How a design system can super-charge your AI strategy and differentiate your customer experience

AI capabilities are accelerating at a fast pace and elevating customer expectations with it. As businesses settle into their AI strategies this year, design systems will become foundational to the speed needed to stay competitive.

Design systems have been deployed at many of the biggest tech companies and brands around the world for nearly a decade. They've evolved and matured over the years, but it's ultimately these systems that drive the consistency and systemization so crucial across large suites of products.

These systems are empowering teams to think strategically rather than reactively. They allow more time spent in front of customers. The result: a better understanding of the market, challenge, and opportunity space, and ultimately a stronger customer experience.

If you want to infuse AI into your client experiences and continue iterating on your AI features in a smart and powerful way, a design system will get you there faster. Here we take a closer look at:

  1. How design systems paired with AI create more efficient teams and a more useful brand playbook
  2. How design systems lay the foundation for AI in your product
  3. What using AI and design systems together means for the future of user experience

Creating more efficient teams and a more useful playbook

A design system is the foundations, components, and best practices that guide an organization’s product decisions in crucial ways.  This comprehensive system details everything from voice and tone, colors and fonts, to how and when to use UI elements and for what purpose.

Adobe is a great example of the expansiveness and far reaching implications of a design system. The newest version of their design system, Spectrum, now spans more than 100 unique applications in dozens of languages, available on every major platform (web, desktop, mobile, and even mixed reality).

On average companies adopting a design system as a strategic tool see a 50% reduction of design, development and testing needed in product cycles. These efficiencies lead to faster time to market, which can have a big impact on the bottom line and customer perception.

The ability to work efficiently with information and data is something design systems and AI have in common. Design systems serve as repositories of institutional knowledge, offering tried-and-true solutions for various design challenges. This will be important in the context of generative AI, where a design system can teach AI the rules of your brand and product experience.

Lay the foundation for AI in your product, while keeping the customer experience elevated

Companies and products that have a mature design system have seamlessly made the pivot to incorporate AI innovation into their product offering.

ClickUp, a project management tool that previously shared why and how teams need a design system, recently released their AI assistant features.

"Every single person will see a massive benefit from AI in the near future,” said Zeb Evans, Founder and CEO, ClickUp. “Integrating AI into our platform marks a monumental stride towards fulfilling our mission of revolutionizing global productivity. Knowledge workers will not only accelerate their tasks but also elevate the quality of their output. Early adoption of AI technology ensures organizations gain a significant competitive edge in productivity and efficiency.”

It won't be long before AI capabilities will be table stakes, not differentiators. The companies that can quickly pivot into these new technologies in a meaningful way will build a market of loyal customers.

The benefit of a design system is that it lays the foundation for companies to adapt and integrate AI capabilities faster because product teams are not reinventing processes or testing every time they build a new feature.

Design systems also ensure a consistent customer experience. Nearly 90% of buyers say the experience a company provides matters as much as products or services according to a report from Salesforce.

AI offers a lot of exciting feature possibilities, but it’s still important to keep these experiences consistent with an existing brand look, feel and values.

A design system provides the defined framework for AI to work its magic on your company's terms.

What does using AI and design systems together mean for the future of user experience and digital content

Imagine a future, not far from now, where product teams can prompt their design system to "Generate an onboarding flow using our design system". We're seeing this type of generative design in tools like Galileo AI, which generates UI from text prompts. The future of product design will be using this type of generative AI in partnership with your design system.

This type of AI will empower teams and execs of various skill levels to iterate and improve digital customer experiences from simple commands without the need to code or design. A design system, paired with AI starts to act as an additional member of the creative team. But the only way this will be possible is if a company already has that system in place.

A survey found that more than 74% of product professionals spend less than five hours a month working with customers.

How can we understand our customers needs, pain points, and create a differentiated solution when we're spending less than 3% of our time with them each month.

Products and teams excel when they can focus on

  • Understanding the customer
  • Identifying the customer needs
  • Identifying business objectives that a product or feature will fulfill
  • Delivering a differentiated product

Design systems are building the foundation for AI within both a digital product and a digital product team's processes. This creates a positive cycle of more valuable inputs, faster iteration and testing cycles, leading to more valuable outputs in the form of impactful product updates.

AI is here to stay and is only getting more powerful. Now more than ever before, product and marketing teams have the tools that empower them to spend more time understanding their customer.

It's the teams that harness this intersection of design systems and AI that will move beyond just table stakes. These teams will be poised to differentiate and humanize the customer experience like never before.

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