In this 3-part blog series on design systems, Filter Experience Director Michael Hinnant sits down with Aaron Bowersock, one of the company’s Senior Experience Designers, to discuss several of the core issues and key considerations when building a design system.

Below is part two of Michael and Aaron’s talk on design systems (see part one here), including discussion strategies behind the successful deployment of a design system, some of the measurable returns and benefits, and other key considerations of adopting a design system.

Michael has developed design systems for large enterprise companies like HP. “Design systems are an evolving collection of design and experience components, along with their corresponding code, that a company draws on to build product and service applications with greater speed, scale, consistency and confidence,” says Hinnant. “But more than just the components themselves, a design system is a set of principles, the guidelines and standards that dictate their use as your organization grows into new product and service territories. These guidelines play a critical role by ensuring that the experiences you build have structure and meaning, and that they add value not only to the product but to the brand itself.”

Excerpts from the discussion:

On working with large enterprise companies: “What I’ve seen a lot in organizations is that, because they’ve broken up the organization into different silos to tackle different parts of the customer experience, they really only see their own piece of the puzzle. By showing them what the actual customer journey is like, actually showing them how what they’ve been working on maybe doesn’t connect to, or is really disjointed from, other parts of the organization – it really elevates the understanding so they see the value in fixing those and creating a more seamless experience.” – Michael Hinnant

Design systems speed innovation: “There’s an acceleration that happens in product teams both from a design and a development perspective, so having those building blocks can help speed up the agility of the organization, and the ability to get new products and features out the door, reducing the initial investment in product creation.” – Michael Hinnant

On the hard costs of broken design: “There was some research done by Forrester that looked at, ‘What does it cost to have a poorly designed feature or part of your product…the monthly cost of support for a relatively normal feature, when it drives support costs and call or emails or dealing with escalation?’ Somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20 thousand a month, per feature that’s ‘broken’.” – Michael Hinnant

On businesses who miss the impact of inconsistent design: “What they may not be considering is the drop-off of users who just get frustrated, or feel lost…maybe it is successful, but can we make it much more successful?” – Aaron Bowersock

More hard costs when broken design persists: “The third component is the whole idea of debt – design debt and development debt ­– which is effectively the code and the design that you know is not great, but you continue to build around it and have to compromise other features and continue to maintain that bad code and bad design. What Forrester found what that the maintenance of debt was about twenty-five thousand a month in just maintaining the development and design cost of poorly designed features in any particular product.” – Michael Hinnant

Don’t forget the opportunity cost: “You’re losing a lot money – AND you’re losing a lot opportunity to really build better and more innovative and differentiated products. All that time spent working around debt or dealing with duplicative features, you’re not creating anything new, you’re not creating anything that’s going to make incrementally more value and impact to customers, and so you’ve list an opportunity in the market to differentiate yourself. And that’s almost the biggest cost. It’s one that is really hard to quantify, what the lost opportunity in the market is, but if you talk to any senior product or marketing folks they will identify it very quickly.” – Michael Hinnant

More benefits of design systems: “For a lot of people who are looking at design systems and thinking about…all the different parts of the organization that get impacted: this can help us with support, with speed and with adoption, and with keeping customers engaged in our products and overall usability, being able to drive that forward through consistent design that is build on a design system that works.” – Michael Hinnant

On the measurable impact of design systems: “Work with analytic teams and identify the additional metrics...so that you can see where you’re actually having an impact. It’s really essential to close the loop: ‘We did make the change and here’s what we saw,’ and then the case for the next iteration becomes so much easier, because you can show that you actually made a change for real customers, and made a real business impact. A lot of teams don’t go all the way to the KPIs and the metrics around the change in customer behavior that I think mature organizations get to, and are able to track that the investment in design is really leading to these business outcomes and we can actually measure it.” – Michael Hinnant


Look for Part 3 of this video blog series coming later in March


Filter is helping leading brands build and deploy design systems and UX best practices across their organizations. Discover how we can drive greater success for your business: click here to contact Filter and let us know more about your UX needs.