Ensuring our clients have the same experience with Thryv’s digital products — no matter where they’re located — is essential for our global business. But the same holds true for any size business.

It doesn’t matter how a customer interacts with you; the experience should be consistent.

That consistency starts with a documented design system. But creating and implementing a design system provides so much more than a uniform customer experience.

It also helps you streamline and improve your business operations.

What Is a Design System?

Essentially, a design system provides consistent direction for any element you want to look and behave in a standard way.

For organizations like franchises, it helps ensure the same styles and approaches are used for websites, ecommerce, billing, marketing and more. It also can provide pre-built, pre-approved digital components and widgets for plug-and-play ease.

For smaller businesses, a design system may simply contain your logo, colors and fonts; maybe even direction for content voice and tone. It’s a common playbook that can save time and money when working with writers or graphic designers.

Or say you want to evolve your website into a digital hub where customers can schedule appointments or pay bills. Your design system tells software developers how that experience should look and work.

A design system can include:

  • Branding assets — logos, color palette, text styles, icons, etc.
  • Design standards and principles — how to use the branding assets when building any client experience, online or offline
  • Components — reusable “building blocks” that make up web pages and software interfaces
  • Development documentation — how to use the components and design standards to create a finished product

Why Should You Use a Design System?

The benefits to building and using a design system are pretty obvious. Providing a uniform customer experience builds familiarity, a sense of reliability and, ultimately, loyalty.

But beyond that, it also has four key advantages.

  1. Consistency
    Delivering consistent experiences — offline and online — is critical to keeping your customers engaged. At Thryv, our documented design system helps ensure multiple designers, in multiple geographies, working on multiple products, approach design the same way. While smaller companies likely don’t have the same geographic concerns that Thryv does, every business has multiple points of customer interaction that should feel similar.
  1. Efficiency
    Efficiency is the natural next outcome. It happens when the people implementing software can answer common questions for themselves, without bothering the designers. In documenting how and why designs are to be implemented, designers should include information about the people they’re designing for, any results from road-testing their designs and their overall intentions. That information helps developers further downstream (and usually disconnected) from the designers build experiences that support the desired approach more efficiently.
  1. Speed
    At Thryv, using a documented design system has saved us hours, even days on repetitive tasks. Using a design system significantly reduces design and coding times — we’ve cut development turnaround times by nearly 65%. That means products launch sooner and customers can enjoy them sooner. While you may not need, or be able to slash development times that much, you’ll see faster speed-to-market on anything built using a documented design system.
  1. Cost
    Each of the above also contributes in a big way to the ultimate measurement — cost savings. Consistency, efficiency and speed all translate into time and money saved. Particularly for small businesses (where you’ve likely outsourced development and/or design), having clear design guidance means you don’t have to keep dipping into your contracting budget for additional direction.

Who Wins With a Design System? (Spoiler: Everyone!)

It’s clear your customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from a design system: You profit long before.

Building a documented design system is a natural part of starting a business. Having a shared design language, resources and guidelines promotes collaboration among teams.

It helps you streamline and improve operations. And it results in better decisions.

You save time and money that would’ve been spent reinventing digital solutions. Using this playbook also makes developing and testing digital work go much faster.

Ultimately, you create a single source of truth. You’ve built a library of tried and tested components and patterns that improve software consistency, experience and accessibility.

And in the end, everyone wins.

Natalia Polishchuk is Thryv’s Senior Manager, UX/UI Design.