designing approach in corporate enterprise level environments

20 May 2010 - 5:23pm
3 years ago
1 reply
655 reads
Shraddha Sorte
2007

Some thoughts on designing approach:

I have worked bottoms up from distributed and have seen a lot of worthy contributions and I understand the importance of centralized approach at the same time. I also understand that “distributed” cannot scale and may miss out on the bigger picture but at the same time “centralized” can miss out on the "need-of-the-minute", if it makes things too generic in terms of patterns.

Listing some of the pros and cons for both these approaches:

Distributed

Centralized

Ownership

You are the dedicated designer for the product so you feel like a part of the team and thus have a sense of ownership of the product rather than being seen as an alien independent UX entity who polices around and preaches best practices.

Designer belongs to the generic UX team and thus is not a dedicated designer for a particular product. This does not give a sense of ownership for a particular product since you act like a outsider consultant and talk at higher levels and make generic comments / patterns that the product team should follow. This may not necessarily be in the best benefit of the product because of many oversights (especially if the product is deep and complex)

Scalability

You may not have the luxury of having dedicated set of designers for every product in your organization and thus may not scale with limited resources.

This approach scales well even with limited resources

Consistency

Consistency will not necessarily be enforced across products if the designers are not aligned in the same direction and don’t meet regularly to keep themselves updated on the unified vision of UX along with the recommended design patterns.

Consistency across all products can be easily enforced with pattern library, best practices, guidelines, etc.

I think that for startup mode products that are more concerned about "proof-of-concept", a siloed distributed approach works best, allowing you to focus on the single product. But as the company grows, it needs to start thinking about a range of products/solutions and thus consistency across products and scalability of the approach become some of the important factors to consider.

Both these approaches have their own advantages, so why can’t we have the best of both the worlds? Don’t we need a good combination of the two – something like distributed but in a centralized way? Especially in an enterprise  domain where products have great depth and complexity and there are almost always exceptions and trade-offs for every single point in the product workflow. Designers don’t need to be SMEs but need to be working very closely grounds up from concept to design.

At this point, I am inclined to say that although a centralized UX vision and strategy is needed, the designers should be distributed amongst individual product teams while regularly syncing up with other product designers to keep each other informed and ensure consistency and alignment with the centralized UX vision.

Thoughts? What approach do you use for designing your products?  What has worked well in your organization?

Shraddha


Comments

21 May 2010 - 10:10am
Dasbender
2009

I agree that you need a distributed community of designers working HAND IN HAND with a centralized set of patterns / best practices / reusable components / etc and centralized governance.  Some designers may be assigned to work on the centralized repository (maybe even permanently) while others jump from project to project. 

I've also finally come to accept that the role of "designer" isn't necessarily a trained expert UI/UX designer that only ever does UI/UX design.  Because of flexible staffing needs and the constant ebb and flow of design work anybody within an organization may think they have a right to be their own designer.  My goal is to get enterprise buy-in to the idea that *somebody* on a project needs to be responsible for design.  Often "design" just emerges through the uncoordinated efforts of business analysts, programmers, and project managers, with nobody taking ownership.  If we can achieve an environment where there's always a defined "owner" for design, then I can work with that person from a centralized position to help coordinate all the owners and achieve better consistency.

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