BuzzFeed App Design System

Streamline design workflow, boost time to market

I lead strategy, design and implementation of a unified design system for the BuzzFeed apps. I tackled design inconsistencies and made updates faster by working closely with engineers to unify components and styles. I managed the project from start to finish, significantly improving app consistency and team efficiency.

Role: Lead Designer & PM
Duration: 4 months
Team: App Experience - PM, Android & iOS engineers, QA

Problem

The BuzzFeed app had significant design inconsistencies which caused confusion, slowing the design-to-development handoff process. Visual cohesion across iOS and Android platforms, under both light and dark themes, got progressively worse with each new project. Design and engineering teams had their own understanding and application of styles causing a lot of back and forth during visual QA.

buzzfeed app design system - problems - workflow before

Goal

  • Achieve and maintain consistency in the Android & iOS BuzzFeed apps
  • Promote understanding of our visual language so it feels cohesive across platforms

Key Success metric: Achieve a faster time to market by reducing the average time taken from design handoff to launch.

buzzfeed app design system - figma kit and tokens preview

Solution

I built a design system aimed at solving the team’s need for a reliable solution that would last long-term and scale along with the product.

buzzfeed app design system - solution - workflow after


Approach

We needed an approach that doesn't just solve our problems today, but also sets us up for the future. I also had to come up with a plan that wouldn’t hinder our product roadmap.

buzzfeed app design system - execution strategy and approach

Visual Inventory

Styling defined in code dictates the app's visuals. So I sat engineers to take an inventory of our styles. The inventory was performed across both apps, focusing on colors, fonts, and spacing to understand how we currently use our styles. These findings were then presented to the team.

buzzfeed app design system - visual style inventory audit

Styleguide update

Taking feedback into consideration, I documented how we currently use our styles along with a proposal to make necessary updates. Most recommendations weren't 'new'. For example, we already had a good set of colors that worked. It just wasn’t always clear where to use what. This step clarified that.

buzzfeed app design system - visual style inventory findings

Design Token setup and integration

buzzfeed app design system - design token setup and integration

Components for design and code

With design tokens established, I used it to craft a Figma component library. Working with engineers, we aligned our design and code components over time. This ensured consistency and simplified updates, strengthening collaboration across teams.

buzzfeed app design system - Components for design and code

Iterative implementation

I version controlled the Figma library, using semantic versioning and maintaining a changelog for each update. Updates were published through the library and communicated through Basecamp and Slack. I coordinated with the apps team to schedule iOS and Android updates efficiently ahead of sprints.

buzzfeed app design system - Iterative implementation library release cadence changelog

Over time, the BF app design system became a resource for designers across product teams who were building features for the app


Outcome

The design system was a scalable solution that stood the test of time. It transformed the app development process.

buzzfeed app design system - outcome preview

Success was measured through surveys. The reduction in time spent on design revisions and the number of inconsistencies reported during QA provided clear, measurable outcomes. Internal surveys and feedback sessions helped clarify how improved team morale and collaboration improved across teams.

buzzfeed app design system - results

Learnings and reflections

  • Collaboration bridges gaps: Understanding each other’s (designers and engineers) workflows enhanced our efficiency and innovation.
  • Small steps lead to big changes: Starting with manageable items and validating that built momentum that enabled significant, progressive improvements over time.
  • Feedback fuels growth: Regular feedback sessions fine-tuned our approach and fostered a culture of continuous learning and adaptation.
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