What is a single source of truth, and why do you need it?

What is a single source of truth

Lead designers need to make sure they keep their team members on the right path. Managers have tried several methods to reach this goal, including pattern libraries and style guides. While those options have a place to play within some organizations, they don’t always provide the single source of truth that you need to optimize design efficiency and avoid mistakes.

Defining the single source of truth

Today’s design and prototyping tools tend to rely on design systems as a single source of truth. The design system should include everything that employees involved in product development need to conform to the company’s brand identity and align with all expectations.

When using a design system as your single source of truth, you will likely establish approved:

  • Color palettes
  • Type scales
  • Icons
  • Buttons
  • Forms
  • Sliders

Keep in mind that you can use a pre-existing design system or create a unique one for your team’s products. Building a new design system takes time, so a lot of smaller design groups decide to use options like Material Design, which already gives you a library of attractive, functional components that you can add to designs easily.

Other popular design systems include:

While you can save time and energy using one of these as your single source of truth, you lose a little control over your aesthetic. Plus, a lot of designers already use these design systems. You might find that developing an independent, single source of truth helps your brand stand out from the crowd.

If you decide to make a new design system, you can build it with atomic design. UXPin has a useful checklist that will help contribute to your atomic design system’s success. You should also consider reading Creating a Design System: The 100-Point Process Checklist (don’t worry. It’s free).

Why you need a single source of truth (more than you probably know)

Establishing a single source of truth gives you benefits way beyond controlling what components, icons, and color schemes your designers use. Depending on how you approach your design system and the tools you choose, you can make work much easier for everyone on your team. 

You provide everything designers need to build products

In a very loose way, this is something that you already expect static style guides to do. When someone has a question about what color to use for the homepage’s background, they can consult the style guide. When someone isn’t sure how far apart to place lines of text, a style guide provides the answer. However, if you want teams to reuse some elements that are already in-line with the company standards, then an interactive design system comes in handy. 

You can decide to go one step further by linking designers’ single source of truth and developers’. Bring fully interactive and developed components to your design editor so that you can prototype with the production-ready components right away. Then you get a library of approved components that they can drag and drop into their design environment.

If someone needs to build a new app that lets employees request days off, they can find the appropriate interactive elements, drop it into the design environment, and tweak individual fields to meet their goal. Most of the work has already been done because someone has created reusable components that serve frequent needs.

It also removes all the inconsistencies in the handoff process. As both designers and developers use the same components, there’s no way that those can be off in the prototype. Using the ultimate single source of truth for product teams will cut down not only the designing time, but also the development process as the reusable components are already coded. 

No one ever has an outdated design system

If you’re old enough, think back to the time that everyone relied on printed style guides. A good style guide would tell you just about everything you could ever need to know while designing a new digital product. 

Even when companies started to digitize style guides, they usually turned them into PDF files.

Digital style guides seem great until you have a better option. After all, you don’t have to print pages and pages of instructions anymore. You can just send a single document to everyone via email. Easy!

Except that something always goes wrong. Last year’s style guide doesn’t necessarily conform to this year’s standards. Even last month’s style guide might not conform. 

When everyone has a static document that tells them what to do, they may end up using the wrong edition. It’s a challenging situation that always seems to happen.

With a design system, though, no one ever has an outdated guide. When you update the library, everyone who accesses it from that moment on sees the change because you keep the library in a centralized location that you control. You can build one in UXPin and keep everybody up to date. 

If you integrate your design tool with developers’ Git Repository or Storybook where the ready components are, you literally have one source of truth. When developers change elements, your design library and the projects get automatically updated. Also, the designs are code-powered so everything will synchronize and display exactly the same as in your devs’ libraries or repositories. There’s no need to worry about components, colors, typography and more being off. 

A single source of truth saves everyone time

Making a design system that serves as your single source of truth will certainly save your designers some time because they don’t need to consult style guides or knock on your door to ask questions. 

But if you really want to drastically cut down the time of design and development phases, you should consider syncing your design editor with developers’ repositories and libraries. PayPal compared designing with interactive code components vs. pixel-based components, and the first method turned out to be over 6 times faster! Several companies use code-approach to improve their product design, development models. Learn how PayPal took advantage of UXPin Merge’s code-based design to streamline development with a small design team.

UXPin Merge makes every step easier

Don’t waste your energy and time with static style guides and design software that isn’t code-powered. UXPin powered by Merge technology gives you a better option that helps you create a single source of truth, give your designers the interactive and production-ready components they need to work efficiently and save time when your prototype reaches developers.

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