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Design Systems: Are they worth it?

Sarah Rayfuse Sarah works as a frontend developer and has a lot of experience with web development. She also has a passion for UX/UI and has worked as a designer on several projects. Her experience with both development and design allows her to create solutions that meet the users' needs and fit within the given time frames, while at the same time she can be the link between various stakeholders and the development team.
10/04/2023 |

In the design and development world, a popular and very useful concept has emerged: the Design System! As they become more popular, a company may wonder if it's time to develop their own design system. 

Here is a quick intro, the 7 most impactful benefits, and
3 aspects to consider when deciding whether to create your own design system or use someone else's. 

What is a design system? 

Design Systems have been around for a while and can point to many different things: product design systems, brand design systems, user experience design systems, and so on. However, in the context of software development, a design system is a set of components and resources that allows a team to develop quicker and more consistent applications that comply with universal-, responsive-, and accessible design guidelines for the best possible user experience. It gives advice on which layouts, sizing, fonts, colors, icons, and themes are available, as well as, examples of components you can use in your project and the different variations of the components you may need. A design system should allow you to try the components out and decide which ones suit the task you need to complete. It should also include a section on accessibility best practices and specific guidelines from WCAG. 

The 7 most impactful benefits 

There are many reasons to use a design system, and they will differ amongst projects, domains, and businesses. The seven most impactful and common benefits are: 

Consistency: Ensuring a consistent user experience across an entire product or platform. Within a project, we often have many different pages. A design system will ensure that the confirm or cancel buttons on one page will behave the same way as on another page. 

Efficiency: Streamlining the design and development process by reusing components. There is no need to worry about designing the perfect component that follows best practices in design and accessibility guidelines, the design system has considered that already. 

Scalability: Allowing for easy expansion and adaptation. Whenever a component's style or behavior is changed in the design system, it changes for every instance of that component within all its connected projects (unless you have created a custom theme). You don’t need to search through projects and change each instance of the component individually. 

Improved Collaboration: Provide designers and developers with a common language and reference point. It is often easier to communicate ideas with the help of something more visual, there is no need to sketch out ideas every time. 

Accessibility: Promoting inclusive design practices. The WCAG accessibility guide is many pages long. To consider all these guidelines for thousands of components sounds like a nightmare. However, this has been considered already with a design system, and the components have been developed with those in mind. 

Brand Identity: Maintaining a strong and recognizable brand identity. Every company has a brand identity it needs to follow, and the design system can be created with themes that follow your brand, or you can create themes that match a customer’s brand.  

Compatibility: Use fonts, colors, components, formats, and more that works well on the highest amount of browser and devices. There are many articles and use cases on what to keep in mind when designing for compatibility, with a design system, you do not have to worry about this. 

Should you use someone else's or create your own?

If you are working with software development, it should be a no-brainer by now to use some form of design system or component library. While there are style-only libraries out there, like Twitter's bootstrap library or Google's Material UI, for most projects today, this is not enough. A more relevant question is whether it is time to create your own or use an existing one. There is no right answer, but I believe the following three aspects are the most important to consider. 

Which framework will be used: Many design systems only support one or two frontend frameworks. Which framework your project or organization needs, will be a major driving force in choosing which design system could be a good match for you, if there is any out there for you at all. 

Cost: Creating your own design system might be too expensive for your organization. However, if there is not one out there that fits well, the cost of customizing one might be even higher.  

Customizability: When using someone else's design system, you will be limited by their choices and the components they have chosen to include. Which user stories you have, and a UI/UX analysis, will decide if any existing design systems could meet your new system or functionality's needs. 

Some systems, however, like the Cegal Design System, allow for a subscription form that gives the subscriber a certain number of change-requests each month. This is a great option if you don't have the budget or resources to create your own system, but still would like to customize your design. 

What next?

What do NAV, Oracle, Schibsted, VY, Sparebank1, GitHub, and now also Cegal have in common? They have their own design system!  

One might notice that it is often the public sector or larger, well-known companies that have design systems. It is usually a sign that a company is serious and professional when it comes to developing quality applications and that they are willing to use time and resources now to make design and development easier in the future. In the ever-evolving landscape of design and technology, embracing a robust design system isn't just a smart move. It's a strategic leap forward, empowering your teams to craft exceptional experiences that leave a lasting impression on your users, moving your company toward the future! 

The development of the Cegal Design System was initiated by one of Cegal's lead front end solution architects while developing a new internal consultant allocation tool. Today, it is also utilized by both Elhub, who uses a design system forked from the Cegal Design System, and on products like Cegal Energy Settlement, which Cegal develops for its energy customers. In addition, a team of us at Cegal is working to keep improving the system and adding new features when requested.

If you also want to explore the possibilities of a design system, start using the Cegal Design System today!

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