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Overcoming common product development challenges

Author avatar
Lorant Toth | Design & Development
8 months ago


In a world where design consistency is paramount for creating seamless user experiences, having an efficient design system is crucial for product teams. In our previous blog post, Creating the Ultimate Design System in Figma, we discussed the importance of design systems in general. However, one issue that often plagues product teams is maintaining consistency due to insufficient documentation to collaborate effectively.

In this article, we'll explore how design systems can streamline the design collaboration process and address the issue of consistency by providing an intuitive, well-documented, and flexible structure.

With features like easy switching between light and dark mode, a comprehensive style guide, a pattern library, and an innovative built-in knowledge base, our design system is here to elevate your team's workflow to new heights. Keep reading to learn about how Once UI, our innovative design system can set your product for scale and success.
Image caption of Crafting the ultimate design system in Figma

Crafting the ultimate design system in Figma

Read our blog post about creating highly scalable design systems


Common challenges of product development

Startups, medium-sized companies, and sometimes even large organizations often struggle to allocate the necessary workforce to address design consistency challenges. It's only recently that companies have begun to realize the importance of having a standalone role for a design system designer and a dedicated design system team within their organization. This realization often comes as a result of struggling with scalability, maintainability, or communication issues—or all three. To fix these problems, collaboration, shared efforts, and labor are required.

In the following section, we will delve into the specific challenges that can hinder design consistency and how they impact product teams.

  • Lack of centralized documentation
    One of the primary challenges in maintaining consistency is the absence of a centralized documentation system. Without a single source of truth, team members may use outdated or incorrect design elements, leading to inconsistencies across the product. A well-documented design system can significantly improve collaboration, reduce confusion, and ensure that everyone adheres to the same design principles.
  • Inefficient communication
    Inefficient communication among team members can result in design inconsistencies. When designers, developers, and other stakeholders are not on the same page regarding design decisions, discrepancies can arise. This can lead to unnecessary revisions, delays in project timelines, and an overall decrease in team productivity.
  • Scalability issues
    As a product grows, maintaining design consistency becomes increasingly challenging. More team members, features, and product updates can introduce new inconsistencies if the design system is not scalable. A scalable design system must evolve with the product and accommodate new components and variations, ensuring that the design remains coherent and unified.
  • Incomplete or ambiguous guidelines
    Another challenge in maintaining consistency is when design guidelines are incomplete or ambiguous. Without clear instructions and well-defined design principles, team members might interpret the guidelines differently, leading to inconsistencies in the final product. Comprehensive guidelines can help prevent such issues by providing a clear framework for designers and developers to follow.
  • Insufficient training and onboarding
    Maintaining consistency also relies on effective training and onboarding for new team members. If new members are not familiar with the design system, they may inadvertently introduce inconsistencies. Providing thorough training and resources can ensure that all team members understand the design system and its principles, thus reducing the chances of inconsistencies.
  • Resistance to change
    Lastly, resistance to change can be an obstacle in maintaining consistency. Implementing a new design system or updating an existing one may be met with reluctance from team members accustomed to the old system. Encouraging open communication and fostering a culture of continuous improvement can help mitigate resistance and promote a consistent design approach.
Image caption of New to design systems?

New to design systems?

Start with Atomic Design by Brad Frost, a great book on the topic


Overcoming the challenges

Tackling the challenges of product development can seem daunting, but with a strategic approach and the right resources, product teams can overcome these obstacles. In this section, we will discuss ways to address the challenges we previously outlined, setting the foundation for a more efficient and consistent design process.

  • Dedicated design system team
    Having dedicated people for design systems is an excellent first step toward addressing design consistency challenges. A specialized team can focus on creating, maintaining, and evolving the design system, ensuring it remains up-to-date and effective.
  • Assessing the current state
    Usually, by the time you realize the need for change, your foundations, components, and their documentation are far behind. There may be too many issues to solve at once and probably fewer resources than needed. It's crucial to assess the current state of your design system and identify the most pressing issues that require immediate attention.
  • Clear plan and expectations
    Having a clear plan, setting expectations, and bridging communication gaps are vital for addressing design consistency challenges. Establishing milestones and assigning responsibilities can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and working toward a common goal.
  • Patience and time for change
    Unfortunately, change needs time and won't happen overnight. It's essential to acknowledge that the transition to a more consistent design process will require patience and effort from the entire team.

Here are some practical tips to help your team successfully tackle the challenges of design consistency:

  • Create a public roadmap for your design system to set expectations and keep everyone informed about upcoming changes and improvements.

  • Set designated channels for team members to ask questions, provide feedback, and submit requests related to the design system.

  • Regularly review and audit your components to identify inconsistencies or outdated elements. This proactive approach can help maintain the overall quality of your design system.

  • Provide comprehensive training and onboarding materials to ensure that all team members understand the design system and its principles, reducing the chances of inconsistencies.

Embracing pre-built design systems

A pre-built design system offers a strong foundation for companies looking to tackle design consistency issues. By starting with a robust, well-documented design system, teams can save time and resources while ensuring a solid base for their product designs. Here are some reasons why adopting a pre-built design system can be a smart move:

  • Foundational components are crucial
    Foundational components make up a significant portion of your UI kit, and it's vital to get them right. If these components are designed poorly, with inconsistent prop names or structure, fixing them can become a challenging task once they're embedded in various places within the code and Figma files. A pre-built design system ensures these core components are designed optimally from the start.
  • Universal reliance on foundational components
    All products rely on the same foundational components, as they're based on native HTML elements like input, checkbox, and others that browsers handle consistently. The primary difference between products lies in the styling of these components. Instead of creating another Input component with the same structure as an already well-designed and well-thought-out version, teams can save time and resources by reusing and customizing existing components.
  • Easy customization in Figma
    With a well-established design system that leverages styles and variants, customization becomes a breeze in Figma. Teams can easily adjust the pre-built design system to match their product's unique style requirements, streamlining the design process.
  • Focusing on workflow
    By eliminating the time-consuming aspects of creating design systems, such as developing and documenting foundational components, teams can dedicate more time to establishing efficient workflows. This shift in focus enables them to concentrate on aspects that truly make their product stand out while ensuring design consistency.

When selecting the right pre-built design system for your project, consider the following factors:

  • Ensure that the design system is well-documented, providing clear instructions and guidelines for usage.

  • Check how often the design system is updated, as regular updates indicate ongoing support and improvements.

  • Assess if the design system is tailored to your needs, avoiding overly bloated systems with unnecessary site designs that don't align with your product requirements.

  • Look for a design system that offers a preview, allowing you to evaluate if the structure and naming conventions fit your workflow and preferences.

Once UI: A design system for collaboration

Once UI is a powerful Design System for Figma built to streamline design collaboration and address the issue of consistency by providing an intuitive, well-documented, and flexible design system. With a vast array of features and easy customization options, Once UI is the perfect choice for product teams that strive for seamless user experiences and efficient workflows.

Once UI design system and UI kit for Figma preview Once UI design system and UI kit for Figma preview

Once UI stands out from other design systems with its comprehensive range of features and innovative tools that cater to the needs of modern product teams. Some key features include:

  • Streamlined file structure
    Once UI comes with a single file structure for both styles and components, allowing teams to get started quickly and efficiently. This structure makes it easy to manage and update the design system.
  • Separate icon file
    The icons in Once UI are stored in a separate file, ensuring that the publishing of your design system is not slowed down. Additionally, this separation allows you to easily replace the icon kit with any other set of icons as needed.
  • Easily customizable libraries
    Based on your team's needs, the single file structure of Once UI can be easily split into multiple libraries. This flexibility allows you to create libraries tailored to your project requirements and team preferences.
  • Distinct files for light and dark mode
    With separate files for light and dark mode, Once UI makes it easy to implement theme switching using Figma's library swapping feature. This functionality allows designers to work seamlessly with both themes and maintain consistency across different versions of the product.
  • Comprehensive documentation
    Once UI provides extensive documentation that serves as a common ground for all stakeholders. The true value of the design system, however, lies in customizing and updating the documentation to suit your team's specific needs. Regularly updating the documentation ensures that team members continually refer to it and integrate it into their workflows.

To make the most of Once UI's documentation, consider the following tips:

  • Update the documentation's front page to display design system updates, keeping team members informed about recent changes and improvements.

  • Customize the documentation to include sections tailored to specific teams, such as QA, design, development, etc. This customization will make the documentation more relevant and useful for all stakeholders.

  • Update each component page with links to Storybook, enabling team members to see live examples of components in action and access their code.

By leveraging Once UI's unique features and continuously updating the documentation, your team can ensure a seamless, consistent design process that meets the demands of modern product development.
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