I had a meeting today with some of the folks from a program on campus regarding some concerns they have about our public website. Most of the concerns are also concerns that we’ve identified as topics that need to be addressed as we go down the redesign process.
Some of their questions/comments made me think of a committee redesign process. They asked questions like “who decided on the wording for the navigation?”
I’ve never been a fan of the design by committee approach that is too often the case in government or higher education institutions. Seth Godin agrees with this point. In his blog post, “How to create a great website” he states:
1. Fire the committee. No great website in history has been conceived of by more than three people. Not one. This is a dealbreaker.
The problem I see with design by committee is that everyone has their own take on things. In my experience as a web designer, you’ll never be able to please everyone. Thats just what a design by committee approach tries to do and it ends up being the nail in the coffin for the project in many cases.
I’m not opposed to having more than one or two people in the design and implementation process. It should be limited to key individuals like the designers, web manager and marketing team.
I’m about to embark on a major redesign process at the college I work at and I hope to be able combat the negative impacts of the design by committee approach. Paul Boag has a great blog post I came across directly targeted to my concern. He states:
The key to successfully avoiding design by committee is getting all parties to agree to a process before design even begins. In my experience the following order of events works very successfully.
- The designer produces initial design concepts
- Working with personas and business objectives the designer and website manager refines these concepts
- The website manager and if possible designer, meets with each stakeholder individually to talk through the designs.
- The website manager and designer collate feedback and make any amendments they feel necessary
- The design is presented to real users and feedback is taken
- The design is revised into its final iteration
- The final design is presented to all stakeholders supported by feedback from the user testing and stakeholder interviews
- Design is signed off.
My plan is to have regular communication go out from office to the managers on campus on where we are at with the process, concepts we are working on and solicit feedback and comments. I think this, along with Paul’s points above will be a successful attempt on avoiding the design by committee approach.
I don’t think its the multiple opinions and/or feedbacks that cause committees to fail in the design process, its when each member of the committee feels they have some ‘say’ or authority in the final decisions.
I plan on taking all feedback/opinions and applying them where the smaller team made up of my web designers and the marketing team sees fit. If final say and authority lie with a smaller unit, thats when the design process will succeed.
I am really interested in other people’s experience with higher education design processes when a committee is involved. Please leave a comment with your experiences. Thanks.