The Design System: The Hero Your Brand Needs

The Design System: The Hero Your Brand Needs

The Case for Design Systems


Maybe you want to build a design system. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you have no idea what one is. Regardless of where you’re at on the scale, you need one.

Does your life depend on it? Well, no probably not. But does the success of your product or brand depend on it? Yes, it does!


What exactly is a Design System? 


How do we solve the world’s problems with one? Well, it may not save the world, but a design system will certainly save the day for your users, designers, developers, and anyone else interacting with your product. Simply put, a design system is a set of standards, or guidelines, on how things are to be implemented.

You may have heard of things like Brand Standards, or Style Guides, or Component Libraries, or even Pattern Libraries. In many ways, these things are all very similar, but a Design System is something larger, more all-encompassing, and may contain any or all of these.

A Design System is a roadmap for a brand, a company, a product, or perhaps all three if the situation calls for it. It outlines best practices and standards for everything from brand personality, to voice and tone, to visual specs.

The biggest benefit of having a Design System is consistency. Confusion plummets, and efficiency skyrockets when elements are repeated, predictable, and reliable. When designing for scale, consistency is crucial.


Multiple Teams


Working from a Design System means collaboration that makes sense. No longer does redundant communication need to eat away time. When multiple teams are coming together to work on a project, or maybe several projects in tandem, there are often numerous email chains that crop up.

“Do you have the current logo assets?” “What size is an H3 on Desktop?” “How often can we use contractions in a single paragraph?”
Often an answer requires digging through assets, or—in unfortunate but not uncommon circumstances—a wild guess.

A living, breathing Design System ends this nonsense by standing as a pillar of truth and consistency. It closes the loop of endlessly sifting through folders, and it means there’s no need to reinvent the wheel (and have it look slightly different every time).


Initiating New Team Members


When new members are brought in to a team, the task of bringing them up to speed can seem daunting. With a Design System, it doesn’t have to be. Having guidelines already established helps reduce the fear of mistakes. Instead of wondering if they’re doing things correctly, or whether or not “the ways things have always been done” is the way things should always be done, they have a point of reference to rely on.

A Design System makes it clear when to follow established methods and when to get creative.


Faster and More Efficient Implementation


A Design System makes the repetitive simple, and in turn, frees up bandwidth to focus on other issues. Simply put, make one input form and be done. Move on! Your brand and your business should be unique, but not every button and component in your product needs to be.


Getting Started


Right then, Design Systems are great; we all agree. Now, where in the world do we start?


Know Thy Audience


The first question to ask is “How far do you want to go?” Not all Design Systems are created equal, and that’s perfectly okay. Before jumping into the trenches of documentation, establish who this document is for.

Is it a visual guide to streamline workflow for your designers and developers? Are you hoping to encompass an entire brand or just a product? Do these standards apply company-wide, or only to specific teams?

Establishing these criteria from the start means content included will be limited to solely that which is relevant while taking into account topics that might otherwise be overlooked.

Holy Grail Design System Mantra: Include what’s necessary, forget the rest.


Set a Foundation, Then Start Building


It’s natural to want to jump right in with outlining specifications for colors and typography and logos and all that jazz. After all, these things are likely already established, so it seems like the perfect place to get started.

Before setting sail on this epic journey, though, we need to make the decisions all others will stem out of. This includes specifying things like core company ideals, values, and objectives. Having these from the beginning unifies the entire process because rather than asking, “Is this the best solution?” at every step, we can instead ask, “Does this solution achieve our core objectives?”.

Rather than trying to reach this vague, undefined level of perfection, decisions are kept focused and direct.


Dive Deep, But Know When to Stop


If you’re the type of person who finds the thought of being locked in a disorganized room, armed with a label maker therapeutic (I’m one of them), then you might be tempted to include every possible ounce of documentation in your Design System. I’m here to tell you to resist that urge.

Think back to the group of people who this is intended for. Do they really need to know the exact spacing values for every minute detail, or will a standard grid system work just as effectively? By making things as straightforward and consistent as possible, you increase the odds of your Design System being correctly implemented across the board.

Guidelines should be specific enough to keep everyone on the same path, but it shouldn’t be so burdened with details that it dictates their every step.


Let’s Wrap Things Up, Shall We?


Here at Shockoe, our Design system is named “Monster”, and that’s a pretty accurate description. Creating a Design System can sometimes feel like taming a wild beast, but I guarantee it will be worth it. Your designers will love you, your developers will thank you, your content writers will want to shake your hand, and above all, your customers will praise the rising level of quality within your products.


Hannah Kauffman

Hannah Kauffman

UX/UI Designer

Hannah is a UX/UI Designer with a passion for all things creative and a penchant for the whimsical. If she’s not at her desk designing the next rad app, she’s probably off painting, or drawing, or drafting her third novel! Fueled by an overactive imagination and copious amounts of tea, her goal is simple: elevating the human experience through tech.

Successful Messaging in the Age of Over-Communication

Successful Messaging in the Age of Over-Communication

The year is 2018. A vast majority of people have embraced mobile technology and with it, the ability to stay connected and engaged. While in theory, receiving emails, push notifications, SMS, and chat messages means users now have the chance to remain informed, such methods are becoming increasingly overused and contributing to the noisy landscape which in turn is selectively consumed by recipients. So as marketers or operative managers, how do you succeed at ensuring your message, sometimes a critical one, is actually engaged? Let’s start at the top.

My Message is Important

Everyone thinks so, and some people are right to think it. So how do you stand out? Messaging teams have long-relied on statistics and trends around open and click-through rates to ensure that their next message has optimal delivery. Take as an example a hypothetical grocery store sending app users a push notification to visit the store on the way home from work. If the strategy involves sending a push-notification at 5:30 pm to catch people on the commute home, this tactic is constructed on the variable of general time.

Conversely exists the strategy of “on my time” (timing). Applications can provide administrators, marketers, and managers information that is knowledgeable about the end user. In the same scenario, a grocery store can use geofencing to detect as users approach the store and notify them of sales and promotions on their personal commonly purchased products.

Both scenarios used the same messaging format, but one delivered invaluable utility while the other one took broad strokes. The latter is considered part of the noisy landscape — a message that can ultimately drive users to turn off push notifications or sometimes delete an application altogether.


Timing in Business Operations

Many of these messaging methods have become increasingly thought of as consumer-facing tactics. Truth is, enterprise operations have more to gain than ever by embracing the right medium at the right time. As the supply chain makes a shift to be increasingly digital, it’s not just the senior management and supervisors leveraging technology. Companies such as Amazon, Arrow Electronics, and Oneok are placing more managers and operative members into the digital environment to ensure the quality of process and deliver. How so?

Warehouse operators

  • As shifts begin, a push notification including a short list of initial items can remind operators of where to begin their work and click on the application and begin the picking process.
  • Notifications can be sent for upcoming picks or incorrectly scanned items.

Mobile workforce

  • Appointment reminders, traffic updates, and route adjustments — whether employees are on the field fixing pipeline or servicing HVAC, companies can use application data to send well-timed SMS and push notifications to keep employees on track.

Management and Supervisors

  • Performance metrics can be emailed at the day’s conclusion. How many successful picks? Who is overperforming? Who needs additional training?
  • Chatbots can bridge the gap between onboarding and company know-how. Common questions can be answered by seeking out keywords. More challenging queries can now be processed through AI-powered chatbots that can seek out common threads, tone, context, and timing to give the best possible answer.

The common element in each instance above is ‘utility.’ A message is likely to be engaged if it provides value at the right moment, and in each case above it helps workers optimally complete a task. This is the universal ingredient to successful messaging in 2018 — if you’re delivering irrelevant content at the wrong time it is likely that the user will learn to disregard messages and ultimately drive the overall process to failure.


Consumer Facing Timing

When it comes to customer-facing applications, timing is arguably trickier, but in truth, it’s built on the same principles as before. Earlier we took a look at how a grocery store could provide utility vs. blanket marketing. As a CMO, this is the fundamental principle that should be looked at when figuring out the best moment to engage your customers.

Great timing stems from understanding your specific consumer and their buying/use habits. Whether you’re a bank, a retailer, or a service provider, nobody likes unsolicited sales pleas having nothing to do with their day. Nevertheless, if you know when your customer is supposed to be boarding their plane, or you know when they regularly shop at your store, or you got to know a need of theirs through a customer service chatbot, leverage your knowledge to push information that will deliver the utility they seek from working with your company digitally.

How are different industries delivering this type of utility?

Banks & Money Management

  • Reserved for truly personal and time-critical information, banks should use a mixture of SMS and push notifications to notify users of security breaches and irregular withdrawals from their accounts.
  • For less pressing information including account statements and policy updates, an email will ensure there is a delivered record. Without the urgency
  • Companies like Mint and YNAB are communicating updates on excessive spending and budget thresholds through push notifications that ensure users keep an eye on their finances day-to-day.

Travel & Logistics

  • Travel updates, flight cancellations, train re-routes and detours. When there are adjustments that impact the path of travel, companies can communicate with passengers through SMS and push notifications to potentially save a trip to the airport and get rescheduled through the application.


  • Brands recognize the importance of keeping consumers connected to their carts, regardless of if they complete their transaction. If a consumer has added products to their cart in the app and they lock their phone/go inactive, a push notification to remind them that they have items in their cart and increase the likelihood of a completed purchase.
  • To help reconnect customers to brands, emails are helpful for helping customers plan for sales events. Customers can receive coupons after not visiting their site for a certain set of days, invites to sale events on products based on their shopping habits, or even calendar events so customers can have a sale set in their personal calendars.

The Noisy Messaging Landscape

Email, SMS, push notifications, and in-app messaging began with humble beginnings — mechanisms for maintaining personal relationships and running business processes and workflows. Marketers saw an opportunity to embed themselves as part of that world, first by email, then by text, and today through push notifications and chat-bots.

The result is a digital space filled with endless noise. Consumers and employees are getting inundated with messages. According to the Worldwide Daily Email Traffic Report, by 2019 people will receive and send between 100 and 250 emails a day.



                                          Worldwide Daily Email Traffic


Similarly, text messaging, once an exclusive space for friends, family, and close colleagues, is becoming an increasingly used medium for businesses and marketers to promote products and services. Even though there are the limitations to length and content, it’s a popular enough medium that people will exchange anywhere between 25 and 130 daily messages.


Daily -Texts

                                                  Daily Texts by U.S. Adults


Last but not least, push notifications, in-app messaging, and toast, have finished saturating the space by engaging audiences across all connected devices (PC, tablet, phone), regardless of whether the device is in use or not. As with the previous two mediums, marketers have found a way to interrupt the average person as many as 45 times per day with push notifications.



                               Push Notifications Benchmark Open Rates


So what does this all mean? Unsurprisingly, the limited bandwidth and desire to sift through content means open and engagement rates are at an all-time low.


You can still stand out

The reality is when used at the right time and for the right purpose, these three mediums can be highly effective at engaging users. Shockoe approaches messaging in the same way we approach all other technology; we incorporate utility into technology that will make work easier. The result should be a user base that will grow to believe in the value of your message, your application, and your service.

If you’re not sure how to approach messaging in your own application, internal or customer facing, give us a shout! We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve to help your company leverage the power of effective messaging.


Jaime De La Ree

Jaime De La Ree

Business Development Lead

Jaime De La Ree is the acting business development lead at Shockoe with five years of experience in mobile technology consulting. Before joining Shockoe, Jaime worked in supply chain distribution management and later as a non-profit technology partner. When he’s not helping Shockoe build partnerships, Jaime spends his time with his wife and son, and in the remaining time is an avid carpenter, photographer, and astronomer.

Know Your Business to Know Your App

For a moment, imagine if you owned a hotel chain. If you were going to create a mobile application for phones, should it make the focus on transactions? Should it make the focus doling out coupons and discounts to would-be customers?

You’d think so, right?

Not necessarily if your are the Ritz-Carton Hotel Company.

While the luxury hotel chain’s App does do those things, they certainly are not the focus of the marketing campaign or of the the mobile application itself, according to a recent announcement by Ritz-Carlton. The company has unveiled a new mobile application for Apple iOS and Android smartphones which provides more than just standard hotel searches and reservations. The Ritz-Carlton App highlights a feature for hotel guests called “Presidential Tips” in which Ritz-Carlton president Herve Humler shares his favorite spots, features and unique touches of each and every Ritz-Carlton Hotel from their chain of hotels around the world. It’s like a guided tour by the president, available for every guest in every Ritz-Carlton hotel, available at all times.

Brilliant, right?

“In my role, I am fortunate to be able to visit all of our stunning locations around the world,” said Humler about the App. “I want to enrich the Ritz-Carlton experience for our guests further with details about the things I have found to be quite unique and memorable in my travels. With The Ritz-Carlton App I can now do that very easily and in real-time.”

For even the most seasoned and pampered of luxury travellers, staying at a Ritz-Carlton is still a special experience, so allowing their exclusive clientele some VIP insider information delivered directly to their smartphones can only enhance their experience and will only increase the guest’s likelihood of sharing that experience with others.

The value of the Ritz-Carlton brand is in its luxuriance, its privilege, its uniqueness and its cultural and historical value for each of their properties, sharing those details can be difficult for a fully functioning hotel, even one with the level of service that even Ritz-Carlton affords. But the mobile application has made it very easy to provide more service and enhance the experience while tying right back into the core identity of what Ritz-Carlton is.

This mobile application ties in nicely with the overall exclusivity and luxury of the brand, while giving users reason to continue to use the App as they travel from one city to another to learn more about the company’s offerings, maybe those users will even find a deal or two along the way.

Even luxury travellers like a deal now and again … right?

What is unique about your organization or brand? How can you use that differentiation to your advantage through a web or mobile application? Can Shockoe help you uncover and utilize those key distinctions for your own mobile or web application? Please let us know in the comments, we’re here to help!