CRAFTING EXCELLENT USER EXPERIENCES: A GUIDE TO SEAMLESS DESIGN SYSTEMS
Learn how a unified design system can provide a structured approach for a seamless and user-centric digital experience. Dive into essential considerations, experience principles, and practical tips for successful implementation
STEER AROUND THE FRICTION
Delivering a consistent, seamless and user-friendly digital experience across all platforms is crucial. In fact, it has the potential to increase revenue by up to 23%.
The challenge lies in consistently delivering value to both business partners and end-users.
To overcome this, adopting a design system can be a great tool, offering a structured approach to design that ensures a coherent, efficient, and user-centric experience.
In this piece, we dive into the benefits of building a design system, essential considerations, experience principles, and practical tips for successful implementation
A design system is a set of rules, components, and guidelines that work together to create a unified visual language.
From color palettes and typography to button styles and interactive elements, every aspect is carefully documented within the design system.
It’s a library of design tokens and components most frequently used such as colours, buttons, dropdowns, text fields, check boxes and so on, all crafted in line with the defined design principles.
It serves as a guide for designers and developers, ensuring a consistent and seamless user experience as well as providing a tangible framework for facilitating discussions and making informed decisions.
WHY INVEST IN A DESIGN SYSTEM?
While building a design system requires investment, it can generate significant value in the long term. There are several good reasons for investing in a unified design system. Here are five of them:
The quality assurance imbedded in the design system ensures a consistent user experience. This consistency builds trust and familiarity and enables user-friendly interactions.
By reusing components and design patterns, the design process becomes more efficient and easier to scale. In fact, A study by Figma, found that designers with access to a design system reached their objective 34% faster than without a design system – that’s a lot of time (and money) saved.
Having a design system with a clear set of rules and guidelines is crucial when scaling the organisation, as it speeds up all processes – development, launch, and training of new personnel. It reduces the risk of bugs and errors and can evolve as your product and company grow.
A design system establishes a collective design language, breaking down silos between development and design. This enables better collaboration, onboarding, and training, creating a unified approach to user experience.
Implementing a design system will help free up designers’ time and enable more individuals to contribute to the design process, ensuring a broader range of perspectives and creative inputs.
Experience principles to guide your design process
To create a well-functioning and usable design system, it’s important to establish a set of experience guidelines.
These guidelines can help streamline the user experience and provide clear direction during discussions and decision-making throughout the design process.
When defining your experience principles to guide your design decisions, make sure that they are simple, actionable, user-centric, business-minded, and distinctive.
NEED AN EXAMPLE?
Let’s say we’re building a configurator where the users need to make a selection, to configure their product and we have an experience principle that aims to minimise barriers and maximise efficiency.
Initially, when building a configurator, most designers would probably incorporate a select box or a drop down, allowing users to choose options for each section.
However, if we consider our experience principle, we need to minimise barriers and make information effortlessly discoverable.
How? By prioritising load times, rapid responses, and regularly testing and refining the solution for peak efficiency.
A select box or a dropdown would not only increase the number of clicks – it would also provide a worse overview of the options.
In that case, the right approach would be to show each option as a ‘choice chip’ instead, even though it adds more complexity to the system.
Choice chip ✅
Adopt, adapt or create?
When implementing a design system, you can choose between two different approaches – or find the sweet spot somewhere in between.
Adopt: Low cost, less customisation, low brand differentiation. Ideal for industries where simplicity and cost-effectiveness are at the forefront.
Create: High cost, more customisation, high brand differentiation. Well-suited for sectors where uniqueness and brand identity are critical.
- Will the system be used for multiple brands?
- Can you assign a dedicated team to develop and maintain it?
- How many platforms will the design system scale to?
- Are there any specific requirements for look and feel?
At IMPACT Commerce, we’ve found the sweet spot between creating and adapting.
We’ve developed a template in Figma with a structure, that’s been continuously tested and refined. It’s not a fully adoptable design system, but you don’t have to build one from scratch either.
Pretty straightforward, if you ask us. Good news is that you can get your hands on it – completely free of charge.
Sign up here to receive a link to our ‘FireStarter’ template in Figma:
SEAMLESS DEVELOPMENT WITH HIGH-FIDELITY PROTOTYPING
While design systems are valuable for fostering collaboration between designers and developers, they may have limitations when it comes to developing more advanced interaction flows or microinteractions.
Some design concepts are challenging to describe verbally or through static visuals alone; they need to be felt and experienced to be fully understood and thereby getting stakeholder buy-in.
In that case, high-fidelity prototyping, a representation of the interface created digitally using software tools, serves as the bridge between conceptualisation and development.
It enables designers to both test and refine advanced interactions, and serves as a tool for conveying ideas to stakeholders and developers.
High-fidelity prototyping provides an interactive platform where both designers, developers and external stakeholders can test and engage with the design, gaining a firsthand understanding of the proposed user journey.
Learn how you can utilise AI to automatically generate mockups, test your designs and much more in our recent article here →
To truly refine the user experience, designers often need to experiment and play around with different elements.
Building and using a design system is not just a bottom-up approach; it ‘s an iterative process and requires contextual understanding of your project.
It’s a continuous cycle of creating components, testing them through the design of flows and pages, and refining based on insights gained from practical use.
Because it’s when we actually use the component that we get insight into how to build the right ones.
- Use experience principles to guide your design decisions.
- Make a compelling business case for how to implement your design system with all key considerations in mind.
- Gain stakeholder buy-in by allowing them to feel and experience interactions instead of merely describing them.
- Continuously develop your design system to fit your organisation’s evolving needs.
GEt a link to our ‘FireStarter’ template in Figma: