When most people hear the phrase 'Design System' they think of a tool for designers but a good design system is as much, if not more, a tool for developers and managers. The reason is because a design system is part of something much bigger - DesignOps and DevOps.
In this article, I'm going to cover the benefits of the NSW Design System to Product Managers and those responsible for digital teams, like CDOs.
What NSW Gov's design system actually is
NSW Government, with its 250+ designers and even more developers, is unquestionably a scaled digital environment. Just like manufacturing, engineering, or catering, the scaled version of digital works much more efficiently and consistently than a one-off project.
For a one-off project, designers and developers have to complete time consuming tasks to get going and once a team is up and running they have to make small decisions every day that have been made many times before.
The NSW Design System is the tool which transforms that one-off style of work into a lean, consistent, best practice at scale. Let's break it down into three areas: Consistency, quality and efficiency.
The best-known part of the NSW Design System is branding. In fact, there are parts of the NSW Design System that you need to follow to be brand compliant but the consistency runs deeper.
When your designers use the design system, your customers and users are given a consistent experience where everything across NSW Government works the same. Consistency across channels helps the Government build trust with customers and using the design system on your project means trust you're following the NSW Government approach.
When your developers use the design system, they're building with the same technology as other teams. This follows and promotes one of the vital digital standards - reuse and repurpose. A user's experience is affected by a developers' work, too and using the design system means you can trust no bits of UX-affecting code have been overlooked.
The NSW Design System is a world leading design system, with a one-to-one relationship between UX design tools and code. Because of this, our open source code is the single source of truth and we can accept contributions from other teams and developers.
By using the design system, you're gaining several years of research, design, and re-design work that gives you, as the person responsible, assurance your product is made from the best accessible, usable and reliable foundations possible.
The design system is also modular, so there's no need to forgo using it when one aspect doesn't fit your specific needs. If, for example, you want to restyle the design system because you're not NSW Government branded, you can still benefit from tried and tested code and scree-reader compatibility.
We've established the quality and consistency benefits but the thing that wraps up the design system as a package for managers is efficiency.
The design system is already made and our team is funded to maintain and improve it. By using the design system in Figma and getting the styles or react components via NPM, you can also get future updates with minimal effort.
In short, every time we spend a week updating and improving a component, or accessibility, we save every team using the design system a whole week too.
Getting started with the design system is a whole-of-product choice with whole-of-product benefits. I'm always happy to field questions from Product Managers, so feel free to come and find me in the community.