Increasing design system quality and adoption by proper stakeholder management

Increasing design system quality and adoption by proper stakeholder management

Varya Stepanova @ Smartly DevTalks 2021


Varya Stepanova

Design Systems Architect
engineering manager, frontend architect, independent consultant


Design Systems are for people

Also available in a text version

Why? What? How? For whom?

Making design systems successful is just as much about creating a people system as it is about creating a technical or operational one.

Magera Moon, The people part of design systems

To build a design system, don’t start by writing code and choosing tools; start by talking to the people who will use the system. Learn about their needs and constraints, and help them solve problems.

Ryan DeBeasi, Design Systems Are About Relationships

To boost
a design system

focus on people

But... how?

What does design system team do?

What does design system team REALLY

Design system work

User-centered design system resources
Lyft Design Systems Team @ Schema 2021

Design system work

1. The product part

2. Everything else

The product

  • UI kit
  • React Library
  • Web Components Library
  • Design tokens package

In and out

  • Bug reports
  • Feedback & suggestions
  • Questions and help requests
  • Releases
  • Incident warnings
  • Announces

Channels of Communication

  • Design system website
  • Slack/Flowdock/Teams
  • GitHub
  • Design & development forums

Clear picture of the system

What is available?

What component is available what is not?

What components are soon coming?

What is current status of a component?


Expectation management is one of the most powerful weapons in psychological warfare.

Raphael Malveau and Thomas J. Mowbray, Ph.D.

Component status map

Idea from "Design System Features, Step-by-Step" by Nathan Curtis

See in action at Polaris design system

Status on the component page

Where in the flow is it? research/design/development/testing

What platforms is it available for? (e.g Card @ Orbit)

Is it deprectaed? (e.g. Theme Swicth @ Wanda)

What is coming? (e.g. Avatar @ Lightning)

Communication about the process

Open backlog policy

What do we get?

  • Open process and clear message about resources
  • Ready contribution requests
  • Knowledge of who is interested in a component

Linking to the people

Where components are used?

Example link:

Who is using components?

Tools for stakeholder management

  • Excel / Google Sheets
  • Google DataStuido
  • Own solutions

Address to certain people personally

  • Library has critical updates in particular components
  • Ask for feedback about upcoming changes
  • Someone is not using the component. Why?
  • Design system team is searching for contributors
  • Team search for other teams using the same component

How to meet new people?

Onboarding sessions

e.g. every 1st Wednesday of the month

  • for designers
  • for developers
  • for project owners

How to go with innovations?

Proof of Concept / MVP


How to get feedback

Explain why it is needed

Use all the possible public forums

Ask people personally and tell the how they would benefit

Organize try-on session

Design system is product

Look around

What do other design systems do?

  • Branding
  • Shared ownership: contribution guidelines, mentioning contributors, links to editing
  • Positions in DS team
  • Flows and trees

Continue with benchmarking

Up to the business levels

Business value of design system

  • Faster design and development
  • Fewer costs
  • "Time to market" decreased
  • Doing "real work"

Getting mature

Stakeholder management is
one of the design system's processes

Invest time

Get structured


Thank you


by Varya Stepanova