April 2023

Why has development on my digital product suddenly slowed down?

A startup moves fast and grows fast. That’s what it’s built to do. But after a while, it can feel like you’re not shipping as fast as you used to. Why does it happen, and how can you fix it?
Doctor Belka
Digital Product Design Dog

Send your questions about product design to doctor@belkadigital.com or tweet at @belkadigital with the hashtag #doctorbelka!

The good news first: If your development starts slowing down, it might just be because you’re growing and your product is becoming more mature. Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms. 

  1. Your product is becoming more complex. Most products start small. Maybe you launched a minimum viable product with only the bare necessities. But after a while, you and your users want more. So you start adding stuff. More features, more screens, more support for another platform. Soon, you find that even minor changes have cascading effects throughout the whole product. 
  2. Your team is growing. Wait, shouldn’t development go faster when you add resources? In theory, yes. But for every person you add to the team, the more they need to communicate and coordinate. And that takes time, effort, and proper processes.
  3. You have handoff issues. Speaking of communications, sometimes designers lose track of what developers are working on, and vice versa! Or for some reason the teams can’t seem to stay in sync. The result: shipping new features becomes a never-ending, stop-and-go process.
  4. There’s no captain on the bridge. Without a clear direction and an “owner” responsible for the ultimate outcome, teams and people start going solo, leading to inconsistencies and broken experiences throughout the product.
  5. You’re talking too much. It’s good to talk! Early on, it’s easy to ask everyone for their thoughts and get their feedback. But at some point, it starts being more energy-consuming and can result in too many dependencies and no centralized efforts. You spend a lot of time talking about where to go, without actually getting anywhere.
  6. Your focus is on the small things. Rather than tackling big picture issues like UX research and product direction, your team spends time on low level UI decisions — how a button should look, font sizes, and so on. Stuff that you should have figured out once and moved on.

Design systems to the rescue

And now for the bad news. Just kidding, there’s no bad news!

All the symptoms on that list are just symptoms of growth. A bigger product built by a bigger team means you need processes for work and communication. 

As you may know, at Belka we’re huge fans of design systems. So it may not surprise you when I tell you that this is a case where they can come to the rescue.

Most people think of design systems as tools to make sure everything looks and feels the same across different parts of an app or website, making the experience more enjoyable for users.

But how can design systems help you deal with growth?

Let’s see.

Design systems are a collection of rules and ready-made building blocks. That means designers and developers don’t have to start from scratch every time they create something new, saving them time and effort. 

By taking care of the basic stuff, they also let you focus on more important and creative things, like shipping.

They also create a common language for everyone on the team. This makes it easier for designers, developers and all the different stakeholders to communicate with each other.

Design systems are scalable! They make it easy to ship new features and can work well with different projects and teams. They don’t just help you grow, they also grow with you.

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Don’t get me wrong — design systems won’t solve all your problems! And they’re not even for everyone! But they can really help product teams deal with the problems that come with scaling. 


— Doctor Belka

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Want to know more about design systems?

  • Here's our Design Systems 101 guide to the rescue!
  • Dr. Belka answers a thorny question: What’s a design system, and do I need one? Read the article
  • When the pandemic hit, Subito, one of Italy’s top 10 online destinations, switched overnight to working in the cloud. Belka helped them rebuild their design system from scratch in Figma. Case study
  • Our CEO Giulio and our Product Designer Mattia talked about design systems with Experience Design Academy and POLI.design. Here’s the video (in Italian).

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