Building and Maintaining Alibaba’s Design System

Alibaba is a leading travel and hospitality company in Iran with over 4 million monthly active users. In recent years, the company has experienced rapid growth in various verticals and entered new markets, leading to challenges in design and development. In order to improve consistency and efficiency, the decision was made to invest in a design system. However, the team faced the dilemma of whether to start with a redesign and then define a system or establish the design system first and then redesign. Ultimately, it was decided to build a foundation based on the current state of the products, with the intention of visually enhancing them before a major redesign. Alibaba chose to build its design system, called “Atlas,” from scratch, utilizing existing Vue libraries for engineering purposes. The design core team, consisting of enthusiastic individuals, divided the process into four phases: foundation, redesign, maintenance, and growth. The foundation phase focused on establishing a visual language, creating a style guide, and developing a set of core components. The redesign phase involved implementing the design system across all products and channels, as well as introducing a new brand typeface. The maintenance phase involved continuously updating and improving the design system, as well as integrating it with the design process. The growth phase focused on expanding the design system’s capabilities and adoption within the company. Overall, the design system has improved efficiency and consistency for Alibaba, allowing for faster development and a scalable foundation.

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