How a design system builds consistent products

A design system ensures that everyone is on the same page for maximal efficiency, innovation, and evolution.
Mar 15, 2022
Laura Caseley
Content Writer
Audrey Song
Product Specialist

Design is no longer just cosmetic when it comes to business sites. A well-designed product communicates confidence, authority, knowledge, and consistency – all things customers want to see from any brand.

If users see inconsistencies in design, they’ll naturally wonder where other inconsistencies may exist – such as those in functionality, customer service, or executable actions. That’s why it’s beneficial for your products and experiences to follow a design system that can help you avoid any inconsistency issues. Doing so allows teams to develop products efficiently, and set a higher standard for consistent user experiences.

Design systems

A design system is a set of standards to manage design at scale by reducing redundancy while creating a shared language and visual consistency across different pages and channels. — Nielsen Norman Group

Your design is only as good as your organization.

In interpersonal relationships and psychology, there’s the idea of projection, where we project our version of the world onto other people and situations. The parallel in business and product design is often referred to as Conway’s Law.

“Any organization that designs a system...will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization’s communication structure.” – Mel Conway

In other words: you ship your org chart. If your organization is structured in siloes, has redundancies, or doesn’t communicate effectively and efficiently, your products will reflect those issues. This can cause big problems for customers and members. A design system that includes transparency across departments, standardizes building, and sets easily understandable rules everyone can follow is how the best brands overcome the challenges Conway’s Law highlights. Not only will your product design improve, but you’ll likely see improvements in other areas of your institution, too.

A design system provides a single source of truth.

Multiple sources of creation, such as two unconnected people creating the same project without communicating, result in multiple outcomes, with no set rules or prescribed methodology. The outcome is components that don’t match stylistically or experientially.

Consider a LEGO set: A LEGO set contains bricks, plates, studs, tiles, and tiny human figurines. And you can reuse LEGO sets to build an unlimited variety of things. That's because each piece is made to exacting specifications that allows them to all interconnect with one another, regardless of what set they originally came with. Their measurements and dimensions all align perfectly thanks to a robust design system that is maintained across the entire production process.

Having a single system and starting point for all projects means canonical information that can be referred back to anytime, by anyone. They’ll not only know how things should be done, but what’s already been done so as to avoid needless repetition.

If teams work in siloed conditions without communication, the result is inconsistency in both appearance and functionality, leading to a confusing user experience.

A design system is only as good as its documentation.

Documentation explains not only the how but the why behind the choices being made. Why are certain buttons given specific colors and hover states? When is a drop-down menu utilized versus a slide-out menu? In well-designed products, choices like these are made with care and intention. Communicating the reasons behind them makes for a better understanding of your site’s design, and helps the people working on a product align on priorities. 

But like anything, design choices are subject to change over time. As trends, technology, and expectations for products evolve, so too must design. The logging of these changes is crucial since it allows future designers to refer back and understand the entire evolution of products holistically. It also makes future work easier when information can be easily and reliably accessed for reference. No one has to reinvent the wheel, and new products can be designed on a solid, time-tested framework. 

During times of team growth, documentation becomes especially important. With concise, clear, and easy-to-find documentation, newer team members have all the information they need in one place so they can contribute right away.

Design systems help people on the inside and the outside.

For organizations that develop their own design systems, the largest impact is felt amongst internal teams.  Each team can reuse code and visual assets, craft writing in the established brand voice, and pool knowledge from all departments. Having it serve as a single source of product design truth helps everyone get on the same page, regardless of their role or how long they’ve been with the team.

But a design system helps those outside of your organization, too. Third-party developers can leverage a design system and documentation to create products that integrate seamlessly with the parent platform and API. As a result, the end user will be able to have a consistent experience, even when transitioning to an integrated third-party product.

Creating a design system allowed Narmi to expand and streamline its product development.

Narmi knows all about the importance of a good design system because recently, we reassessed and overhauled our own design system. As the digital experience becomes a more complex ecosystem, we know how important it is to design with consistency, innovate faster, and enable a better user digital banking experience. Whether it's redesigning a navigation bar and building a new login experience for digital banking, our design system has enabled our internal teams to design beautiful digital experiences every single month.

Narmi's dedication to seamless and ever-evolving design means our products continually improve, but with minimal stress for everyone, and implementing a design system was integral to that ability. Adopting a design system can help you facilitate change, improve communication, and lead to innovations that help your customers in the ways they really need and keep pushing your institution moving forward.

Narmi Inc.
3 East 28th St. Floor 12
New York, NY 10016

How a design system builds consistent products