Conducting Your First Design System Listening Tour

A "Listening Tour" gathers user insights to enhance design system consistency, scalability, and prioritize improvements.
Lenora Porter
June 19, 2024
min read

In the fast-evolving field of technology, design systems are critical for maintaining consistency and scalability across products. If you're tasked with improving a design system, initiating a "Listening Tour" can be a transformative approach. This tour allows you to collect invaluable insights directly from those who interact with your system daily. Here’s how you can conduct your first design system listening tour, using a structured playbook.

The Goals of a Listening Tour

Your tour should aim to achieve the following:

  • Gain Deep Insights into User Pain Points and Opportunities: Understand the specific challenges and areas for potential enhancement in the design system that could improve user experience and productivity.
  • Comprehensively Understand Current Workflows: Identify how different teams use the design system and the challenges they face, which tools they use, and the integration points within their workflows.
  • Identify Priority Projects and Initiatives: Focus on understanding what users see as critical improvements or innovations that should be tackled. Establish Strong Relationships and Trust: Use this opportunity to build rapport and trust across teams, ensuring they feel comfortable providing honest feedback.
  • Explore and Understand Team Culture: Delve into the existing team culture surrounding design systems. Identify shared values, norms, and practices that influence how teams collaborate and interact with the design system.

Planning the Listening Tour

Identify the Participants

Begin by identifying who will provide the most insightful feedback. Key participants should include:

  • Key Stakeholders: These are senior leaders or influential figures within the organization who can provide strategic direction and facilitate the necessary support and resources.
  • UI Engineers: As primary users, they offer detailed technical feedback on the usability and efficiency of the design system.
  • Designers: Designers interact with a specific part of the design system, primarily the Figma component library. Their insights are crucial for understanding how the visual and functional elements of the design system support or hinder their creative processes. They can also provide feedback on the aesthetics, usability, and how well the system integrates with other design tools.
  • Product Managers (PMs): Their insights bridge technical and business perspectives, reflecting on how the design system affects product development.
  • Backend Engineers: They can discuss how the system integrates with backend systems and overall system performance.
  • High Priority Teams: Teams that frequently use the design system or whose work significantly depends on it.
  • Accessibility Specialists: Essential for ensuring the design system is inclusive and compliant with accessibility standards.
  • Representatives from Varied Departments: Including marketing, sales, customer support, and human resources to gain diverse perspectives on the design system's impact across the organization.

Invite Participants

Utilizing a combination of communication methods will ensure effective outreach to all potential participants:

  • Email Invitations: Provide detailed information and allow for direct scheduling via calendar links.
  • Personal Invitations: Use for key stakeholders to emphasize the importance of their feedback and secure high-level engagement.
  • Company Newsletter or Design System Newsletter: Broaden awareness and encourage participation across different departments.
  • Slack Announcements: A more informal and interactive approach, inviting participants to express their interest by reacting to a Slack post. This can encourage spontaneous participation and make the process feel more inclusive and less formal.

Draft Your Interview Script

Here’s an example of how you might structure your conversations:


Start with a warm introduction, explaining your role and the goals of the listening tour. Make it clear that this is a casual and open conversation, and seek consent if you wish to record the session for note-taking purposes.

Thank you for taking the time to participate in our design system listening tour.
You’ve probably seen the goals outlined in the email invitation, but as a reminder the goals of this conversation are:
  • Understanding how our design system impacts your work
  • Identify challenges and opportunities related to design systems.
  • Gather feedback to improve our design system.
What team are you currently working on?
How long have you been using Walrus?

Get to Know Each Participant

Ask participants about their role and how it intersects with the design system. Understanding their daily interaction with the system will provide context for their feedback.

To start off, I’d love to learn a bit more about your background, could you give me a two minute overview about what you do in your role?
How does this role interact with the Walrus - the design system?
What team are you currently working on?
How long have you been using Walrus?

Dig In

Encourage participants to walk you through their typical workflow using the design system, highlighting both pain points and effective aspects. Ask how the design system could be better aligned with their workflows and what limitations they currently face.

Can you walk me through your typical workflow when using our Walrus?
In what ways do you think the design system could be improved to better align with your workflows?
Could you highlight tasks in your workflow where better support from the design system could be beneficial?
What aspects of our current design system do you find helpful in your work?
Are there any aspects of the design system that you find challenging or limiting?
How do you currently address any gaps or limitations in the design system?
Have you found any alternative approaches to address shortcomings in the design system?

Topic Specific Questions

Inquire about the tools and software they use in conjunction with the design system and how they keep updated on its changes and updates.

What design tools or software do you commonly use alongside our design system?
How do you stay updated on its current state?
How did you initially onboard to the design system?
What strategies do you use to maintain alignment and communication with team members regarding design system usage?
What methods do you use to collaborate with the design system team?

Magic Wand and Closing Questions

End with a creative question about what they would change if they had a magic wand. This can often reveal the most significant insights. Finally, invite any questions they might have for you, signaling openness to their perspective.

If you could wave a magic wand and improve one aspect of our design system instantly, what would it be?
Where do you see potential areas for our design system to better support your work and the team’s goals?
Is there any additional information you want to share with me about your experience with the design system?
Do you have any questions for me?

Analyze Findings

Once your listening tour is complete, compile and analyze the data. Look for common themes and insights that can drive meaningful improvements. Share these findings with all stakeholders, ensuring transparency and showing participants that their input is valued and impactful.

By carefully planning and executing a design system listening tour, you can enhance not only the system itself but also foster a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement within your organization. Remember, the goal is to listen actively, respond thoughtfully, and implement strategically.

Last Updated:
June 26, 2024