What is Atomic Design Methodology? An Introduction to Why It Matters

Atomic design - Web Dev

When you’re starting a new website project, you have an array of methods and options to choose from to help you organize your designs and create a highly effective solution for your needs. In many cases, choosing the right design methodology can make a huge difference in the overall function of your website, including how smoothly the process moves and how well you can deliver on the needs of your customers.

Atomic design is just one key strategy that you can use to manage your project design. What is atomic design methodology? Take a look at the basics, including why it’s important and how it could fit into your overall website design and development strategy.

What is Atomic Design Methodology?

Every type of matter in the universe breaks down into the same set of atomic elements. Likewise, when you start to put together a website, it breaks down into the same set of basic elements. You start from the same place and the same basic elements but build steadily into a comprehensive product.

Like the design of atoms as they come together into familiar elements, atomic design methodology relies on the premise that every project starts with the same basic elements. 

The first three stages of atomic design methodology are based on their chemistry equivalents. Later, however, you’ll take a deeper look at how those elements come together in a larger product. 


The “atoms” in atomic design, like the atoms in chemistry, are the smallest pieces of your eventual design. Those could be items like:

  • Buttons
  • Inputs
  • Labels
  • Icons
  • Avatars
  • Toggles
  • Sliders
  • Profile pictures
  • Color swatches
  • Specific typestyles or designs you may want to use

These small elements are a critical part of your overall design and come together to form the next stage of the design process. By starting with the atoms, you have a clear idea of what goes into each piece of your design, which can make it easier to pull it together into a greater overall whole.


Molecules bring together the specific “atomic” elements of your design to create new groupings. For example, in the molecule stage, you might put together:

  • Profiles
  • Search features
  • Menus
  • Block quotes
  • Radio buttons
  • Loading components
  • Notifications
  • Media objects

Molecules are some of the more complex elements of your design. They’re generally made up only of basic elements. Your molecules can have a significant impact on overall functionality.


As you move on to the organism stage of your website development process, you’ll be able to pull together bigger-picture items that may have multiple functions. Organisms are, in most cases, made up of more than one molecule, and may include additional atoms that come together to form the bigger picture. Common organisms may include:

  • Video or music players
  • Navigation bars
  • Tables 
  • Forms
  • Tab bars
  • Headers/footers

Your organisms are much larger, functional pieces of the greater website. 


As you move on to the template stage, you’ll start to move away from the strict chemistry metaphor. While templates do not exist as part of a greater atomic structure, they are a critical part of the atomic design process and may make a huge difference in the ultimate functionality of your website. The templates in your atomic design process are items that can be used for a variety of purposes when you create your final website design.

Templates may include the basis for your entire page, but without the actual content fleshed out. For example, you might have a template for your homepage, for specific content pages on your website, for blog posts, or for other elements that you use on a regular basis. 

What templates you include as part of your atomic design methodology may depend on what individual pages you want for your website. For example, if you aren’t planning to have a blog, you may not have a blog page template. You may need a template for:

  • Your homepage
  • Information pages
  • Blogs 
  • Product pages
  • Landing pages
  • Your about page
  • The contact page
  • Search pages

You may also want to include custom pages, like 404 error pages designed just for your website. 


Once you move on to the page stage of your atomic design methodology, you’re ready to create a final product: the final pages that you want to appear on your website. Through this process, you may either start to flesh out the pages for each type of site that you want to use, or you might create more specific designs that you will later flesh out with the actual information that you intend to include on the page.

For example, you might have a nearly functional homepage, but if you don’t yet have product descriptions and photos for all of your product pages, you may not want to create more than a couple of examples of those pages.

As part of your page creation, you may want to consider what organisms you might actually want to use as part of your templates or to allow for variations. Suppose, for example, that not every user wants to include a profile picture on their profile page, or that not every product has a comprehensive description. You may want to make alterations to your pages to allow for those variations in design.

Related: What Goes into Web Design in Austin?

The Benefits of Atomic Design Methodology

Atomic design offers a number of benefits. As you move beyond “What is atomic design methodology” to a deeper overall understanding of what atomic design methodology actually offers for your business, you may notice a number of potential advantages. 

1. Atomic design makes it easy to put together a consistent style guide.

Since you’ve pieced together many of the “atoms” of your website from the beginning, you’ll have a clear, consistent style guide that is easy to work with across your entire project. 

2. With atomic design, you’ll be able to easily mix and match elements.

Since you’ll pull together your atoms, molecules, and organisms individually, you’ll have those elements on hand to draw from as you put together your larger website. That process can make it much easier to pull together the individual design elements you need for any given webpage, which can, in turn, streamline creation. 

3. You can quickly and easily update individual elements if needed.

If you need to make changes to your website, you can easily see where those updates need to be made and tackle the individual elements that are causing the problem. As a result, you’ll be in the ideal position to manage minor updates with ease.

4. You’ll be able to see the bigger picture of your design more easily.

Since the atomic design process starts with the basics and gradually progresses to a comprehensive design, you’ll be able to easily see the bigger picture of your design before you get down to the details. 

5. You’ll get a consistent code across your pages, which makes updates easier.

Instead of having to update individual code, you’ll know exactly what needs to be changed if there are problems.

Related: The Benefits of Using Atomic Design in Reactive Development

Where Does Atomic Design Methodology Fit Into Your Project Creation?

Atomic design methodology can be used under a variety of circumstances, but it’s not appropriate for all cases. For example, you might want to use a full-stack development approach, an agile approach, or a waterfall design method. Far beyond “What is atomic design methodology?” you also need to understand where it fits into your overall plans.

Since atomic design relies on piecing together elements from the smallest possible element to the largest, it’s ideal when you’re starting from scratch with a project.

While atomic design does allow for multiple people to work on different elements of your planned website at the same time, it may not provide the same kind of focused strategy you might get from a full-stack development approach, which requires you to have more people on hand, all working toward achieving the goal in the shortest time possible. 

Atomic design is also ideal for projects that will ultimately reuse many of the same elements. If you have a website design that will rely on primarily unique elements for each page, you may find that atomic design doesn’t fit your needs.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a website with a consistent design that uses the same elements, including similar profiles, product design pages, logos, and color schemes, you may find that atomic design is a great way to break down your goals into easily-sorted pieces.

Do You Need Help with Your Next Design Project?

Atomic design is a highly effective way to put together your website from the ground up and may allow you a greater overall insight into the individual elements of your design. No matter where you are in the design process or what method you may have used to start your designs, TouchTo can help. Contact us today to learn more about our design services.