Ratio of designers to developers

22 Jan 2008 - 2:18pm
6 years ago
17 replies
3220 reads
Billie Mandel
2005

Hey fab folks -

So I was at dinner the other night with the technical publications
manager here at my company, and he mentioned that the STC had stats on
how many documentation people a software company should have per
software developer, in order for the tech pubs team to be optimally
effective.

Do we have anything like that for designers? Anyone done any work
determining what the relative size of the design team to the dev team
should be overall for a software dev shop? (Yes, I know, "it depends,"
but a ratio range would certainly be useful)

Thanks in advance (you'll be helping me build my empire and take over
the world, of course)

Cheers,
- Billie

* * * * * * *
Billie Mandel | Manager, User Experience Design & Research | OPENWAVE

Comments

22 Jan 2008 - 2:25pm
jrrogan
2005

My Present contract has approximately 50 developers to 3 Interaction
Designers.

Anyone done any work
> determining what the relative size of the design team to the dev team
> should be overall for a software dev shop? (Yes, I know, "it depends,"
> but a ratio range would certainly be useful)

--
> Joseph Rich Rogan
> President UX/UI Inc.
> http://www.jrrogan.com

22 Jan 2008 - 2:26pm
bminihan
2007

Seems that it should be at least 50/50 designers/developers per project, no
matter how many you have in the company. With huge back-end projects, the
ratio could drop, as well as toward the end of a project (it depends, as
long as the designers who were there, got their point across)

Ultimately, I'd rather have just one designer at the start of a project than
have to throw 50 at the end of one.

Bryan
http://www.bryanminihan.com

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Billie
Mandel
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 3:18 PM
To: IxDA Discuss
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Ratio of designers to developers

Hey fab folks -

So I was at dinner the other night with the technical publications
manager here at my company, and he mentioned that the STC had stats on
how many documentation people a software company should have per
software developer, in order for the tech pubs team to be optimally
effective.

Do we have anything like that for designers? Anyone done any work
determining what the relative size of the design team to the dev team
should be overall for a software dev shop? (Yes, I know, "it depends,"
but a ratio range would certainly be useful)

Thanks in advance (you'll be helping me build my empire and take over
the world, of course)

Cheers,
- Billie

* * * * * * *
Billie Mandel | Manager, User Experience Design & Research | OPENWAVE

________________________________________________________________
*Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

22 Jan 2008 - 3:07pm
Nasir Barday
2006

Ouch, Rich, I feel the pain :-).

I'd add that with the 50/50 ratio, the structures of both "sides" should be
the same, i.e. the head of X-Wing engineering should have a parallel X-Wing
product manager/design counterpart. The two sides work collaboratively
during design research, ideation, and validation. I've seen that formula
work well.

- Nasir

22 Jan 2008 - 3:08pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 22, 2008, at 12:18 PM, Billie Mandel wrote:

> Do we have anything like that for designers? Anyone done any work
> determining what the relative size of the design team to the dev team
> should be overall for a software dev shop? (Yes, I know, "it depends,"
> but a ratio range would certainly be useful)

The rule I always use as a rough estimate is that one designer can
create enough work for 4 to 6 developers or engineers.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

22 Jan 2008 - 3:08pm
Todd Warfel
2003

On Jan 22, 2008, at 3:26 PM, Bryan Minihan wrote:

> Ultimately, I'd rather have just one designer at the start of a
> project than have to throw 50 at the end of one.

[depending on what you define as a designer...]

Most of our projects have 1-2 interaction designers, 1-2 visual
designers, 1-2 presentation layer designer/developers, and 3-20 or
more developers.

In short, it's typically very skewed in favor of development.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

22 Jan 2008 - 3:19pm
White, Jeff
2007

My situation is: 3 designers - we do UCD research (what is UCD anyway?
Kidding, KIDDING!) interaction & visual design, and we don't write any
code at all. The rest of our IT shop is about 70 strong - that
includes front and back end engineers and database admins.

Jeff

On Jan 22, 2008 4:08 PM, Todd Zaki Warfel <lists at toddwarfel.com> wrote:
>
> On Jan 22, 2008, at 3:26 PM, Bryan Minihan wrote:
>
> > Ultimately, I'd rather have just one designer at the start of a
> > project than have to throw 50 at the end of one.
>
> [depending on what you define as a designer...]
>
> Most of our projects have 1-2 interaction designers, 1-2 visual
> designers, 1-2 presentation layer designer/developers, and 3-20 or
> more developers.
>
> In short, it's typically very skewed in favor of development.
>
>
> Cheers!
>
> Todd Zaki Warfel
> President, Design Researcher
> Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
> ----------------------------------
> Contact Info
> Voice: (215) 825-7423
> Email: todd at messagefirst.com
> AIM: twarfel at mac.com
> Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
> ----------------------------------
> In theory, theory and practice are the same.
> In practice, they are not.
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

22 Jan 2008 - 3:27pm
Nasir Barday
2006

I'm realizing that there are a few buckets to think about:

- Consulting firms
- Internal design teams

And within each of those,
- Involvement of the design team from start to finish
- Throwing the design over the wall (generally agreed to be bad, but still
happens)

The model I described earlier is for product groups inside the company, each
of which employs designers, who can be internal or external.

- N

22 Jan 2008 - 3:32pm
SemanticWill
2007

Over the last 5 years here is the breakdown from my experience:

Kayak.com 1 IA/IxD (me) 4 engineers
Gather.com 1 IA/IxD (me) 1 visual designer, 3 engineers
AIR Worldwide 1 IA/IxD (me) 55 engineers (and 4 major product lines) -
[no visual designer, no usability]
Current 1 IA/IxD (me) 2.5 full time engineers

Totally anecdotal - but for small start-ups - 1:4 ratio seems to be great,
AIR didn't believe in user experience or design - so I thought they were an
outlier - but given what I have seen so far posted - maybe that is more the
norm

--
~ will

"Where you innovate, how you innovate,
and what you innovate are design problems"
-------------------------------------------------------
will evans
user experience architect
wkevans4 at gmail.com
-------------------------------------------------------

On Jan 22, 2008 4:19 PM, Jeff White <jwhite31 at gmail.com> wrote:

> My situation is: 3 designers - we do UCD research (what is UCD anyway?
> Kidding, KIDDING!) interaction & visual design, and we don't write any
> code at all. The rest of our IT shop is about 70 strong - that
> includes front and back end engineers and database admins.
>
> Jeff
>
>

22 Jan 2008 - 3:33pm
White, Jeff
2007

One thing about our design strategy - there is no over the wall
approach. Ever. We're doing Agile (Scrum) here, so that goes out the
window, and much much more depends on talking with engineers very
heavily throughout the entire development lifecycle. We're doing role
sharing to some degree, so education/knowledge sharing/mentoring is
another huge part of the equation for us right now.

Jeff

On Jan 22, 2008 4:27 PM, Nasir Barday <nasir at userlicious.com> wrote:
> I'm realizing that there are a few buckets to think about:
>
> - Consulting firms
> - Internal design teams
>
> And within each of those,
> - Involvement of the design team from start to finish
> - Throwing the design over the wall (generally agreed to be bad, but still
> happens)
>
> The model I described earlier is for product groups inside the company, each
> of which employs designers, who can be internal or external.
>
> - N
>

22 Jan 2008 - 4:07pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Jan 22, 2008, at 1:27 PM, Nasir Barday wrote:

> - Consulting firms
> - Internal design teams

My estimate, fwiw, doesn't matter if its for an internal team or
external team. My experience tells me that the best ratio regardless
is somewhere around 1 designer for every 4 to 6 engineers. Also, if
you do the visual/interaction split on the team, the you effectively
have 1.5 designers to figure out the numbers. The 1 visual plus 1
interaction designer doesn't equate to 2 people's worth of work in
the same way 2 designers who can do both the visual and interaction
design simultaneously.

Practically speaking, the volume of work that either a designer
generates that needs to be built, or the volume of design that needs
to be created from the amount built by the engineers works out to
this ratio. Approximately speaking.

I can't imagine how a team of 3 designers can practically work with a
team of 50 engineers. It would either the designers are overwhelmed
by the sheer volume of what needs to spec'd and designed, or the
engineers are sitting around creating their own design if there is a
lack of work spec'd out, or both.

Also, as another rough estimate, I treat needing 1 researcher per 3
to 5 designers on a team. If you have a team of 10 designers, you're
going to need around 2 to 3 researchers to adequately cover the
spread of information needed to be gathered and researched
effectively. Again, this is an approximation, but I think it holds up
well enough for budgeting and planning purposes.

--
Andrei Herasimchuk

Principal, Involution Studios
innovating the digital world

e. andrei at involutionstudios.com
c. +1 408 306 6422

22 Jan 2008 - 4:36pm
jrrogan
2005

Andrei, I totally agree 3 to 50 is a bad ratio, but it can work in a
practical, not necessarily optimal way:

First of all everything has to be caveated by "it depends...", what are you
building, what are the dynamics of the solution, what are the designers
responsibilities, what other teams can be leveraged.

In my case, (which is actually more than 50 devs to 3, or I should say 3 1/2
designers, as we have a part time visual designer), the backend engineers
have 3 entirely different systems they have to interface our application
with, which causes factoral levels of effort compared to an
enclosed/single system.

As well we leverage training/help desk and support for feedback and testing,
and via a "Feature Driven Design Process", SME's are invovled with every
design decision.

We design pattern libraries and templates, then follow/leverage these in
design. With good task flows/scenarios/requirements building out screens can
be done very rapidly.

So it is doable, but we could use another 5 to 10 people given our focus
expanded to "own" responsibilities, which we are presently leveraging other
teams for.

Andrei wrote:

I can't imagine how a team of 3 designers can practically work with a
team of 50 engineers. It would either the designers are overwhelmed
by the sheer volume of what needs to spec'd and designed, or the
engineers are sitting around creating their own design if there is a
lack of work spec'd out, or both.

--
Joseph Rich Rogan
President UX/UI Inc.
http://www.jrrogan.com

22 Jan 2008 - 2:23pm
Anonymous

For pricing, we've been going with 25 percent requirements gathering, 50 percent development, and 25 percent quality assurance as a starting point for projects. The ratios may change, but I once worked on a team where Product Management was 1, dev was 3, UI design was 1, and QA was 1, and that team ran like a well oiled machine.

Patrick

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Billie Mandel
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 11:18 AM
To: IxDA Discuss
Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Ratio of designers to developers

Hey fab folks -

So I was at dinner the other night with the technical publications
manager here at my company, and he mentioned that the STC had stats on
how many documentation people a software company should have per
software developer, in order for the tech pubs team to be optimally
effective.

Do we have anything like that for designers? Anyone done any work
determining what the relative size of the design team to the dev team
should be overall for a software dev shop? (Yes, I know, "it depends,"
but a ratio range would certainly be useful)

Thanks in advance (you'll be helping me build my empire and take over
the world, of course)

Cheers,
- Billie

* * * * * * *
Billie Mandel | Manager, User Experience Design & Research | OPENWAVE

________________________________________________________________
*Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

22 Jan 2008 - 6:57pm
Ari
2006

we run with 1 product, 1 designer (who shares UI design with product), 1 QA
and 4 dev and it works pretty well for us. we bang out releases fairly
consistently with few hiccups.

On 1/22/08, Patrick Neeman <patrickn at speaktech.com> wrote:
>
> For pricing, we've been going with 25 percent requirements gathering, 50
> percent development, and 25 percent quality assurance as a starting point
> for projects. The ratios may change, but I once worked on a team where
> Product Management was 1, dev was 3, UI design was 1, and QA was 1, and that
> team ran like a well oiled machine.
>
> Patrick
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:
> discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Billie Mandel
> Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 11:18 AM
> To: IxDA Discuss
> Subject: [IxDA Discuss] Ratio of designers to developers
>
> Hey fab folks -
>
> So I was at dinner the other night with the technical publications
> manager here at my company, and he mentioned that the STC had stats on
> how many documentation people a software company should have per
> software developer, in order for the tech pubs team to be optimally
> effective.
>
> Do we have anything like that for designers? Anyone done any work
> determining what the relative size of the design team to the dev team
> should be overall for a software dev shop? (Yes, I know, "it depends,"
> but a ratio range would certainly be useful)
>
> Thanks in advance (you'll be helping me build my empire and take over
> the world, of course)
>
> Cheers,
> - Billie
>
>
> * * * * * * *
> Billie Mandel | Manager, User Experience Design & Research | OPENWAVE
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
> ________________________________________________________________
> *Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
> February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
> Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/
>
> ________________________________________________________________
> Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
> To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
> Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
> List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
> List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help
>

--
--------------------------------------------------
www.flyingyogi.com
--------------------------------------------------

22 Jan 2008 - 7:18pm
Todd Warfel
2003

On Jan 22, 2008, at 5:07 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> I can't imagine how a team of 3 designers can practically work with a
> team of 50 engineers.

It's called patterns:).

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

22 Jan 2008 - 7:19pm
Todd Warfel
2003

On Jan 22, 2008, at 5:07 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> My experience tells me that the best ratio regardless is somewhere
> around 1 designer for every 4 to 6 engineers.

BTW, I can only speak as an outie on this one, but I'd agree with this
as a rough rule of thumb. I'd also say that I think this ratio tends
to work out pretty well, at least in my experience as an outie.

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

22 Jan 2008 - 7:31pm
Anonymous

I've done that before. You end up training the developers to design in patterns.

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Todd Zaki Warfel
Sent: Tuesday, January 22, 2008 4:18 PM
To: Andrei Herasimchuk
Cc: IxDA Discuss
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Ratio of designers to developers

On Jan 22, 2008, at 5:07 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:

> I can't imagine how a team of 3 designers can practically work with a
> team of 50 engineers.

It's called patterns:).

Cheers!

Todd Zaki Warfel
President, Design Researcher
Messagefirst | Designing Information. Beautifully.
----------------------------------
Contact Info
Voice: (215) 825-7423
Email: todd at messagefirst.com
AIM: twarfel at mac.com
Blog: http://toddwarfel.com
----------------------------------
In theory, theory and practice are the same.
In practice, they are not.

________________________________________________________________
*Come to IxDA Interaction08 | Savannah*
February 8-10, 2008 in Savannah, GA, USA
Register today: http://interaction08.ixda.org/

________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
To post to this list ....... discuss at ixda.org
Unsubscribe ................ http://www.ixda.org/unsubscribe
List Guidelines ............ http://www.ixda.org/guidelines
List Help .................. http://www.ixda.org/help

23 Jan 2008 - 4:32am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 23 Jan 2008, at 01:19, Todd Zaki Warfel wrote:

>
> On Jan 22, 2008, at 5:07 PM, Andrei Herasimchuk wrote:
>
>> My experience tells me that the best ratio regardless is somewhere
>> around 1 designer for every 4 to 6 engineers.
>
> BTW, I can only speak as an outie on this one, but I'd agree with this
> as a rough rule of thumb. I'd also say that I think this ratio tends
> to work out pretty well, at least in my experience as an outie.
[snip]

I'd go with that if the developers are integrated into the design
process and are accepting of design issues (and vice versa). If the
the developers aren't interesting 1 designer to every 1-3 developers
seems to work better since you have to spend more time making sure
that dumb things don't get misinterpreted.

Cheers,

Adrian

Syndicate content Get the feed