At NL Design System, we work with a lot of government teams to ultimately try and make a “greatest hits” of their components. Heavily simplified: we want to find the best front-end components/guidelines/examples in use across government, test them (for accessibility and usability) and then publish them for wide reuse. That's a long, but (hopefully) very fruitful journey, that can result in widely-agreed upon solutions and avoidance of some common design system pitfalls.
That's not really how design systems used to work. Design systems came a long way from pattern libraries for developers who need to copy/paste HTML to much better thought-out systems with communication and support protocols, advanced theming, versioning and solid accessibility guidelines. Over time, the promises we make have probably also evolved.
Promises vs reality
My favourite promise of design systems is the opportunity to try and do high quality front-end work and then spread the result across lots of projects. So, like, you could get the component right and build it accessibly, with a usable API, excellent guidance, and so fort. Good things you could then spread around. Other promises of design systems include cost savings through efficiency and improved user experience through consistency. But realistically, promises remain promises until they are realised (as those who work on design system teams will probably be well familiar with).
That's not to say designs system promises are too good to be true. They do often come true. Just look at what some teams out there are doing! But there's a lot to say about approaches, benefits and potential pitfalls for design systems teams. How does everyone do it? Because while the work could be made to sound easy, it often isn't. This is partly why we're organising Design Systems Week (the third edition this year): we want to hear from others about their successes, learnings and challenges. Or… peak inside other teams, basically. And when I say “we”… I should say the team already ran two editions, I'm just helping out with the third.
Design Systems Week
So, Design Systems Week 2023 is coming, in the first week of October! The program is starting to shape up nicely. We'll have speakers from across the Dutch government, such as the Chamber of Commerce and various city governments. New in this year's edition is that we also wanted to hear from people from outside the Netherlands, in government and private sector.
So far, we've announced (among others):
- Inayaili León from GitHub on DesignOps
- Joe Lanman from GOV.UK on their Prototype Kit
- Daniëlle Rameau from Sanoma Learning on Design Systems as a way to get accessibility right (in Dutch)
- David Darnes from NordHealth on Web Components (what works and what doesn't)
- Mu-An Chiou from Taiwan Design System on design systems as public infrastructure
- Aleksandr Beliaev from Estonia Design System on the design system of the first digital society
And there's a few more coming that I can't wait for the team to announce.
We know people are busy and don't necessarily have time to watch virtual events all day, so we've designed the sessions to be 20-25 minute “snacks” that you can catch between meetings (live via Teams (government), or watch via the published records afterwards).
List of updates
- 10 September 2023: Added Taiwan and Estonia design system talks