5 Misconceptions About UI Design Systems

5 Misconceptions About UI Design Systems

Have you heard any of these Design System misconceptions before? Here’s the reality behind them.

In modern web development, maintaining a uniform design language across a product is vital. It speeds up the development process, improves user experience, and helps to address design inconsistencies.

However, there are many misconceptions roaming around Design Systems that may mislead developers. Here are five misconceptions you should be aware of.

1. Aren’t Design Systems just for Designers?

One of the common misconceptions about design systems is that Designers develop the Design System, and developers just use it. This is mainly due to a misunderstanding for the boundaries of a Design System.

While a Design System starts with the Product Design or UX team, it doesn’t end there.

Since modern web applications are developed from a collection of UI components, the scope of a design system spans across humble UI elements such as a button or paragraph, all the way up to the entire application.

Therefore, developing a Design System demands involvement and insight from both developers and designers.

2. Design Systems limit flexibility

Another misconception roaming around is that a Design System limits flexibility when it comes to things such as trying to evolve or improve on a design.

On one end, the Design System should be rigid and opinionated for consistency. But at the same time, it should also provide flexibility for things such as theming, typography, colors, borders, etc. In other words, a design system should provide the ability to customize look and feel.

Besides, you shouldn’t be scared to reuse a Design System, allowing your components to inherit their design features. However, if it doesn’t work, you can create your own one.

Modern development tools like Bit, enable developers to be able to create and implement a Design System that is flexible to use across multiple projects.

Building a React Design System for Adoption and Scale

3: Design System is just a Style Guide

This is one of the most common misconceptions regarding Design Systems. A component library or a style guide can significantly influence a Design System’s content.

However, a proper Design System contains much more, such as:

  • Design Tokens
  • Brand Guidelines
  • Rules, Constraints and Principles
  • UI Kit
  • Code Components

These features in a Design System are needed to establish standards across an application.

4: Design Systems are set in stone

Indeed, the styles of a Design System don’t need to change every other day. But there should be the ability to constantly improve and change the Design System, to match current trends and user behaviors under the same building blocks — Rules, Constraints, and Principles.

A significant advantage of having a Design System is that enhancements can be done fast and require a minimum effort, because Design Systems are typically built upon reusable components.

5: A Design System should be unique per product

Each product is unique, and sometimes what works for a product doesn’t work for another. But that doesn’t mean a Design System can’t be reused across products.

In some cases, it makes sense to create a different Design System for a unique product. But if a company has a connected product portfolio, reusing a single Design System is often the best solution for ensuring that brand guidelines are adhered to.

The biggest plus here is that a company doesn’t have to start working from scratch every time they work on a new product.

Instead, they can use their Design System to reference and reuse previously created components to develop new features as required.

Final Words

Building a Design System can be lengthy in the beginning, but the longterm payoff makes it worthwhile. Good Design Systems bridge the gap between designers and developers, allowing them to be more productive.

Design Systems facilitates alignment between departments, which results in consistent UI and UX across every touchpoint of a product.

Therefore, it’s essential to have collaboration between developers and designers to build better Design Systems. So whether you’re a Designer, or a Developer, don’t let the misconceptions outlined here put you off from creating and championing a Design System.

Thank you for reading!

Build with independent components, for speed and scale

Instead of building monolithic apps, build independent components first and compose them into features and applications. It makes development faster and helps teams build more consistent and scalable applications.

Bit offers a great developer experience for building independent components and composing applications. Many teams start by building their Design Systems or Micro Frontends, through independent components.
Give it a try →

An independently source-controlled and shared “card” component. On the right => its dependency graph, auto-generated by Bit.

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5 Misconceptions About UI Design Systems was originally published in Bits and Pieces on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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