Developing a design system is not about aesthetics and making things look pretty. It’s a powerful design tool that improves cohesion and consistency, reduces time-to-market, and enhances collaboration between teams.
In Design Systems: Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Own, we succinctly define a design system and its purpose as follows:
“The primary purpose of design systems is to increase efficiency in product development. With a consistent design language in place, it becomes easier to design products at scale that are consistent in aesthetics, user interface, and user experience. Design systems also promote collaboration…”
📚 This is an abridged version of UXPin’s article. Read the full story: How to Work with Developers on Design Systems?
Why Engineers & Designers Must Collaborate to Develop a Design System?
One of the most significant benefits of a design system is optimized workflows for designers and developers.
- Designers drag-and-drop components to build UIs
- Engineers copy/paste code snippets to develop the final product
Design handoffs go much smoother because engineers are familiar with components and require less explanation to understand the UIs.
A fully-integrated design system eliminates design drift, reduces friction, and streamlines QA processes, significantly reducing time-to-market. All of which benefit designers and developers.
#1️ Bridging the communication gap
Designers and developers often use separate naming conventions or references–a button is a visual component to a designer and a few lines of code for a developer. Design systems provide designers and engineers with a single design language.
For example, design tokens define values for typography, color, spacing, and other UI elements, so designers and engineers speak the same language. Instead of using HEX or RGB codes for the brand’s color, team members reference a design token, e.g., brand-primary.
#2 Aligning developer and design constraints
When designers and engineers work together on a design system, they factor in one another’s constraints. So, when designers design a new product or interface, they don’t have to worry about drift or exceeding technical limitations.
#3 Helping with design system governance
Implementing a system of governance is crucial for a design system to scale and evolve. Designers and engineers must work together to develop the processes and protocols teams must follow to update the design system.
These processes are especially important for products that must sync separate design systems for design and development–one image-based for designers and the other code components for engineers.
#4 Achieving design system maturity
The ultimate goal is to have a single design system that automatically syncs design and development. Nick Elliott talks about the stages of design system maturity and its impact on design and development in his article, Re-Imagining Iress Design Tools.
Nick says the ultimate goal is to reach stage four: “a single source of truth where designers and engineers are using the same design system components.”
Tools like UXPin and Storybook can help bridge the gap between design and development, so the entire organization uses a single design system.
Involving Developers: Example of Using UXPin & Storybook
UXPin Merge and Storybook are the ultimate design system tools. With this combination, you can create an end-to-end, fully integrated design system while working with your engineers.