Penelope Rance

My UX research & design ramblings

UXPA - The Efficiency of Design Systems

This month’s remote UXPA event looked at design systems and how we can get the best from them.

I do not do much design now so I was not sure how beneficial I would find the event, but my team are working on a design system so I was interested to see if there was anything relevant to them.

We had two great speakers - Eli Montgomery, Head of User Experience at Cazoo and Christos Kastritis, Product Designer at Deliveroo.

Eli kicked us off talking about the prework and getting buy-in from the business. After all most people in your organisation will not know what a design system is or why they should care.

First thing to note is that a design system is not like a project where you work on it and then walk away. A design system is a living thing which should be evolving with your organisation. It is going to take time and energy to keep it going and your stakeholders and team need to understand that.

He also reminded us that we should be building it with the teams who will be using it, not for them. Just as we should be including our users in anything we build, it is important to make sure we really understand how the different teams will use it and help to get buy-in from them too.

If you are building off what went before, or ripping it down, make sure to be respectful of that work. The people who built it might still be working there and we should understand that they were working to different constraints at the time.

He also told us that a design system reflects our and the companies values, so we should be ready for them to change as the organisation changes. Feedback loops are important for this. Which led nicely on to our next talk.

Christos then spoke on how to understand the health of your design system. As Eli said a design system is a living thing but if it is in bad health - people are not using it or contributing to it, then it will die.

Christos took us through how he got an understanding of the current health of their design system which shows them what opportunities they have to make it better, and how he can now get regular feedback to see how they are doing.

The important thing is to make sure you are including everyone who might use the design system - especially designers and developers. They will have different needs and wants from the system.

He started by running workshops and interviewing his internal users. Everything got put into a massive spreadsheet which he could then draw themes and opportunities from to take forward, for instance creating an onboarding session for new recruits so they understood about the design system right from the start.

With this baseline he can now use a regular survey to find out how people feel and interact with the design system, helping him to see what new opportunities there are and how it can be improved going forward.

These were both really informative talks which I found really interesting, even though I am not directly involved with a design system. They have helped me to understand some of the issues my team are facing and how I might be able to support them going forward.

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