Unify Customer Experience with the Power of Design Systems

customer experience

Design Systems

User Experience

Digital Strategy

Insights

Design

December 17
blog author

Jeremy Elder

Content Marketer

Unify Customer Experience with the Power of Design Systems

We're excited to share part three of our CX blog series. Appnovation's John Mozayani, VP of Technology and Anton Morrison, VP of Experience Design presented recently at Acquia Engage on closing the CX gap and the actions needed to get there. Afterward, John and Anton engaged in a Q&A session that sparked a lively discussion from the audience on the challenges they face and how to get started on a CX strategy focused on delivering consistent and unified customer experience. Catch up on part 1: Closing the CX Gap: Moving Towards Response Agility and part 2: The “Perfect” Customer Experience Doesn’t Exist. But a Valuable One Does. of the series. 

 

Design is all around us, whether we notice it or not (and many leading designers believe one of the key functions of good design is that it’s not noticed). How we’re led to navigate and interact with the physical and digital worlds we live in is the result of countless design decisions and the systems used to enable their creation.

With such a magnitude of elements factoring into how a business uses design, it’s not enough to simply be organized. You have to be systematic and strategic.

What a design system is and why it matters

On its surface, a design system is an organized array and classification of reusable components with accompanying standards that guide their use. The key to its ability to enable better business outcomes is not in the organization, but in the operating model that enables true end-to-end design thinking, standing out from the crowd and delivering exceptional experiences. 

Just because the pieces of a system are consistent doesn’t mean that the results of how you combine them automatically will be. To ensure that it has structure and meaning, a design system’s individual assets are aligned to a process that dictates their use and the “why” of how to put them together. 

It’s common to confuse a design system with some of its predecessors: digital style guides, icon libraries, brand guidelines etc. While those can be some of the foundational documents you might use, the design system itself goes far beyond the traditional brand document you might be familiar with... and possibly being held back by.

“The word ‘system’ is the key here. When you’re building multiple things for multiple types of customers, you need to have a way of making everything work together. It’s not digital guidelines or a library,” says Anton Morrison, VP of User Experience Design. 

“This is a step above and beyond. It’s not just how you design things, it’s about strategically planning and then executing on how you can use design thinking to serve clients firsthand.”

 

It’s no coincidence that industry-leading implementation of design systems has been used by consistently successful brands. Shopify not only published Polaris, its open-source design system, online but intentionally optimized it to enable its customers at any experience level to utilize it. IBM and Salesforce have done the same. 

Airbnb has been so open about its proactive approaches to integrating design language systems across its business that it’s widely known as an expert in the space. They say: “Design has always been largely about systems, and how to create products in a scalable and repeatable way… These systems enable us to manage the chaos and create better products… A unified design system is essential to building better and faster; better because a cohesive experience is more easily understood by our users, and faster because it gives us a common language to work with.”

Adhering to a design system has clear benefits, from saving time to boosting efficiency. When it comes to managing customer experience specifically, a design system plays a vital role in laying a clear game plan for how to build an invaluable line of communication between you and your target audience. It helps you to effectively, consistently and predictably articulate everything going on within your organization to your audience.

“A design system can help you right from the get-go. It builds bridges between teams, no matter what they work on. For large global companies, it enables you to speak to your customers regionally. The system gives you guardrails so your teams, wherever they are, can make decisions for their customers. It bridges gaps between developers, designers, product owners, PMs, business analysts and more, and focuses them all together,” continues Morrison.

 

Design systems ensure customers experience your brand values in a thoughtful, consistent way

  1. Increase productivity at scale

A well-run design system helps you work faster while at the same time making sure quality is up to your standards. It enables multiple people to put their lens for quality assurance onto the brand with everything they create. Even with remote design teams spread across various locations working on the same product, using the same design system assures a unified standard of quality. 

  1. Empower designers to create for your users

A design system allows you to elevate your process so that you can properly iterate, innovate and optimize. When you give designers and developers the tools they need so they’re free to design with the customer experience and end-user in mind, they’ve got a managed foundation to start from and don’t need to reinvent the wheel each time they’re briefed.

  1. Unify the customer experience at all touchpoints

The standards inherent in a design system eliminate one-offs and outliers. If your customer in one region visits your website in another region, there’s a pre-existing brand DNA that runs throughout the entire system and makes their experience naturally make more sense. Even if the offerings and products differ, the design system automatically integrates common elements while still allowing the freedom to design specifically to unique needs and purposes of different audiences. You’re able to remove the friction between channels and touchpoints so that your customers are easily able to complete the tasks they want to perform. 

Customer experience isn’t one single journey existing in a vacuum. It’s a complicated web of interactions and each of these touchpoints, while frequently owned by different groups in a business, don’t live independently of each other to your customer. 

Design systems help you connect the dots and tell a unified story, both linking to your brand’s core promise and living up to your audience’s expectations… whether they notice it or not.