System Design: A Beginner’s Guide


Designing a system is a crucial first step in any project. It helps you understand the needs of the system, and it informs your decisions about the architecture and technologies that will be used. This guide will help you determine whether or not you need to write a system design for your next project.

What is system design

System design is the process of defining how a system will work. It’s a high level document that describes the system and its architecture. It’s usually written by a project manager or architect, but can also be written by developers when they are working in pairs on small projects. The goal of system design is to define the system and set up clear requirements for everyone involved in building it, including:

The user interface (UI)

How data moves through your system–for example, if you need to make multiple database calls or send emails as part of each request

What data needs to be stored locally so users don’t lose their work if there are problems with either internet access or other parts of your backend infrastructure

When to use a system design

System design is an important part of the software development process. It’s used to understand how a system will work, as well as how it will interact with other systems in your organization and the outside world.

System design is usually done in the early stages of a project, but you can use system design at any time during your project life cycle if you need more information about how your system works or interacts with other systems.

How to write a system design

You’ve got a problem to solve. You know that you want to create a solution, but how do you go about it?

The first step is defining the problem before starting on a solution. If you don’t know what your goal is and why it matters, then how can anyone else possibly help? This applies whether the problem is personal or professional: if no one knows what they’re working toward, then everyone will end up wasting their time and energy going in different directions.

It’s also important not just for yourself but also for others who may be interested in helping out with your project or product: if there isn’t an agreed-upon goal among collaborators (and/or customers), then there won’t be any way of knowing whether every person involved has made progress towards achieving those goals by working together!

The 5 questions you should ask yourself about your next project

The 5 questions you should ask yourself about your next project:

  • What is the problem you are trying to solve?
  • What are the goals of this project?
  • What are the constraints of your system? (e.g., budget, time)
  • How many options do we have for solving this problem and why do they work well in some cases but not others?
  • Which option would be best given our constraints and goals for this particular project


If you’re interested in learning more about system design, check out our tutorial on how to write a system design.