Design Systems: Impact and value in customer experience

Ricardo Melo
3 min readAug 11, 2023

With the continuous evolution of digital growth we have experienced in recent years, further amplified by the pandemic-driven shift to web 3.0, it is increasingly relevant and essential to place the user at the center of all experiences and digital interactions with brands, products, and services.

The digital acceleration witnessed during the pandemic, while meeting emergent needs, often lacked the necessary maturation time to deliver a refined and consistent experience to users. For instance, various retail chains struggled to maintain operational digital platforms with uniformly designed and implemented journeys, resulting in a degraded user experience.

It is crucial to develop meaningful experiences that add value to how users interact during various stages of their journey, ensuring well-defined touchpoints that are easily understood and navigated.

Reducing friction in user experience while focusing on performance and consistency is paramount. In today’s multichannel landscape, users interact with brands, products, or services across diverse channels and stages. A common language and interaction style must remain consistent, ensuring a seamless user experience.

In addition to addressing these challenges strategically throughout the journey, we must also consider how user journeys transform as their digital interactions deepen. Greater interaction proficiency in users raises expectations. Therefore, responding to this challenge coherently and efficiently is fundamental.

A design system is a living ecosystem encompassing all components, guidelines, and properties of a product or service. Its purpose is to facilitate and standardize communication among various interacting teams. It can extend to documenting communication rules, product language, and even UX writing. Common foundations such as typography, motion design, iconography, image usage guidelines, and even code documentation for implementation can be included.

A Design System demands constant maintenance and updates; merely creating a tool and letting it “live” on its own is insufficient. Without system updates, it can become obsolete and lose its relevance and potential.

Collaboration among teams is crucial, starting from ideation through development and beyond. Adopting and growing a design system requires commitment from all areas and stakeholders to allow for its proper utilization, maintenance, and evolution.

Communication is vital in all aspects of our work. For a design system approach, it plays a key role and can be further enhanced, creating a unified language among all involved parties.

Centralizing the design system is critical; all information must reside in a single, homogeneous, clear, and up-to-date point of contact. Establishing a governance model with well-defined responsibilities and a clear process for all phases is highly advisable.

“Design system isn’t a project, it’s a product serving products.” — Nathan Curtis

What benefits can be expected in customer experience from the development and implementation of a design system strategy?

While benefits may vary between organizations and realities, some consistent advantages include:

Consistency: A design system allows teams to develop more consistent projects, as elements are standardized and documented regarding their usage.

Better and Higher Quality: Consistency and standardization lead to improved quality. Reduced errors enhance the user experience.
Reduced Overthinking: A design system provides a more coherent and constant experience, enabling reuse of elements that were previously designed and developed for specific contexts.

Enhanced Communication among Teams: The design system serves as the “source of truth,” reducing frictions between various teams. It fosters a common language and synergy among teams.

Faster Processes: The design system enables more streamlined and consistent development by utilizing predefined guidelines.

Cost Reduction: Creating a design system ultimately leads to mid-term effort and cost reduction, as well as decreased development time. A “library” is available for application in various contexts. In terms of development, focus shifts to the more functional or transactional aspects, as the visual and component layers are pre-defined, allowing for greater focus and precision in specific developments. It is essential to note that this cost and effort reduction is a mid-term objective, and the initial effort in defining a system is substantial.

Component Reusability: The design system is built on component reuse, deeply rooted in Brad Frost’s Atomic Design philosophy. This approach allows us to view the entire ecosystem from an isolated and atomic perspective.

In this way, leveraging everything a design system offers allows us to create user-centric journeys with well-defined patterns, minimizing friction, and expediting time-to-market for a product or service. This approach maintains brand identity, interaction standards, and consistency, providing a better experience.