How to Develop a Style Guide for Digital Products

Charlotte Miller

How to Develop a Style Guide for Digital Products

To stand out, every online resource attempts to adopt a unique aesthetic that will help separate and distinguish them from competitors. The design must have consistency and an intuitive flow for the user to feel comfortable. This is directed by standards commonly known in the UX/UI industry as a style guide. Let’s discuss how UI design firms prepare these style guides.

The Guidelines Of Style Guides

There are a few universal guidelines that must apply to every style guide. First, the product’s design must be consistent across all of the brand’s products. Whether a visitor views the website or platform from a mobile device or a traditional computer screen, all components must be readily recognizable. Since designers need to test and experiment with the design to see what works and which parts will need to be removed or altered, design style experts recommend that the interface design should be completed before developing the style guide. 

Things are constantly changing, so the style guide cannot be a complex set of regulations but rather more living documentation that can and should iteratively evolve with changing or improved methodologies or trends. Before starting the style guide compilation, it is essential to define, in the most explicit terms possible, what needs to be conveyed to the user, how the design will resolve their problems, and what will be the product’s “voice.”

The Core Style Guide Principles

Any quality style guide will need to include a minimum of the following six topics:

  • Design Principles
  • Typography
  • Images
  • Grids And Indents
  • Colors
  • Components

Let’s take a deeper dive into each of these essential categories.

Design Principles

Every designer needs to rely on a particular set of principles or general recommendations during interface design. Anyone designing for a brand like Apple, for instance, follows the guiding principle of direct control. In other words, the directive is to make intuitively accessible elements for users, permitting them to see the result of their actions immediately after performing them. Direct control may involve rotating items or swiping to progress to the next step. Therefore, the design principles also drive how users interact with the product. 

The list of principles shouldn’t be overbearing, so keeping the number down to only the most important ones is advantageous. Most designers like to start with about three, though that list may grow as the product develops and expands.

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Standardized typography is necessary for consistency to be achieved across the product spectrum. A designer should decide on the typefaces and fonts they like right from the start, including selecting two fonts for the text of the main content and headings. The style guide should include the direction in which cases bold or italicized attributes are to be implemented. 

Of course, once the final product comes together, or at some point in the process, the designer may realize that he or she does not like the font anymore, and that’s ok. It can be changed. Typewolf and FontPair can help with that. 


Few things drive the intuitive understanding of a product, like a powerful image. For that reason, the style guide needs to list out what types of images, photos, illustrations, stickers, or drawings are to be applied to the design. The clearer the style guide in this regard, the more efficiently the interface can be created.

Grids And Indents

One of the most critical aspects of the product’s final design is the achievement of harmony. That means that the white space (space not occupied by images and content) is crucial to achieving such a balance as the filled space. 

Similarly, grids and indents in the design should also be universally consistent. This will help to harbor a feeling of comfort for users who can easily recognize the resources available and feel confident in the consistency of said resources across the product. Creating a table with varying field sizes is also a good plan as it is helpful for developers and designers as much as it is for the product’s users.


A designer must know what colors to use on the interface presented to the user, as the right shades establish a component hierarchy and resonate positively with a user who interacts with the product. Deciding on the color scheme can be challenging, but if the guidance on what shades to use is included in the style guide, it dramatically eases the designer’s work. If there is ever a question, the designer must only refer to the style guide for instruction.

The color schemes should be simple, recognizable, and friendly. It is not advised to excessively utilize contrasting shades either. In this respect, less is more. Using fewer colors makes it easy to establish the primary color and the auxiliary compliments.


Components are individual elements that make up the product interface, such as buttons, fields, forms, etc. The approach of assembling a product becomes very simple and developer-friendly, allowing them to put the product together as if constructing it from a set of Legos. Using a similar element set type, developers can build a wide variety of designs and products, ultimately manifest into a user-friendly standard. 

Final Thought

These are the six core principles of a style guide. As the product is created and updated, styles can and should be added, subtracted, or altered, when the situation calls for it to be necessary. 

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