Investing in UX and visual design systems is crucial for any organization that wants to stay competitive.

However, many organizations do not have well-defined design systems, which will impede progress as experience platforms become increasingly automated in the future. As someone who has led global teams across brand, UX, and front-end technologies, I feel that design systems should connect these elements to provide a coherent user experience that extends form and function. Well-structured design systems will also increasingly act as a foundation for organizations to bring AI and ML platforms into front-end experiences. This will not only allow organizations to scale digital experience and deliver cost efficiency but also deliver on the unique needs of all users. Inclusive experiences are key to success in today's market, and design systems are the key to achieving them. 

Many organizations make the mistake of thinking they can get away with cutting corners. Read one of many posts about how UX teams are under-resourced and overworked. UX is not a luxury; it's a necessity. It's the core foundation of any experience, whether it's an app, website, or physical product. 

A well-designed UX accounts for the user's needs, wants, and limitations. It will consider how the user will interact with the product, their goals, and what might prevent them from achieving those goals. A UX designer will also consider accessibility and usability when designing a product. 

In contrast, a poorly designed UX can be frustrating and confusing for users, making it challenging to achieve their goals and even preventing them from using the product altogether. Bad UX can also cause organizations to unwittingly amplify social inequalities and generate expensive legal problems. It can be considered discriminatory if it's not accessible to people with disabilities. 

Investing in future experiences is crucial for any organization that wants to stay competitive. UX is the foundation of any experience and allows organizations to deliver on the unique needs of users. Inclusive experiences are crucial to success in today's market, and design systems are the key to achieving them.

The key to scaling good UX is to create a workable system that multiple disciples, teams, and agencies can leverage.

However, a properly constructed design system is also essential for future proofing your UX investments and ensuring they interoperate with next generation experience platforms, especially when ML and AI are utilized to automate the development of new front end experiences. UX is about understanding how users interact with technology and designing systems that make those interactions as smooth and enjoyable as possible. 

Creating a design system helps to: 

  • Address common UX problems at scale 
  • Enforce brand standards and UX best practices 
  • Reduce the need for rework 
  • Speed up the design and prototyping process 
  • Improve communication between design, UX and dev teams

A common system should be tailored to the specific needs of the organization, but there are some common elements that all design systems should include: 

  • A style guide that outlines the look and feel of the brand experience, including logos, colors, fonts, and iconography 
  • UX patterns and interaction models that provide solutions to common problems users will face
  • Component libraries that contain all the elements that make up the experience, including buttons, forms, and navigational elements 
  • A content strategy that outlines how content will be customized to each individual user and context
  • Software sources and code samples so dev teams don't need to recreate individual assets in code with each new build. 

What's the difference between a design system and a design language?

A design system is a comprehensive set of rules and reusable tools that govern the design of any digital experience for an organization, while a design language is often used to create a common visual set of references. The differences can be nuanced, but design systems should link brand design, UX, and front-end platforms to create a cohesive user experience. Well-structured design systems are the foundation that allows organizations to bring AI and ML platforms into front-end experiences. 

Structured design systems should link brand design guidelines to core UX principles: This allows designers and agencies alike to craft new experiences that can deliver on users' unique needs while also adhering to brand guidelines.

Design systems should also be designed with UX at the forefront: UX principles should guide the overall architecture and taxonomy of the design system. This will ensure that designers can easily find and use the right elements for their needs and that those elements are consistent with the rest of the system.

Finally, front-end platforms play a critical role in experience automation. By integrating with AI and ML platforms, front-end experiences can become more dynamic and responsive to user needs. This is only possible if the design system is well structured and easily accessible by developers.

Core UX building blocks should be represented down to the codebase that drives front-end platforms. For example, suppose an organization has standardized on the Adobe Experience Cloud and drives front-end websites via AEM. In that case, the design system might need to be developed into reusable AEM components. However, organizations with multiple platforms, custom codebases, or support of multiple native applications might be better suited to represent their design systems through common JavaScript and CSS directly.  In either case, the design system should be designed to support multiple front-end platforms from the start.

By integrating with AI and ML platforms, front-end experiences can become more dynamic and responsive to user needs. This is only possible if the design system is well structured and easily accessible by developers. 

Organizations that invest in UX and visual design systems can better meet their users' needs. Most organizations, however, do not have clear design systems in place, and this can lead to UX issues and a lack of cohesion between brand design, UX, and front-end platforms.

Over the next 3-5 years, having a design system will provide a core foundation for any organization that wants to take advantage of experience automation. They allow organizations to bring AI and ML platforms into front-end experiences more easily and deliver on users' unique needs more effectively. This in turn, leads to more inclusive experiences overall.

So if your organization is looking to invest in UX, make sure to also invest in a strong design system. It will be the foundation that allows you to create future proofed experiences for your users and your organization.

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