Helen Kokk, User Experience and Service Design Lead at Nortal, February 26, 2020
What do gov.uk, Pinterest, Financial Times and Dropbox have in common? Their product development teams are working on full throttle with the help of a secret ingredient — the Design System, a tool that brings order to the chaos of collaboration — which is winning them coherence, speed and consistency.
At the core of any product development is a collaboration between stakeholders from different disciplines. Customer, product owner, designer, analyst and developer — all of them have a slightly different relationship with the product. Hence, the odds are often in favor of miscommunication riddled with an endless back-and-forth about pixel-level corrections and disputes over the color of a button. These relationship differences mean a slow development process, missed deadlines, and, especially, an outcome that misses by a mile the initial vision and needs of the end-customer.
Therefore, the key to seamless product development lies in the management of expectations. And this is where a Design System comes into play. A Design System is a tool that brings order to the chaos of collaboration. It offers a structured and guided way to build solutions for product problems, and, most importantly, it gets everybody on the same page regarding mindset, shared values, and ways of working.
With countless success cases, Design System is becoming a hygiene factor for streamlined product development. Exploring this new religion, however, has few rules of thumb that help get the best out of this beautiful system.
Getting everybody on board and involved from the very first sprout of an idea enhances the sense of ownership and, thereby, motivation and responsibility. This way, the future process will entail fewer “my part is done” attitudes. Every stakeholder has a say and a responsibility in growing and nurturing this ever-evolving and collectively shaped product.
Finding your religion is about being aligned with the set of values it carries. The same applies to choosing your Design System. Its philosophy consists of tools, patterns, components and guidelines, but most importantly, it defines the collaboration values of how we think, act and work.
And the beauty of this philosophy lies in its practicality. It is far from just an exercise of thought. Its tangible benefits include automizing your development process and eliminating the integration pain via real-time testing, learning and improving. Keeping all the stakeholders actively involved in a constant development flow and working on the vision, end-user best interests, business value and desired results in unison.
As the icing on the cake, there are thousands of Design Systems globally from which to choose. Whether you appreciate popular classics like Material Design or your team will benefit most from a tailor-made system (as we have decided at Nortal), one thing is certain, you have a vast pool of options from which to find the perfect match for your team.
In a nutshell, what a Design System provides is space for qualitative growth and contribution. Less time will be spent on discussions about technical details and more on the business value and impact of the product. And regular workshopping is the time and place where this magic happens.
Workshops tie together the ambition of the desired results and actual visual embodiment of that outlook. In other words, everybody can see an idea become a minimum viable product within seconds. This eliminates the “home blindness” by offering an instant display of the design and functionality. Plus, the solution can be adjusted in real-time.
As a priceless side effect for the team, workshops offer an immediate sense of accomplishment. The excitement holds every time, without exception.
To wrap up the benefits of a Design System and workshopping — the larger goal is to enhance collaboration to do better work with more significant impact. This allows expectation that the era of design-driven approach and the systemized methods for delivering it is growing strong.
For the NUX team at Nortal, our Design System has kept its promise, and we already have reliable KPIs regarding the increase of efficiency and speed. For example, a recent development process for an AI-based industry solution in Finland was finalized months ahead of the initially set deadline. The Design System bought us time we could now invest in adding extra value.
Clearly, the meaningful metric it enables is the viable changes in the ways of working, but at the same time, a crucial advantage is also the frequency of change. The Design System ignites the power of agility and doesn’t allow legacy to take over and jam the product lifecycle into an endless Groundhog Day.
The Design System and workshops, in combination, enable an organic approach to product development while boosting efficiency and saving both time and money. However, the most impressive metric, even though not always measurable, is the unquestionable qualitative win of the coherent process and spot-on result.
If you want to learn more about how to benefit from a Design System, join us at the Design Thinking Conference 2020 in Tallinn.