Design systems save organisations money and time

June 29, 2022 by No Comments | Category Digital Scotland, Digital Scotland Design System

Blog by Kevin Allen, User Centred Design team, Digital Transformation Division.

What is a Design System?

A design system comprises a series of building blocks which have been researched, designed, tested and coded. These building blocks are available online for internal and external developers to use. Having pre-built and tested components drastically reduces expensive development times and allows users to create consistent, accessible, easy-to-use websites and digital services.

Design systems require a lot of time and effort to create. A multi-disciplinary team must collaborate effectively to ensure that each component is built and tested in line with strict web accessibility and usability standards.

The great news is that we have already built one which is available as a live service for you to use right now.

Scottish Government Design System

The Scottish Government Design System

The Scottish Government Design System was built by the Design System team based in Digital Publishing. Our multidisciplinary team includes experts in content design, accessibility; user experience, graphic design, user testing, performance analysis, product and delivery and front and back-end web engineering.

All the components, styles and patterns currently available conform to standards such as WGAC AA accessibility guidelines and have been security tested, they are ready to be used ‘out of the box’.

Good design is the foundation upon which a good user experience is built. It is often described as being invisible. If you find yourself lost in the London underground, it is unlikely that you will consider the thousands of hours spent on creating and refining the famous tube map or signage. Your main concern will be that it is legible, trustworthy and accessible to help guide you to your destination.

The public sector has a long history of excellence and innovation in design systems. Notable examples include Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert’s work in standardising motorway and road signage in the UK in the 1950s or the NASA Graphics Standards manual in the 1970s.

These systems introduced many iconic designs but also set out a comprehensive set of rules and guidance on how these were to be applied for users in the real world. In the digital age the UK Government GDS Design System is a gold standard in public sector digital service design.

Who is the design system for?

Our design system is for everyone. It is based upon the work and open-source philosophy of the UK Government GDS Design System. We share our design rationale, code and development tools on our website in order to be as transparent as possible and create a culture of open development and discussion.

The design system contains rules and guidance on how each component should be used and acts as a ‘single source of truth’. It is maintained and updated by the Design System team and upcoming additions can be viewed in the Backlog section.

Our key goal is to promote the system in order for it to be used to build innovative digital services which improve people’s lives.

Key benefits of using the design system

• Speed – The design system provides pre-built and tested styles and components that can be used to build digital services quickly. Components do not need to be rebuilt, saving time and money for each new project. Our prototyping kits facilitate fast designs and development, which can then be built using the same components in the design system.

• Consistency – As more services are built using the design system, users will become familiar with the patterns and visual styling. This builds familiarity and trust which is crucial in any government or public sector service. The Scottish Government Design System is already used in many benefit application forms by Social Security Scotland. We have well-defined content standards to help support user-centred design delivery.

• Accessibility and Security – Each component and pattern goes through rigorous accessibility and security testing before being made available through the design system. Users can be confident that any new element added is secure and safe to use for their service.

The design system team are researching and working on new ways to identify user requirements. We do this to ensure that the design system is a living system which evolves with the users’ needs over time.

The Scottish Government Design System is a flexible, accessible and powerful resource; we are excited to work on this project and see the services that will be built to improve the lives of the people of Scotland.

We are on hand to answer any questions or queries you may have about creating digital services. You can contact us at:

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