Whether you are a director/design thinker or a leader in the making, many individuals confuse "scaling" for "growing" and use the terms interchangeably, missing the massive business potential that lies in reaching more users and increasing revenue while keeping the costs and resources at a minimum.
While scaling refers to increasing operational efficiency without an increase in resources, growing refers to expanding market size to handle higher volumes of business. Both terms have their pros and cons, but an easier way to achieve this is by integrating Brad Frost’s “Atomic Design System” into your app development cycle.
Design System Basics
Despite the growing popularity of design systems in recent years, design systems are misunderstood as simple style guides, perceived as one-size-fits-all, and undervalued in documentation importance, stifling creativity. Confusions also exist about implementation, tool focus, neglecting collaboration, and viewing them as one-time projects, overlooking stakeholders and underestimating the learning curve. So, let’s review the basics.
Design systems contain user interface (UI) elements and patterns that can be reused in an app or website. The Atomic Design system further breaks down UI components into smaller, reusable elements called atoms, which can be combined to form molecules, organisms, and templates. This means changing one atom has cascading effects across all design components allowing greater efficiency of control.
This systematic approach of reusing elements helps create scalable and consistent design systems with a collection of rules, including design principles, UI patterns, and typography styles. This makes the experience feel smooth and seamless, often referred to as “user-friendly.”
Establishing these standards supports scaling by promoting efficiency between designers and developers, thus maintaining UI development in a positive way and getting the final product to market much quicker than if they waste time building each element from scratch every time.
How does a design system work ?
In Design systems, it is common for a component to exist within another component. This granular control allows smaller components to form larger and more functional components, enabling better organization, reusability, and flexibility in the overall system design. This method is particularly useful when we need to reuse a common component on a new page or make a globalized change.
For example, performing a minor update to modify color of a button to improve accessibility is a minor update which manually could take hours or days, depending on the size of the project.
4 Key Benefits of Design Systems
- Reduces effort (Time & Money)
Existing components can be leveraged to cater towards unique design needs, rather than building components from the ground up . The effort saved can be used to reduce costs, improve operational efficiency or reallocated to solve business problems through user research, and journey mapping, which intern can help scale the business.
- Accessible from the start
Ensuring that a digital product is accessible makes it user-friendly for everyone, reduces abandonment, builds trust, and establishes credibility with all users. With the help of an Atomic Design system, every atom/molecule can be carefully created to be accessible from the ground up by considering colour, font styling, labels, and other attributes.
- Fast Product Deployment
New designers and developers can contribute their skills faster, allowing teams to scale – and deploy – much quicker than building from scratch. Leveraging Atomic Design systems speeds up onboarding new designers and developers by providing real-world examples and guidelines. More time can be spent creating great products and gaining market share while reducing time spent on training new hires.
- Improved Collaboration
By implementing Atomic Design systems, “back-and-forth discussions” about minor details do not need to happen. When designers and developers have a shared understanding of common elements and how to use them, they can collaborate on bigger problems. Collaboration is crucial for creating great products, which not only reduces countless hours of feedback loops but also eliminates unnecessary guesswork and cross-team friction.
In my humble opinion, implementing Atomic Design systems is a smart decision that yields tangible benefits for any organization. It establishes a strong foundation for design consistency and efficiency, future-proofing the design process while enabling scalability and enhanced collaboration. By leveraging these basics alongside powerful design tools, organizations can achieve better results, grow their market share and stay ahead in an increasingly competitive landscape.
After reading this, is your lack of design systems impeding your teams to ideate fast or communicate clearer with development?
Can a well-thought-out design system improve your speed to be the first to market on modern technology such as AI?
Are you looking to scale your existing platform?
If you’d like to know more about how to implement an Atomic Design system for your organization and achieve better results to stay ahead in competitive landscapes, be sure to contact our Digital Studio here.
About the Author
Aditya Mawlankar - Associate Consultant, Digital Studio
Aditya is a multilingual User Experience Designer in Online’s Digital Studio. He specializes in consumer-facing brands and large-scale enterprise applications. His background in innovation, product, data, and user experience aligns business visions, technical realities, and user context to create effective products. He is passionate about solving exciting problems with the help of design.