Design Systems for improved development efficiency in Software Startups

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Perustieteiden korkeakoulu | Master's thesis
Human-Computer Interaction and Design
Degree programme
Master's Programme in ICT Innovation
94 + 4
The Design Systems concept originates from the need of IT industry to make design reusable, consistent and easier to maintain at a scale. In practice it consists of a set of deliverables, that continuously evolve with the product (e.g. style guides). Recently it has been gaining traction within large companies because it can improve the output of the software teams. However, there is very little research on the suitability of Design Systems for software startups. This study aims to determine whether software startups should use Design Systems, what benefits they could have in this context and to provide guidelines for startups that attempt to build one. To better understand how software startups work, we also look into current practices, potential challenges, and previous experience with Design Systems. In this context, software startups are defined as companies younger than 8 years, with no more than 50 employees and software as part of their product or service with a preference for Mobile and Web technologies. To get a thorough understanding, we combined Design System implementation for a software startup with qualitative interviews. The participants of the interviews were employees in various roles at 5 software startups. The analysis of the results showed that software startups are aware of the concept and in some cases even working on implementation. However, Design Systems are not useful for all software startups alike. Therefore, it is recommended that the decision about their suitability is need driven and made for every startup individually and based on aspects like timing, team and project structure. Since many software startups under-prioritise design in resource allocation and decision making, the Design System can serve as a way to put more focus on the design without compromising the development or at least synchronise the team efforts. The greatest benefits of a Design System for software startups are aligned with those of large companies and include increased design consistency, development efficiency and a clearer work structure.
Nieminen, Mika
Thesis advisor
Bauman, David
design system, software startup, design, mobile development, web development
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