I'm working in a company that has assembled a small team to develop a web product for this organization's clients and themselves.

We are new to SCRUM and we're running into 1 issue around design - who should decide or drive the design decisions?

When I say 'design', I'm specifically talking about both aesthetic things like colors, spacing, fonts..etc and design interactions or elements like the positioning of a sidebar, the states the sidebar goes through while using it..etc

There is a conflict between a designer on our team and pretty much of the rest of the team when it comes to how things should appear and flow in come cases.

For example - product owner wishes for there to never be a totally hidden sidebar - designer insists on having a hidden state for the sidebar. Compromise is using a top page menu with dropdown menu panes. In order to make this work we adjust the page titles to give more vertical space to the rest of the content. Designer wants more space, product owner (and stakeholders and other team members) vote for less.

The foundational assumption this designer has is that "crowd sourcing UI design and aesthetics isn't a good idea". Or, "the product owner shouldn't drive the UI"..etc

Personally, I think it makes most sense to design the UI around the product owner and customer expectations rather than general design principles or rules. So long as it's easy for the user to use - that's what should drive the design. Thus quick feedback is crucial to iterating the design. We listen, adjust, and make it look good!

What are your thoughts?

1 Answer 1


Ultimately the UI and design should be guided by users, meaning that you should be doing some form of user research (remote testing, session playback videos, focus groups, A/B testing, lab based user studies etc) this is typically then channeled via someone into the development and design process.

However user research is incredibly useful to the entire team, so it's a good idea to share findings with everyone on the team. It helps developers remind themselves who their users really are.

Without this research the opinions of developers, design or product managers can only go so far and not always in the right direction.

For me it would make sense for the entire team to be aware of research and the product manager to choose what goes into the backlog of work. The designer can then add some art direction or brand style to the UI elements. Developers then build and deploy changes. Then these elements can be tested with real users, and the process starts over.

  • 1
    Doesn't a designer do more than just "add some art direction or brand style"?
    – Big_Chair
    Dec 12, 2016 at 11:39
  • 2
    The designer needs to be able to defend their decisions, and not by playing a trump card or trying to dismiss the team's criticisms. In the OP's specific case, it sounds like the designer may not be communicating their design intent or rationale very well, or they may not have a solid rationale at all. User research is a surefire way to keep the designer honest and keep the discussion productive.
    – Nate Green
    Dec 12, 2016 at 15:37
  • He tried to bring forth some supportive information and examples, but it just didn't seem to fit right. For example, we're building an administrative back-end for our clients to manage their client's service accounts. It's all functional 'do-work' space. However the designer used Telsa's marketing pages, Walmart, and other 'public facing' examples to support his argument instead of something along the lines of Send Grid, Algolia, Wordpress's Admin. This discrepancy was picked up by the product owner quickly - though the designer seems to have a hard time letting control of the UI go.
    – Nick Res
    Dec 12, 2016 at 15:52
  • By the way, thank you for your response. I agree. I should mention that we've yet to make this public for our real customers to use because it's just not deploy ready yet - it's pretty much a massive true MVP. Thus getting their real feedback is somewhat impossible at this point except for maybe small focus group sessions. It's hard to tell what's best without that raw testing you've mentioned. The question though is - from a systemic point of view, does the designer even have a trump card in SCRUM or does the product owner have final say?
    – Nick Res
    Dec 12, 2016 at 15:54
  • NickRes and @Big_Chair both your questions could be answered simply with "it depends on the designer". True art direction is a pretty big task. If they are an UX centric designer they should be looking to secondary research done by others and applying that as a starting block ahead of primary research, this gives them reasoning behind their designs. Dec 13, 2016 at 8:38

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