How to Use a Design System to Make Great UX Design Decisions

Making the right design decision on any stage of the process is tough. What’s more science shows that humans have a finite ability to make good decisions throughout the day. Our willpower literally evaporates during the day as we make decision after decision. Did you ever intend to eat something healthy for dinner, but, too tired to decide what to cook, you ordered a pizza instead? You can blame biology. 

We can’t help you avoid the pizza, but we can help you make better UX design decisions. So how do we remain productive throughout the day and ensure we’re making good UX design decisions?  

How designers make decisions?

We will first give you a quick overview of how most designers make design decisions. Then, we will explain how having a UX design system in place can provide you with the guardrails you need to keep your decisions focused on whatever project you’re working on — even, or especially, at the end of a long day in the design trenches. 

Have you ever sat down and tried to explain how you made a particular design decision — or how you do what you do? Most of us sort of “Just Do It”, to borrow a phrase. 

What UX designers do isn’t easy. The use of colors and getting the exact right tone, pixel width and relation to shapes (and choosing the shapes and how to place them so that they are aesthetically pleasing AND enhance the user experience); it’s no wonder our brains can be a bit sore at the end of the work day. 

There are three ways in which we make design decisions:

  1. Experience
  2. Intuition
  3. Reference or imitation

These aren’t entirely separate — our experiences inform our intuitions and both of those are influenced by designers we’ve studied. So there’s a constant tug-of-war going on between these three decision-making styles as we do our work. 

UX Design Based on Experience

As designers build experience and knowledge, we begin to make decisions based on what worked in the past. 

The spacing between these objects should be just like this. 

Leaning too much on experience, though, can lead to UX designs that are outdated and that don’t deliver a great user experience — or just a great user experience five years ago, not today. It can feel safe to rely just on past experience, but that cuts us off from trying something new. Which leads to intuition.

UX Design Based on Intuition

Using intuition can create inspired design. It can also lead us to poor UX design because it just “feels right.” 

So long as you remember you are designing for people and not what you personally like, using your intuition can help you work quickly and get a project started quickly. 

Reference or Imitation

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. For many UX designers, it’s how we stretch beyond our comfort zones and explore new UX/UI design ideas. 

Imitation isn’t a bad thing — it’s how we learn to talk, use a fork without poking our eyes out, and how new skills are generally learned. Think of every kung fu movie you’ve seen, the student learns from (imitates) the master. 

Using a reference is also a way to incorporate new ideas that work into your design. Remember that the ideas you are imitating began as a flash of intuition from another designer. When you combine your experience and intuition into a reference design, your flash of inspiration could be the next great UI design idea used as a reference. 

UX Design System: Guardrails for Decision Making

A great way to keep your design decisions focused while getting the most out of your mix of experience, intuition, and imitation is to create a design system. 

A design system removes the burden of making design decisions in the context of a single project. 

Should that button be blue or green? The design system will tell you which color to use. 

What font and size would look best here?

How wide should this image be?

How should I lay out this page?

A design system will answer all of these questions for you so you can focus on creating a great design without having to decide on the various elements. 

Don’t waste your precious decision-making ability making decisions that you don’t need to. Create a design system for your projects and reap the benefits. You might even have enough willpower to eat something healthy for dinner.

UXPin makes creating a design system simple. You can give it a try for free — try UXPin today.

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