team as much as the end-user of the final product. Due to the development responsibilities of the internal team, without their satisfaction, a product may be unsuitable for wider release. Whereas an end user’s satisfaction is crucial in sustaining the lifespan and adoption of the product.

Measuring this in its entirety may seem like a daunting feat. But there are simple ways businesses of all sizes can do this. Businesses of all sizes have their success criteria in common – with these being:

  • Adoption
  • Coverage
  • Shared ownership

But what exactly are these? Let us dive deeper into each of them.

Adoption

Adoption basically means that the internal development team is following the standards and targets of the design system. Instead of straying or entirely abandoning the systems, development and product teams should consistently reference the design systems in place and use these to create the product.

You could have excellent components and design proposals. But if your team does not adhere to them, the design systems will quickly become obsolete. This could jeopardise the success of the product and inhibit development.

Coverage

Coverage refers to how comprehensive design systems are. It is all well and good to create a design system with the hopes that the team can strictly follow it. But if designers have to repeatedly develop new solutions to product issues, then the coverage is poor.

It is integral for any product team to have fully informed design systems. This means they need to be created with various problems in mind and the appropriate solutions to overcome them. Doing so saves both time and money – the product team won’t have to create additional features to patch up a process that wasn’t fully envisioned in the first place.

Shared Ownership

Last, but not least, is shared ownership. Shared ownership refers to the community spirit within a project. Any team likes to have their views and work valued in the design system. Having a personal stake in the design system often helps boost team morale.

Shared ownership also helps build trust between the team and the business’ vision. By having a more active involvement in the design and creation of a product, employees and stakeholders are more likely to trust and value the development of the product.

These three factors are the key to success. Measuring them respectively is essential in assessing how far design systems impact business strategy. 

Alongside adoption, coverage, and shared ownership, you can also measure how the design system has affected your end-users and internal teams based on both qualitative and quantitative feedback.

Qualitative Feedback

Qualitative feedback refers to subjective data. This is often collected through open-ended survey questions before being shared with internal teams. Often end-users benefit from NPS surveys used to collect feedback about the nature of the product’s usability, whilst internal teams benefit from simply framed questions such as: 

  • How regularly do you use our design system?
  • Do you feel that the design system addresses the needs of the development process?
  • What would you do to improve the design systems?

By framing questions in this way, it allows stakeholders the ability to openly express their opinions on the design systems. This also provides your business with information on how to improve and remain consistent with these systems.

Quantitative Feedback

Similarly to qualitative feedback, quantitative questions are framed in an approachable way. However, they often rely on a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. Simplistic data gathered from stakeholders means that your business can generate tangible data to measure the effectiveness of the design systems.

Examples of these questions can be:

  • Is there enough documentation in the design system?
  • Do we have interactive components in our design system?

How Does This Affect Business Strategy?

By quantifying and measuring the success of your design systems, you will have access to a treasure trove of data previously unknown to your product team.

By assessing the qualitative and quantitative feedback from both the end-users and the internal teams, you can begin to assess the effectiveness of current design systems. New internal structures can then be developed and improved to help the product team achieve their efficiency and meet the criteria for success. 

If you previously underestimated the power of a successful design system – now is the time to rethink it. Unsure of how design systems can lead to success for your team? We can help. Simply get in touch today to schedule your free consultation.

 

 

Andrew Machin

With over 15 years’ experience in web design and digital marketing Andrew has helped many brands, both in the UK and US, create exceptional digital experiences, from websites to in-store retail experiences, such as John Lewis, Jet2, Virgin Holidays and Interflora. Through the success of such projects Andrew has received accolades that include high-profile awards that span innovation, strategy, design and results such as the Dadi Grand Prix Award and the Digital Impact Award for Innovation. This experience has led to Andrew judging digital design awards, been featured in .net magazine, lecturing at Leeds university and speak at seminars and conferences across the UK. Follow Andrew @The_Machin

All stories by: Andrew Machin