Design Systems - The Foundation of a Successful Multisite Project Using Site Studio

Today's businesses and enterprises require a dynamic, scalable, and efficient online presence. With the rise of multi-brand and multi-site platforms, the challenge of ensuring cohesion, uniformity, and customization is critical. The capabilities offered by Acquia Site Factory (ASCF) and Acquia Site Studio offer a solution. But, where do we start?

Unraveling the Design System

Before diving deep into the intricacies of the design system, you must understand the high-level attributes you value most. These attributes form the backbone of your design approach. They can range from:

  • Flexibility vs. Consistency: Do you want every site to be a unique experience, or should all sites under the platform share a common look and feel?
  • Brand Dynamics: Is the platform serving one or multiple brands? And if it's for several brands, is the design system a starting template, or does it have only certain customizable aspects?
  • User knowledge and skills: Are the users of the platform capable of making decisions on layout and brand or do you need a tighter governance framework in place?

The answers to these questions lay the groundwork for two fundamental design approaches:

  • Starter Design System: Offers maximum flexibility, serving as a base to be expanded upon by individual brands. It's like giving each brand a canvas with basic outlines.
  • Master Design System with Overrides: This is a more controlled, centralized system, where the main design is consistent across brands but has specific areas or features that individual brands can modify.

The selected design philosophy will significantly influence not just the design itself but its management and governance in the future.

The Power of Ownership & Governance

Clear ownership ensures the design system remains cohesive and aligned with the initial vision. The owner's responsibility isn't limited to decisions about inclusions and exclusions. They are also instrumental in establishing:

  • Rules & Communication: Clearly laying out and communicating the rules to all stakeholders.
  • Governance Model: How is the design system evaluated and updated over its lifecycle? How are changes managed and incorporated?

Such considerations bring clarity to questions like who owns the core design system, how its success is measured, and how consistency is maintained.

Assembling Your Dream Team

Building a multi-site, multi-brand design system is no small feat. It requires a blend of expertise:

  • Executive Sponsor: The visionary who sets the tone.
  • Project Manager: Ensures smooth implementation and adherence to milestones.
  • Design Expert: Lays down the design requirements and ensures multi-brand compatibility.
  • Technical Experts: Those who handle the nuances of Site Studio and Drupal, ensuring flawless implementation.

Design System: From Vision to Reality

The foundation of your design system rests upon clear, comprehensive requirements. This clarity drives effective decision-making during the design process. Starting points, content types, visual styles, integrations, language support, accessibility, and performance are critical aspects to consider and define.

For instance, understanding whether you are adopting an existing design system or starting from scratch is pivotal. Existing systems may already have some assets or guidelines in place. These can serve as a basis for your new platform. Alternatively, understanding the requirements of new platforms, especially in a multi-brand scenario, can inform the design direction.

In Summary

Building a scalable multi-site platform using Site Studio requires a mix of strategic thinking, clear governance, expert collaboration, and detailed planning. The outcome? A harmonious blend of consistency, flexibility, and brand uniqueness that caters to diverse needs and creates a compelling online presence.

To find out more and to read our detailed guide to developing Sites at Scale visit our tutorials at