Atomic Design Helps You Build at Any Scale

Thought Leadership

By Iñaki Barturen | December 09, 2021
Illustration of a man looking at an atomic structure. The red circle is the nucleus, with a blue electron circling it.

Atomic design is an agile way of creating digital assets that’s leading the charge for modern design. For companies developing an interconnected digital ecosystem, it’s a great method to use for designing solutions with scale in mind.

The approach works by designing components in a modular way. By taking a design plan and breaking it into individual parts (or atoms), teams can easily add or subtract components. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how atomic design works and why we use the method for many of our projects.

Modular content facilitates agile development

The idea of modularity, or breaking things into smaller parts, is one of the cornerstones of modern technology development. By using modules and atoms that are easy to assemble, you can maintain complex systems at scale.

With this approach, you standardize each design element according to your brand and style guide. Then you generate content types, content relationships, and content hierarchies that fall within your overarching family of design elements. This helps keep your elements feeling cohesive as you mix and match them in different combinations across your platform.

At Apply Digital, we believe that using modular designs with decoupled architecture is the best approach to developing modern digital platforms. Atomic design goes hand in hand with the Composable Commerce philosophy, as they both rely on modular elements that shape the end solution.

Facilitating collaborative work

One of the benefits of embracing atomic design is that it sparks collaboration. Design teams can work with modular blocks rather than having to request code updates for every change. This makes the process more efficient between development and design, helping your projects stay on track.

Since you’ll be creating a hierarchy of assets, your team will have a clear set of components that follow specific brand guidelines and are organized in an accessible way for their work. We find that using this method increases the speed at which teams can create, which gets you to launch faster. For every modern company looking to scale their digital assets, atomic design deserves a place in your playbook.

Improving content governance

Another benefit of atomic design is that it facilitates improved governance over your content standards. Because your designs are made up of individual atoms, your team can quickly pull pieces together to form new pages and views from pre-approved blocks. This considerably reduces the time it takes to create new experiences, as pre-approved material is already available that adheres to your style guidelines. This workflow is what makes atomic design an ideal approach for companies scaling their digital presence.

Atomic design enables companies to grow their digital assets consistently and efficiently over time. In an environment where there’s an increasing amount of device types to design for, your web properties will have the flexibility to adapt to any customer preference, including web, mobile, tablet, or console technology. This approach ensures that device diversification is built into your tech ecosystem from the get-go.

Working off of pre-approved blocks also ensures that brands are publishing content that is both responsive and accessible. Atomic design enables you to quickly generate accessible digital experiences for any platform and maintain that consistency over time.

Helping modern businesses evolve

Whether you have a handful or thousands of product pages, atomic design enables you to build and maintain your content at any scale. Your style guide, accessibility standards, and device responsiveness are built into all of the modular elements you use to build your pages.

At Apply Digital, we use atomic design as the foundation of our agile development approach. We believe it’s important to have a design system that makes it easy to create and maintain content, no matter your stage of business. If you’d like to learn more about implementing atomic design on your team, reach out to us today — we’d be happy to chat.