Let’s talk about Scalable Design

André Oliveira
Mar 9, 2017 · 3 min read

We all heard about the importance of Scalable Development, right?

Websites need to perform in the same stable and reliable manner for 100, 1 million or 500 million users. Therefore, one of the major concerns for development teams is to build highly scalable systems capable of handling any type of traffic load, without compromising future product developments.

On the other hand, strangely, we don’t hear much about the importance of Scalable Design.

The inevitable product evolution

All products are expected to grow and evolve over time. It’s part of any product lifecycle.

For each product iteration: new features are going to be implemented, new customer segments are going to be targeted, verticals explored, marketing campaigns experimented, and the list goes on and on.

This means the initial design of the product interface will need to evolve and to adapt to the new circumstances, right? Yeah.

Unfortunately, many Designers don’t think the interface in a way that it can easily be changed. Often, these new sections, pages or elements that are added, clearly don’t fit in the existing layout. As a consequence, the entire interface design needs to be rethought as it wasn’t intended to be flexible from the start.

Here comes the importance of Scalable Design

Designers need to contemplate the possibility for business and product changes, right from the beginning, and that must be reflected in their Design proposals — this is a very specific mindset that designers struggle with sometimes.

In practice, when designers are creating new interface layouts from scratch, all Design elements should be conceived in a way they can be dynamic, flexible and extendable. The features needed to enable a product to grow.

Here are a couple of examples based on projects we worked on at Pixelmatters:

An example of Scalable design on a tag styled input field
Scalable tab menu to accommodate several items
Detailed calendar view designed to have multiple items in a restrictive bound

A cost-effective outcome

We’ve found that, for Companies, a Scalable approach to Product Design is very cost-effective in the long term, compared to the idea of having to afford complete redesigns every so often. Even if it means, that initially it can take a little bit longer or it’s slightly more expensive, it will pay off in the long run.

Hopefully this post will raise some awareness on this topic. We deeply believe Scalable Design is a key factor for the success of any digital product.

How have you been applying the Scalable approach to Product Design? Share your stories with us. We’d love to read them.


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Pixelmatters

Digital product studio. https://pixelmatters.com

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