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
Distributed: 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.
Centralized: 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)
Distributed: 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.
Centralized: This approach scales well even with limited
Distributed: 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.
Centralized: 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 enterprisedomain 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
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 has worked well in your
organization? What approach do you use for designing your products?