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4 years ago from Dan Mall, Founder & CEO

  • Dan Mall, 4 years ago

    That's a tough scenario, Dexter! I'm taking your questions as two separate problems to solve:

    1. How can you properly maintain a design system with just designers and no engineers?
    2. How can you properly maintain a design system with a distributed team of engineers?

    Regarding part 1, I'm a firm believer that design systems are software, so a design system team that consists of just designers with no engineers is missing a crucial part. My first suggestion would be to see if you could have at least engineer dedicated to the design system to round out the team.

    But! I know it's often a reality that it's difficult or implausible. So, what do you do if all you have is designers?

    One thing you could do is increase the designers' fluency with code. I'm not saying you need to become engineers. But, a little bit of knowledge in a few areas goes a long way with a design system. The areas I typically suggest to teams are:

    1. CSS, specifically colors and font-sizes
    2. The Web Inspector
    3. JSON

    If you're interested in why, I did a talk called "Should designers…?" that goes into more detail.

    Regarding part 2, different time zones complicate communicating but spreading it apart. To fix that, you need tools and processes that can bring it together again. With different time zones, real-time communication is more difficult, so people resort to asynchronous methods like documentation and write-ups. Unfortunately, this is also where things fall through the cracks.

    One method I've found to be really useful is sending videos back and forth. If you can't talk to each other in real-time, simulate it by having your video "talk" to the other person's video. I've been really surprised as to how many of the nuances of video make it feel like talking to the other person. Of course, it's not a replacement for an actual conversation, but it's a good runner-up.

    1 point