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Is there a rule of thumb for how many UX designers should be working together on a project? Factoring in things like the size of the project (e.g. number of functions/screens), timeline of the project, complexity of the user interaction.

I would like to think that there should be at least one UX designer per project team, but two would be even better. It might also depend on where the strengths/weaknesses of each UX designer is.

The question I want to ask is whether in people's experience that multiple UX designers produce better results than a single UX designer, and what the main problems have been when you have worked by yourself or with another person in the role of UX design?

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If you can you come up with a scope of a hypothetical project which makes sense to you, it would be easy to get a good estimate on the size of the UX team. –  rk. Mar 27 '13 at 3:33
    
The question is more about the pros and cons of working in a UX team, since I haven't had the experience because I am usually the only person with the UX experience (regardless of the name of the team). –  Michael Lai Mar 27 '13 at 3:35
    
For my benefit (and the benefit of those reading the post), can you please give some description of the team that you work in as individual answers or in your comments so I understand where you are coming from? –  Michael Lai Mar 27 '13 at 21:34

7 Answers 7

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I would split 'UX Designer' into two distinct roles - namely 'UX' and 'Design'.

UX

For the UX part, a good team works better than someone alone. This is especially important for ideation and brainstorming where you want many opinions. A solo person will often find this very difficult.

Some teams work well with 10 people, while others find that 2 is too many. A good team is largely about balance, where one person's strengths balance another person's weaknesses. You need to realise that every strength a person has results in a weakness as well, so the balance is important. I have found Belbin Team Roles fairly useful here in understanding the various aspects, but there are many useful methods outside of this.

Some argue that it's about avoiding opinionated people, but I would disagree. Rational opinionated people who will give ideas and back them up with information that the rest of the team can evaluate, are very useful.

Design

Once the UX framework is worked out, I prefer there to be a single designer (or for large projects a small design team). For the design, consistency of a vision matters, and it is less about people throwing ideas around, and more about functional art. This makes it more of a solo task.

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I mostly agree though would use the terms UX Design and UI design (as they are both design tasks) –  DA01 Mar 27 '13 at 16:43
    
And what is your personal experience with this? Do you mostly work in a team or as an individual? –  Michael Lai Mar 27 '13 at 21:32
    
@MichaelLai My work is fairly evenly split between working solo and working in a small team. –  JohnGB May 3 '13 at 0:05

They say that "too many cooks spoil the soup" and while there's some truth to that, I think the proper saying is actually "too many opinionated people that think they are cooks spoil the soup" is more appropriate. So, yes, having too many uninformed opinions can be a bad thing (design by committee) but having multiple informed opinions isn't necessarily bad, and is often good.

Generally speaking, I think the more skilled minds you have tackling a problem up front, the quicker the list of solutions can be narrowed and refined.

At some point, however, there are benefits to sticking with a 'single vision' to refine things near the end. That's typically when you get into the detailed UI design. A simple example would be that you want one designer designing all the icons, rather than 10, as you want the icons to share a common aesthetic quality.

In the end, though, it's more about personalities than numbers. If you have the right personalities who enjoy the war-room environment where everyone is sharing a whiteboard, I think there's a lot to be gained by tag-teaming projects.

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To answer the question - can too many UX designers spoil a design - the answer is of course, they can, but they don't have to.

Any UX designer capable of understanding the needs of the user and applying the business rules to a project, while collaborating with everyone involved, but who then screws things up due to an inability to work with someone right next to them is simply not doing their job - for themselves, for their client or company, or for UX as a whole.

Think of it like combining electrical phases. You get two people out of phase with each other - they cancel themselves out. You get two people in phase with each other - they double their effectiveness.

However, due to the nature of the field of UX, and it's need to consider end users, then UX designers are more likely to be in phase with each other than some other members or roles within a group.

Whenever possible, I like to bring up Damien Newman's squiggle of the design process which indicates how the design process starts off in a messy research phase, narrows through the design prototype phase and settles down to an almost flat line as a design solution is reached.

enter image description here

Multiple UX designers have more scope for exploring more of that huge research space, and will have more diverse input as a result, but this should still all come together to a shared vision, not just with each other, but with the whole team and with all stakeholders.

And it's exactly because of the whole collaborative effort that multiple UX designers should be able to enhance a design rather than spoil it - because they are not doing it for themselves.

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So what is your personal experience with this? I am trying to see what some of the issues people face as independent UX Lead/Designer versus working in a team. –  Michael Lai Mar 27 '13 at 21:32
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My personal experience is from an independent freelance UX/UI role working either with teams who have no other UX people, or who already have a UX guy, or even an org with a whole UX team (usually with a UX Director). In the cases where there are already UX people, we work together to educate others, undertake research, and share not just knowledge but also generally a shared passion, which only helps to achieve goals. Typically external UX people bring breadth of experience and internal UX people bring domain expertise, and it works - in my experience. –  Roger Attrill Mar 27 '13 at 22:32
    
I really like that visual. –  DA01 Mar 29 '13 at 0:20

I would say it will be much easier to get solid and complete result having one person responsible. Some decisions can be easily treated as very subjective, so sometimes you need balls to take responsibility and make the final decision.

enter image description here

Naturally, skilled professionals will definitely make their way through any problems, but usually projects with clear responsibility list produce better results.

Disclaimer: this is my very subjective position.

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I think you need to make the distinction between a good large team and a bad large team. Right now you are only representing one side as if all teams interact in that way. –  JohnGB Mar 27 '13 at 15:39
    
Yes, you are right. Good teams are by far more effective and productive. Also I think any good team will benefit from having a mentor or a strong lead. Anyway good teams are rare. What I'm trying to say is humans are not stable and can change their behaviour any time. Eventually, even a good team will face some internal issues, so it is better to be one the safe side from the same beginning. –  Renat Gilmanov Mar 27 '13 at 15:52
    
That is like saying that you may get in a car accident, so you should never ride in a car. There are strengths and weaknesses to a team, and simply dismissing the benefits because it could go bad seems like throwing the baby out with the bathwater (colloquial English saying). –  JohnGB Mar 27 '13 at 16:08
    
The cartoon is specifically referencing UI visual design. Which is fine, but UX is much more than just the particular UI visuals. –  DA01 Mar 27 '13 at 16:44
    
Gentlemen, cartoon is just a joke (BTW, it was created for this answer just to relax the atmosphere), my position is very subjective, but it reflects my own experience: it is really much easier to work with clear responsibility list and explicit leader role. –  Renat Gilmanov Mar 27 '13 at 16:56

Usually, I would say one senior level UXD and one or two junior (not necessarily entry level, but junior than the senior level) UXDs will be a good start for the team. In addition to the UXDs, it is always nice to have Visual Designers to help with proper polished graphics.

The project size I have in mind is a single small/mid-size website or a small mobile application. If the scope of the project is bigger, you split up the scope into smaller parts, hand off each part to one above mentioned team and have a person (UXD?) co-ordinate the higher level continuity across the teams.

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What is your personal experience? Is this the current environment that you work in or what you prefer? –  Michael Lai Mar 27 '13 at 21:33
    
My current environment. I am the entry level person, I have a senior level UX person with me on the project and then a Manager level UX person driving the project and finalizing the design decisions which we give him. This is apart from the visual designers, copy writers and developers. –  rk. Mar 27 '13 at 22:14

There is never just one and only good way of doing things, so different visions may clash. If you adapt them partially, the final result may be inconsistent and disastrous. The only good model of doing it is structuring these UX designers so that there is one UX team leader.

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Why don't we look at an example: this very site. There is a "team" of several hundred UX designers; and each question can be thought of as an individual design challenge.

So do you think it helps that we have multiplicity of opinions, or we'd be better off if every question was answered by just one guy (even if it was @JohnGB)?

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