A Systematic Guide to Building a UI Design System

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Developing and maintaining a UI design library/system for your product will help the user intuitively navigate through your web page. This systematic approach to building an interface library will bring in a visual and functional consistency to the overall design. This, in essence, helps brand your UI/UX and creates a sense of trust for the user.

In this article, we will be exploring how to develop a UI design that is both scalable and consistent across various devices. We will also learn how to build a: 1. Interface inventory that will help keep your content and designs consistent. 2. Develop a pattern library from your interface inventory to ensure that your designs are efficient and cost-effective and 3. Take a look at animations and how they can be used to effectively communicate a message. Creating a design system this way, with well-defined and reusable UI components improves the efficiency by minimizing unexpected and disjointed experiences. It also helps foster better collaboration and development that can allow your design language to evolve with time.

Building an Interface Library

An interface library is essentially nothing but bits and pieces of all the components that make up your web page/interface. Just as a content library would consist of images, words, and graphics, an interface library is a collection of UI components that can be used to keep the user interfaces consistent within a considered framework. If you are looking to design a new product, mapping out components and building a systematic approach to documenting your UI will help you get a feel for all the components you would need to consider before building that website.

You will have to define a style guide before building the interface library. All the design elements found in this guide will be re-introduced in your component library at a later stage. Mo new style is going to be added once you have an established style guide. Every style that is going to be mapped to a component should be taken from the pre-defined global style guide.

Next step of the process would require you to take screenshots of your designs and categorize them accordingly. This would impose an order for your designs and can help you catch any inconsistencies and fix them so they remain consistent across the platform. Important components to consider while defining your library are typography, images, media, and forms. Having your client or your team run through your content will help bring in clarity and a better understanding of the components, their use and function thereby increasing the overall efficiency of the design.

Building a Design Pattern Library

Once you have an interface library, you should be able to collaborate and identify shared design patterns. Design patterns are building blocks of an interface. They offer common solutions to recurring design problems.

Some examples of pattern libraries are:

Organizing your interface components should have led you to identify inconsistencies in your designs. Addressing them and building a UI with these design patterns can help keep your designs stay consistent. It will also help you establish a visual vocabulary that can be shared globally, and improve the efficiency as the design language begins to evolve.

In most cases, the design pattern library comes as an afterthought when designing websites. Brad Frost talks about the importance of having a solid foundation from which the websites can be built upon. This means that instead of creating web pages in isolation, interfaces can be broken into smaller building blocks that can be used to not only help solve design problems but help maintain a consistent and scalable UI.

Brad Frost’s atomic design methodology can be used as a solid foundation to create a great design system. In his book, he breaks down the design process into 5 basic levels – atoms, molecules, organisms, templates, and pages. Working from the ground up, using this fundamental building blocks of design, you are able to build anything.

Another approach most designers tend to go for is to use pre-built UI kits. By referring to these ready-made templates, you are able to save time and effort by not having to re-draw basic components. There are many UI kits available on the internet for both mobile and web apps. However, a designer can easily fall into the trap of using a generic template only to have their design look and feel identical to another. To avoid this common problem, it is often advised to form your own element collages that can make your designs appear different.

Designing Animations

As web designers create designs for screen experiences, it is important to understand the medium on which the designs will appear. When we design for a screen, we are designing for a fluid medium. This means that as designers, we need to understand how the user will interact or experience the design. Your role is not limited to creating static pages but to design and understand how the elements on a page interact. This means that you have to consider page transitions and interactions on a macro and a micro level.

When designing an animation or a transition, you have to consider the following factors:

1. How to use a trigger to create a transition

2. What kind of transition you would like to use

3. The timing of the transition.
Your design choices will affect your animation journey. So it may be useful to set your narrative ahead of time so you can put some thought into them.
The same rule applies when designing an animation/interaction at the object level. Feedback is an important factor to consider when designing a micro-interaction as it puts the users’ mind at ease when they know that their actions have been acknowledged. A well-defined user interface will respond to users movements and is able to respond to their actions.

When designing a web page or an interface, it is important to have a design system in place. Having a solid foundation and accessible UI components can help you maintain a consistent and scalable design across different devices and platforms. So when it is time to build your next website, consider investing your time in building and establishing a design system.

Iggy is a designer who loves experimenting with new web design techniques, collating creative website designs, and writing about the latest design trends, inspiration, design freebies, and more. You can follow him on Twitter

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