Squeaky Wheel Gets the Grease

Europe saw more than 30,000 cases of measles in 2023, compared with 941 in 2022. For many, the success of vaccination meant the effects of the diseases became so insignificant as to become invisible—to the point where the vaccinations themselves become suspect. Why vaccinate for something that isn’t affecting us? It’s a terrible bit of logic but one that we see elsewhere.

“Hey, we need to do this or we’re going to hit a wall.” Well, we’re not hitting any walls so I guess we don’t need to do this. And then we hit a wall.

Any working system can become invisible to the point where the system loses value because it’s working. In reading Dave Rupert’s thoughts on the value of design systems, it felt like I was seeing the same type of logic. Profit can still be made without a design system. Profit can still be made with a system that uses four different JavaScript libraries and a half-dozen different backend frameworks.

A new design system can look like a formidable cost and a working design system can appear to provide no value at all.

One of the problems is that the success or failure of a system can be difficult to measure. We can estimate the hours gained or lost but it’s theoretical compared to the work actually performed. A business is rarely going to do the same work twice under similar conditions to prove whether something is faster or slower.

As a result, any change needs to provide a significant improvement to be noticeable. A 10% improvement? Hard to tell. A 50% improvement? Okay, we can see the difference.

So as Rupert says, the value is really only seen when there’s an event that highlights the effectiveness of a system. They are “an aspirin for a very common set of headaches” but maybe more importantly, they are vitamins for a well-running system.

Published January 29, 2024
Categorized as Usability
Short URL: https://snook.ca/s/1193