Design October 11, 2019

How implementing design systems can help retailers focus on customer experience

Thomas Smolders

Resident Writer

In the first six months of 2019, Belgians spent no less than 5.69 billion euros on e-commerce, an increase of 7 percent compared to the same period last year. Both the number of online payments and the amount spent are increasing for the fifth year in a row, according to a report by BeCommerce.

There are various factors that can make retail businesses successful online. A smooth user experience is definitely one of them, just like being able to ship new features regularly. To achieve this, good collaboration between designers and developers is needed, so no information is lost. Working on a large project is a bit like when you used to have to pass on a sentence to your neighbor in class - by the time the end of the chain was reached, the sentence had changed completely.

This is how the creation of a digital product usually looks like:

Hubble

There are several points of contact where communication can be disrupted. This creates a gap between design and development, which is only reinforced because the documentation is distributed. There is usually a style guide and the technical info is documented, but there is often still a gap between theory and practice.

Initially everything works fine, but at some point you’ll notice that these flows are no longer feasible. When your teams grow or your e-commerce platforms get bigger, for instance. Or when there are multiple digital products and you shift from building apps to building platforms.

This is particularly dangerous in the retail sector, as it often happens that the same digital touch points are developed independently of each other. Consider for example the checkout flow, the online shop and the product details. There is often little knowledge sharing, so development is therefore less efficient. The consequence of this is that there is no unambiguous omnichannel approach, which feels confusing for users when they perform a certain action via the app or website.

You could try to reinvent the wheel to avoid these issues, but there are better solutions. To be able to adapt quickly and stay consistent in the design of all their digital applications, most companies use a design system. It’s a well-documented, overarching set of rules and agreements on how to create products and communications by using components. The single source of truth, you might say.

Design-systems-process

A design system often consists of an ecosystem of tools which are used effectively to get the design data out of your design applications to put them straight into the code, so you always have the latest design data reflected in your code base automatically. Thanks to these tools, changes in Figma or other design programs are immediately implemented in the digital products. It will take less effort to end up with higher quality.

To us, it’s more future-proof to build new products using this design system and it should reduce the cost of constant maintenance. For existing products that have a design system integrated, you can expect an efficiency and quality gain in the software we shipped by 15%. Issues will be solved faster, you’ll have less tickets on your Kanban board, there will be less design reviews and a better collaboration. This will result in more time to focus on the bigger challenge in front of you like architecture, UX, user delight...

It also ensures that your design becomes scalable. Often retail groups have multiple brands, each with its own identity and branding. You can handle this very efficiently through design systems, by choosing the same design language within the group with certain UX paradigms that are the same, but where you can easily add branding per layer. This way you can easily write the logic once, but roll it out to all brands.

If you’d like to know more about design systems and how they can improve your business, we’re here to help! Download our whitepaper on design systems or contact us.

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