3 Ways To Make Design Systems Succeed

November 16, 2022

There are countless examples of why design systems fail, but in equal measure, we have real-world illustrations of how and why they succeed. Here, you’ll find 3 proven, actionable ways you can advocate for a design system to ensure adoption across your organization.

1. Stay Active and Engaged as an Adopter

Design system implementation requires that teams work together cross-functionally. As an active and engaged adopter, your goal is to envision and support the ideal design team.

Sometimes, that means simply communicating the vision for the team’s structure and interaction style. Other times, it means actively delegating responsibilities. For example, a project manager might be tasked with ensuring value and viability. A designer could be in charge of ensuring UX and usability; developers can ensure feasibility and functionality.

Collaborate with Teams to Create Components

Once you’ve spearheaded a design system adoption initiative, take the lead on syncing with stakeholders on design and code needs. These logistics are essential for effective implementation, so do your part to ensure that developer skills and code support the new design system. Identify and advocate for components that will create efficiencies early on. Do whatever you can to work to your team’s strengths and establish components and usage guidelines that are logical and feasible.

Communicate Often

Implement recurring meetings to assess, review, revise, and share updates. Be sure to collect feedback and give your team time and space to share their frustrations, wins, and goals. It’s also important to review the implementation process itself. Gather questions and concerns that can help facilitate easy adoption.

2. Use Real-World Examples to Inspire

Since the implementation of a new design system can be daunting, real-world examples can inspire team members and bolster stakeholder support for the cause. 

Celebrate early adopters

Find a product team that has successfully delivered product features using the design system. They can champion your cause. Have them come in and share their story; especially the challenges their design system helped solve. 

It’s also helpful to compare and contrast such successful products to those without design systems, or with poorly implemented ones. This highlights what goes wrong without a design system, and demonstrates why a design system is needed.

Celebrating adopters is key to selling the efficiencies of a design system and implementation process. It’s a great way to open up discussions about common challenges, too. Such a discussion can provide a container for important conversations among team members, which in turn can foster trust and make a long-term implementation more successful.

3. Drive Stakeholder Support

To get stakeholders on board, you have to establish a business case for design system adoption. Specifically, communicate that:

  • Cohesiveness is a feature, both within a product, and even more, across a portfolio of products. It’s also a competitive advantage.
  • Ecosystem quality can be achieved via consistency, which is a core product development theme.
  • The system’s efficiencies redirect your investment to solve customer problems, which results in customer satisfaction (and retention). This can be baselined and subsequently measured.
  • ROI comes in many shapes and forms. The most immediate return on investment is your developer’s time—which results in real tangible cost savings over the long term. Your business case can also include ROI focused on revenue growth, retention, cost avoidance, reduced regulatory and/or business risk, and even ‘pre-financial indicators’ like customer loyalty (NPS) and customer satisfaction.  
  • Design systems give sprint teams the resources and time they need to deliver more product features, tackle tech debt, or incorporate new customer research.
  • Adoption of a design system can promote more accessibility across all brand touchpoints, which in turn promotes a more equitable product that’s more appealing to a greater number of users.

Choosing some or all of these points to focus on can help build a case that stakeholders are eager to buy into.

How To Make Your Design System Succeed

Design system implementation, creation, and completion requires a dedicated expert in the field. To find out how you can get your design system to succeed, contact us to access our free design system guide. We can work together to ensure your design system drives adoption and ROI.

To get in touch, drop us a line here.