Making Design by Committee Work

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By Craig de Fasselle

We’ve all heard the old line that a camel is a horse designed by committee. Truth be told, designers would rather not deal with committees, and this post was initially heading in a “why you should avoid it” direction. Why—this classic YouTube video is a great example of how design by committee can go horribly wrong.

Designing the Stop Sign

But since it’s a fact of life for designers, is there a way to make design by committee work? It’s understandable that organizations want to empower their people and seek their involvement. Designers want to encourage client feedback, and we want our clients to be pleased with the result.

The most important thing to remember is that design is not simply about graphics, fonts or colors—it’s about quickly and effectively communicating your message to your target audience. But committees often wander into the realm of critiquing the appearance rather than providing key information that will make your site a winner.

Here are some suggestions to provide more constructive feedback:

  • Make sure all team members understand the primary objectives of the project in terms of marketing.
  • Ask them to focus on the website content and usability. If someone never heard of your product or service, is the information compelling, is it easy to find out more, and is there a call to action?
  • “We don’t like it” won’t help the designer move the design in a direction that pleases you. Rather than delivering a laundry list of what each team member does not like, try to provide an evaluation of what’s good and what you feel misses the mark.
  • Rather than trying to provide a visual remedy (make the logo bigger, make that bright red, etc.), ask questions about elements of concern.
  • Limit the scope of individual team members’ critiques to their own areas of expertise. A product engineer’s opinions on key product features are likely to be more valuable than that person’s suggestions about other sections of the site.
  • Avoid looking at other websites (particularly those out of your market) for design ideas. What works for others may not be effective for your site.
  • Ask yourself this question before having the designer change something. Does this change specifically tie into the site goals?

As we discussed in our “The Web Design Project—Who Does What” post, an effective collaboration of your product/service expertise with our design experience will produce a successful result.

Even with design by committee.

Written by Craig de Fasselle

March 13th, 2014 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Design

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