Mastering Version Control — Best Practices for Design System Versioning

30 January 2023
3.0 min read

Design systems are an essential aspect of any company or organization, and it is the responsibility of design system practitioners to understand and maintain them. One crucial aspect of this is versioning, which ensures that changes are tracked, documented, and communicated properly. It also helps guarantee that the design system remains consistent and up-to-date with the latest trends and technological advancements. In this article, we will discuss best practices for versioning design systems.

One important practice is to have a defined process for how new versions of components and systems will be introduced into production. This process should include testing by both design and development teams before deployment, as well as communication with stakeholders regarding any changes that may affect functionality or usability in any way. Having these steps clearly outlined will help ensure that everyone is on board with releases before they go live, which can save time and money down the road.

Another practice is to use version numbers and semantic versioning. The first step in effective versioning is assigning each version of your design system with a unique version number. This allows you to easily identify which version of your system someone is using, and track changes over time. Good practice dictates that you use semantic versioning for this purpose, which assigns each version a three-part code (e.g., 1.2.3). The major number indicates major changes or updates (e.g., new features), the minor number indicates minor changes or bug fixes, and the patch number indicates minor bug fixes or other small improvements to existing features. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page when discussing different versions of your design system, as well as when tracking bugs or other issues with specific versions of the system.

The next important thing to do is to create a changelog and communicate changes. Having a changelog that documents each update is essential for tracking progress over time. The changelog documents the updates, improvements and bug fixes made in each version of your design system. This allows designers, developers, and stakeholders alike to look back at previous versions of components and see what has changed since then, making it easier to identify bugs and other potential issues. Additionally, it’s important to communicate these changes with stakeholders so they understand why certain updates were made, as well as how they may affect the final product.

Finally, it is important to strive for backwards compatibility with each new release of your design system. By ensuring backwards compatibility as much as possible, you minimize any potential disruptions that could occur due to unexpected updates breaking existing functionality in other products. This will help ensure that everyone is able to keep up with whatever changes may come down the line without having to worry about unexpected surprises along the way.

In conclusion, versioning your design system can seem like an intimidating task, but by following these best practices, you can have confidence knowing that everything will run smoothly when it comes time for making updates. Remember to use unique version numbers and semantic versioning conventions; create useful changelogs; communicate effectively with development teams; document life cycles; and strive for backwards compatibility will help ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible throughout every stage of production. With these strategies in place, you can rest assured knowing that every new iteration of your design system will be just as successful, if not more so, than its predecessor.

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