A design system audit is a must-have, especially when scaling your business. It ensures consistency and better user experiences for sustainable growth and innovation.

In 2024, good design is the cornerstone for any digital product to achieve success in the market. And for any product with good design, it is essential to have an effective, convenient, and easy-to-use design system – for without it, no matter how good your design is, it will be challenging to scale.

We’ve talked a lot about design systems in our earlier articles, but today we plan to talk specifically about how to keep updating your design system to accommodate the ever-expanding needs of the user and product.

The Importance of a Design System

Why do we need a design system anyway? If the design is good enough and the users love it, what’s the need for a design system at all?

The answer is quite simple, the design you make is for the user, but the system is for you. In the extremely competitive landscape of the twenty-first century, it is of utter importance that we place emphasis on design systems. I’ll tell you why;

Imagine you’re a product owner. Let’s say you were Amazon during the inception of the iPhone. Your major concern was website and web apps. The concept of user experience was less explored.The designers/developers who worked on the Amazon product only knew of an interface with a big screen and a keyboard attached to it. The thought of a portable computing device may not have crossed their minds until Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007.

Because the concept of highly advanced UX design and the concept of a design system was quite alien to product development teams back in the day, it took a whopping two years for the team to launch a fully-fledged Amazon app on the Apple App Store. And the rest is history!

Amazon went on to become a global e-commerce leader.

Now imagine the same scenario, but the companies have a system in place to organize the practices, methodology, and rules in a unified format. So now if there’s a requirement to add a new module or a massive shift in the overall layout of devices, it’d be easier for the company to quickly adopt these ever-shifting practices. This is what a design system does for brands - it prepares the business in a way that makes it easier for the product to adapt to new changes in a highly volatile tech realm. 

Understanding this today, almost all of the leading digital product makers have a fully-fledged design system in place so that adaptation is easy and quick, giving them a competitive advantage light years ahead of brands without one.

Importance of Design System Audit

Quality Check

Recall the famous words of the celebrated Zen monk- Shunryu Suzuki- " There is always room for improvement". Rigorous quality checks take us one step closer to the perfect design.

As a leading UI UX design agency in India, we assess the quality of each component in a design system so that it’s “close to being perfect”. The whole purpose of a design system is to make designing interfaces more streamlined and consistent.Frequent design system audits ensure product consistency, and help designers reduce the time spent on creating and reviewing those designs.

Identifying Gaps

Identifying gaps and vulnerabilities is critical in any organization, big or small.This is akin to content gap analysis to assess if content strategy is aligned with organizational goals.. A UI/UX designer can gain valuable information from such a lookback. A UX design audit provides a new perspective, allowing users to look at the system critically, and would also help the company or product owner add new functionality according to the varying design trends in the industry as well.

Ensuring Consistency

Constant audits are necessary to ensure there are no missing components that can hinder accommodating a new functionality or module in a design system.

For example, say you have a library of different buttons that are designed for different purposes. And you’re missing a link button, so when a designer is creating a screen with the same requirement, he/she is forced to improvise with the existing style because there isn’t a proper description as to how it should be. If multiple designers create their improvised version of the same component, you’re left with different styles of a component that does the same thing. 

This is where a constant audit is imperative. Once such a problem is identified, it could quickly be communicated to the designers working on design systems so that there wouldn’t be a lack of these essential components.

Updating Design Standards and Policies

As a company grows and the standards and principles around product design change, it should be  accommodative to these changes. This is where updating standards and policies come into the picture. So when the time comes, a company has to update its products and features to cope with the evolving demands of customers/digital landscape. Having a well-audited system in place ensures easy adaptation and a seasoned designer will know precisely where changes are required.

Conducting Design System Audits

Now there are two ways, or two times, we could potentially conduct audits. One is the regular audit, where you make a list of things to check for and rectify the design system, and the other is when you find an error while in the middle of designing something and decide to act on it.

In both of these scenarios, it is important to understand and list out why you’re conducting an audit in the first place, whether it’s to rectify an issue or just to simply evaluate the effectiveness of your system. This is important because once you have a clear idea of what you’re looking for or are willing to solve, the rest of the process becomes really easy and convenient.

Key aspects to consider while auditing design systems.

  • Checking for faults in the product
  • Implementing design inventory 
  • Analyzing new requirements
  • Performing accessibility analysis 
  • Communicating UI UX design system audit findings 

1. Checking for Faults in the Product

Several factors contribute to deciding if a design system audit is required.

  1. to bring in a new feature or an asset to the existing product ecosystem.
  2. to bring in something entirely new or different into the product.

In both of these instances, there’s an impending need to add something new to the system. Even when there’s a need to correct faults within the system.

Another way we could make sure that your design is up-to-date is when you’re conducting an audit on the usability of your products. An example that we did in our own organization is when a popular Swedish brand decided to check the user compatibility of their website.

During the audit, we found many usability errors on their website. An interesting find was that a lot of the components they used in their website weren't derived from their pre-existing design system; rather, they were improvised – “fillings between the cracks because the design system developed wasn’t inclusive enough to fit in the design requirements of a whole other lineage of language. We were auditing the Middle East version of a largely Euro-centric website, and the system they’ve created predominantly catered to the European audience. These findings were quickly communicated, and the necessary changes were made.

2. Implementing Design Inventory 

Conducting a design inventory is a crucial but time-consuming step in a design system audit. During this process, UI/UX designers compile every UI element that makes up the design system. This includes creating a catalog of design policies, pattern libraries, component libraries, and branding guidelines. 

One common approach is manual inspection, where designers review each screen of the design system to collect and organize these elements in a shared space. This catalog serves as a reference point during design audits, helping to detect and address any flaws in the system.

3. Analyzing New Requirements

New requirements within a product could come in all sorts of ways. From a small button to a whole page, anything new that’s been added is essentially a new requirement. So the greatest strength of a person working on a design system is adherence to adaptability. 

Adaptability is the very essence of a design system. A design system is a set of instructions that are used to maximize the efficiency of creating designs. So creating a new component or element from scratch is generally considered to be counterintuitive in some cases. If there is a new requirement, the first thing that the designer must do is check whether the existing components would fit into the idea of the new requirement and if any of the new components could be repurposed. If not, then only venture into the idea of creating a new component from scratch.

4. Performing Accessibility Analysis 

Accessibility can't be sidelined—in fact, it's essential in a design system audit. Start with a detailed checklist to make sure every component is up to standard. Accessibility tools and W3C's preliminary tests can guide you. It's also smart to see how giants like IBM and Google weave accessibility into their design systems for a dose of inspiration. The goal? To craft a user experience that's welcoming to all. Make sure your development team has all the notes they need for a seamless transition, with a strong focus on accessibility every step of the way.

5. Communicating UI UX Design System Audit Findings 

Once the audit is complete, it is important to distill complex technical information into clear and concise messages that resonate with stakeholders at all levels. Utilizing visual aids such as charts, graphs, and infographics can help illustrate key points and make the data more digestible. Also, crafting a comprehensive report that outlines the audit methodology, identified issues, and recommended actions is essential for providing context and guiding decision-making.

Regular meetings or presentations with relevant teams and decision-makers can further facilitate understanding and ensure that the audit findings are properly addressed and integrated into the organization's design processes. Transparent and effective communication is key to ensuring that the insights gained from the audit drive tangible improvements in the UI/UX design system

What Comes Next After a Design System Audit? 

Testing New Advances With the Product

To maximize the efficiency of the design system and make it capable of competing and accommodating the latest in technology and requirements, it’s essential to flex the muscles of the system once in a while. Remember what happened to Amazon? So, when the time comes, the transition will be smooth and frictionless.

Incorporating New Advances Into the System.

After successful testing, what follows is to incorporate new developments into the design system to ensure system speed is boosted to align with the latest design standards, technologies, and user preferences. This guarantees that the product is not just competitive and relevant, but also user-friendly.

Design System Audit for Success 

For contemporary organizations, a design system audit is essential for examining and enhancing design components. In addition to the knowledge and commitment required for this extensive procedure, understanding the latest trends and constantly tracking user feedback is crucial. Audits guarantee coherence and competitiveness. Having a full-fledged design system is like an anchor to a ship; it helps the ship position itself in the ever-evolving design requirements.


Vigneshwaran is a UI/UX designer with an unwavering passion for staying ahead of the curve in the ever-evolving domain of design. He has a deep understanding of user research, information architecture, and visual design principles. Vigneswaran is proficient in Figma and uses his skills to meet business objectives. He is a dedicated team player who values collaboration and communication as key components of success. Connect with Vigneshwaran via www.linkedin.com/in/vigneshwaran-m-079baa187

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