In the ever-changing world of software development, it can be hard to stay abreast of everything. Not only are you constantly working to keep up with user demands and improve your product but you’ve also got to maintain some semblance of consistency. Otherwise, the look and feel of your product change over time and you risk alienating the end users.
All this spells extra challenges when you’re trying to scale.
Here’s why those challenges exist and how Design Language can help developers rise to meet them.
The Paradox of the MVP
One of the great attributes of a digital product is that it doesn’t have to be rolled out to the public in its final form. By delivering the minimum viable product (MVP), we’re allowing for user feedback and we’re planning on doing multiple iterations until we get it right.
But that’s the thing about a software product that’s built around good user experience: it’s never really right, is it? We’re always seeking feedback and making changes. It’s a data-driven model that’s fast becoming the norm in most industries today. Data is king and the customer is the center of it all.
The problem is, when the success of your product hinges upon a great user experience, even the smallest change can have unintended consequences. Constant iterations make for a lot of changes so any negative impacts on your users can quickly snowball. The MVP is great for getting a product into the hands of users quickly but after that, it needs careful handling.
What’s Guiding the Evolution of Your Product?
When developers respond to end user feedback, what guidelines are in place to shape the evolution of the product? Are you making thoughtful decisions about where to do each iteration of your product? Or are you running around willy-nilly, satisfying a never-ending list of unqualified user-generated demands?
In other words, how do you know you’re not evolving too far away from what made your MVP successful in the first place? What’s the deciding factor for features you add or remove?
The Other Problem With Software Scaling
Users dictate the terms of change in a number of ways. As we just mentioned, they give feedback on the functionality and usability of the features. Another way users impact the product is when there are more of them, resulting in growth for the company.
As a company scales, their digital assets will have to scale along with them. That usually happens two ways:
- A bigger development team. Growth can mean more resources can be aimed at developing the product. More developers means somebody’s got to pay attention to workflow issues. As the development environment scales up, consistency will become important. You want everyone on the same page so the product retains its original look and feel.
- New products. Growth can also mean a larger ecosystem of new products based on the original concept. Consistency will also be a factor here, as you’ll want users to immediately recognize the new products based on what they already know from the original.
Design Language Keeps an Evolving Product on Track
When users get to know your product and come to rely upon it, they develop certain expectations. These expectations help them use the product efficiently and eventually to love the product as it evolves to meet their needs.
To meet these expectations, we use “Design Language”. This is a set of resources that help developers work speedily and efficiently to create a consistent product that reflects the brand and the user’s demands.
Here are a few simple examples of what can be found in a Design Language:
- Icons. An example would be as they get used to using a product, users learn what the “Deploy” symbol looks like. The visual symbol is used throughout the product for a better user experience. You can take a look at IBM’s design language for more examples like this.
But it’s not just icons and fonts that make up the design language of a product. It’s the language you use — the personality of the brand and the values of the company have to shine through.
So, Design Language is also about culture, audience, mission, and values. When developers know clearly what the UX and design rules are, they spend less time making the same decisions over and over again. As products scale, one thing should stay the same: the design language.
Sharing Standards to Keep the User Front and Center
In the end, the final goal of having a Design Language is to try to keep users happy. The client can grow their company, allocating more resources for development. That can mean development teams grow and it can mean the product expands into new areas of capability.
What matters most is that the user hardly knows all that is taking place behind the scenes. They just want to keep using the product they’ve come to know and love even while it changes and improves. Design Language helps developers make that happen.