Design System Metrics: Workshop at the Into Design Systems Conference

Design System Metrics: Measuring Success

In this blog post: You might know this challenge: You meticulously introduce a design system and roll it out across the enterprise; and then it’s relatively unclear how successful its rollout actually is. How many teams are using it? Are they using it properly? How can you measure the success of a design system? Tim Heiler and Arturo Castillo Delgado from the Iconstorm team addressed these questions at the Into Design Systems Conference. We have summarized the results of the interactive workshop for you in this post.

Design System: Jobs, Pains and Many Stakeholders

One System, Many Stakeholders

Certainly, a design system brings many benefits: It creates brand consistency across company touchpoints, creates better collaboration in complex development landscapes, and makes it easier for teams to work with brand, leading to efficiency gains, higher quality work, reduced error frequency, and more. In purely theoretical terms, these positive effects are evident – but the practice is, of course, a bit more complicated.

After all, there are different stakeholders in a company for whom a design system is important from different perspectives. Success is therefore supposedly a matter of perspective. With the workshop we focused on how to break down the goals that a design system supports from the different stakeholder perspectives, and which metrics could be used to evaluate and communicate “success” on this basis.

Image: Preparation for our Into Design Systems Workshop
Getting ready. Relaxed preparation for our online workshop. If you want to read up about the conference as a whole, you can do it here.


The Workshop: Design as a Plattform for Dialogue

An important question at a conference is often how to make presentations interesting for everyone. So talking to a group of almost 100 people from development and design about a topic that requires expertise needs an appropriate platform. To that end, Tim and Arturo chose to approach the topic through use of well-known design methods: The participants immersed themselves in the topic working with personas and user stories and thus ventured into terrain that was partly unknown to them in an exploratory and playful manner. The familiar formats created a structure for a joint conversation and supported the deeper examination of the topic in the online setting with visual aids.


The Case: A Design System for a Banking- and Insurance Company

To start the conversation, our designers brought in a fictional case: A company in the customer-facing banking and insurance segment that was forced to constantly evolve its brand in a competitive market.This included country-specific localized sub-brands, each of which was also deployed across various touchpoints such as mobile apps, flagship stores, web and more.  Naturally, our fictional company placed great importance on an excellent customer experience – and for all these reasons it introduced a design system. One of its main goals, then, was to monitor the success of its introduction and use.

In the spirit of the thought experiment, Tim and Arturo prepared four personas of stakeholders in the company with a direct interest in a working design system. Since we were meeting in a Zoom Call, they organized four breakout sessions in each of which a team briefly brainstormed the key goals, desires, and pain points of a persona. The groups then loosely clustered and evaluated their ideas and presented their top three insights to the larger group. In a second session, the teams met again to deliberate on appropriate metrics for measuring their key ideas. In order to collaborate better during the session, the groups used a Miro board we prepared that was briefly explained by Tim and Arturo beforehand.


The Personas: Try them out yourself

Think about how the personas look at the company and design system based on their functions. What is important to them? And how could you measure that?

Image: Lina, CTO Persona from our Into Design Systems Workshop
Lina, CTO
Key Quotes:
„I’m working to align technical efforts in 7 EU countries”
„The DS is paid for from my budget.”
“Good UX means less customer support cost.”

Image: Sibel, Head of Brand Persona from our Into Design Systems Workshop
Sibel, Head of Brand
Key Quotes:
“I really need designers to be compliant to CI.”
“Sometimes, I have to halt product teams entirely.”
“Design is also ads, brochures and shops, not only UI.”

Image: Raphaël, Head of Product Persona from our Into Design Systems Workshop
Raphaël, Head of Product
Key Quotes:
“Time to market gives us competitive advantage.”
“We want to ship features quickly and continuously.”
“Design is what we do, not how it looks.”

Image: Himal, Technology Lead Persona from our Into Design Systems Workshop
Himal, Technology Lead
Key Quotes:
“Designers are wasting my best people’s time on details.”
“We have 18 different products for Web, Windows and Android.”
“You don’t just refactor a UI without time and budget.”

Defining and Implementing Design System Metrics

Insights From the Workshop

During the sessions, it quickly became clear that the different stakeholders would have different priorities depending on their perspective: While Raphaël, as Head of Product, values stable components, consistency across all products as well as their reliable delivery, Sibel, as Head of Brand, focuses on whether teams use the design system in the first place and whether they use them correctly. She also wants a system flexible enough to efficiently develop a brand across heterogeneous touchpoints. Himal, the Tech Lead, is particularly interested in quality assurance, development speed, and collaboration with Design, while Lina, as CTO, focuses on process and cost efficiency.

Based on these insights, which we were able to gain in just a few minutes, the task was then to break down the respective goals of the personas into metrics. Particularly the group that worked with our Head of Product had enough background knowledge to already suggest ideas for concrete performance indicators. But even those groups who would have needed a little more time to research their subject matter in order to understand their persona’s field and the associated processes better were able to paint a picture that clearly showed a direction for further ideation.


Design System: Measuring Success in Practice

Once again, it was exciting to see how working with personas, even in a short format, can already produce clear results. The participants were able to put themselves in the shoes of the stakeholders during the exercise. In this context, we are particularly pleased about the lively participation of everyone and the great feedback we received on the session. It flowed really nicely in a structured way, even with so many people, and we ourselves also drew some excellent new ideas from the workshop.

In relation to design systems, the topic of metrics in particular creates a basis for communication that goes beyond individual subdivisions (or silos) of a company and provides a basis for overarching integration of collaboration. Accordingly, it was an interesting thematic anchor to which everyone could connect well from their personal professional points of view. So if you still need to work out metrics for your own success measurement, we encourage you to do so. Not least because in an actual company this can certainly be done even more concretely than by means of a fictitious example. How you go about it depends, of course, on the tools, processes, and people involved in your organization, on the clues for metrics you can gain from those, and on the measuring instruments you can build, which can range from digitally and automatically tracked values to standardized surveys.

Image: From the Zoom session at our Into Design Systems Workshop
Thank you all for coming by and participating. It was fun!


Getting Started With Design System Metrics

We recommend an open, exploratory attitude to approach the topic. But a good structure is provided in any case by the questions that also ran through the workshop as a meta-level. It is best to answer them for your case in order to get into the topic:

Who are the stakeholders that come into contact with our design system?

What are their most important jobs, goals, desires, pain points?

Can these be expressed as variables or metrics?

What tools could we use to measure them?


We hope you could draw some inspiration from this short insight into our workshop. It took place during Into Design Systems, a three-day virtual conference organized by the Design Friends Community. Using Zoom and Miro, more than 500 experts dealt with almost all aspects of design systems and design ops. We would like to thank the organizers for the invitation and are happy that the session was so well received. You can find more about design systems here on our website. And if you have any further questions, feel free to send an email to Arturo from our team.