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We recently kicked off some alpha work on an all-of-government Design System for New Zealand, based on initial pattern library work done last year.

We’re creating a design system that makes it easier for digital teams and vendors to design, prototype and ultimately solve end user problems. We also want to enable collaboration between practitioners and government agencies, fostering innovation in digital service delivery for users.

What is a design system?

A design system is a catalogue of all of the reusable components, patterns and base elements you might need on a website or an app. It also includes documentation on how and when to use each component, making use as easy as possible.

Design systems support designer, developer and content teams, whether that’s prototyping, designing, developing or writing content.

Why use a design system?

Design systems ensure components, elements and patterns across digital services are consistent. This consistency builds a better user experience and trust, improving digital service delivery across government.

Design systems can help teams save time by providing accessible, usable, well-tested components, making prototyping, designing and development flows much faster and more efficient.

Building on best practice design systems

The team have been inspired by great work done by GOV.UK, the United States Web Design System (USWDS) and the Australian Government Design System teams.

We are researching and discussing the scope of patterns and components, as well as the principles of what the initial alpha design system could be. 

After looking at some existing design systems, the questions we had were:

  • What unique requirements do we have in New Zealand?
  • Could we justify building a new design system?

We decided not to ‘reinvent the wheel’, so we’re building on the GOV.UK Design System - a system with years of development. It’s a mature and proven design system, with full rigour in accessibility and testing.

We began our work by comparing GOV.UK’s elements and patterns against the USWDS and the Australian Government Design System to get a best practice approach. We created an inventory of elements from GOV.UK, and started our list of components in scope for alpha. 

We also researched existing NZ government websites looking for common themes, approaches, and patterns that could become part of the New Zealand all-of-government Design System, and could inform the look and feel of what we build to test.

It is important to us that we also look to best practice across sectors to ensure our design system meets user needs. We’ve identified some approaches from other design systems that we wanted to incorporate, such as a more refined spacious and contemporary aesthetic. We’re achieving these mainly through the use of white space, grids and refined typography.

Next steps

We know the key to this project will be adoption, rather than creating a standalone idealistic system that no-one uses. We’ll be speaking at Meetups, writing regular blog posts, and sending out newsletters to get your feedback and keep you informed.

Get involved! - volunteer to test the alpha Design System

We are looking for volunteers to help test components on the alpha system. You can be one of the first people to see the design system, and contribute to its development.

To become an alpha tester or to receive newsletters from us, please email Jas.Hua@dia.govt.nz

The all-of-government Design System work is part of the Navigate programme of work, commissioned by Government Information Services at the Department of Internal Affairs. The programme team are based at the Service Innovation Lab.

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