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In response to me attempting to champion user testing and user feedback in an organization where leadership is making decisions on design without any user testing or much if any user feedback, an executive in the company asked me the following hypothetical question:

If you had a team of 4 designers and all 4 designers used and liked different design tools, how would you as a manager decide which tool to use?

(I believe this question came out of concern for not being able to please all users, concern with having too many cooks in the kitchen giving too many different ideas and perhaps conflicting feedback.)

It would be great to be able to hear how others in the UX community might approach or answer such a question.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Mayo, plainclothes, Devin, JonW May 30 '17 at 8:41

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • To be clear, this isn't a UX question, this probably belongs in project management. – Jamezrp Jan 7 '17 at 0:17
  • Your belief that the question came out of concern for not being able to please all users, etc... is a guess. You don't need to guess. You can ask the executive exactly what he means. There's no shame in asking such a question, and it might lead you to understanding much more than just this hypothetical scenario. – Confused Jan 7 '17 at 8:14
  • Thanks for the heads up on this [Jamezrp], I've added a project-management tag. Thanks [Confused], yes, you are right, it's a guess, but a good one based on other information that I didn't supply here. Still, I agree with you, there's certainly no shame in asking. – uxitect Jan 24 '17 at 18:27
  • In the context of UX team management, I prefer to make the process tool agnostic so as to allow people to use the tool that they are most comfortable with, whilst still having a cohesive and streamlined process of carrying out your typical/usual UX activities. Happy to chat more but probably not a question that can be answered easily. – Michael Lai May 28 '17 at 8:56
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If you're the manager, the simple solution is just to require it. If, for instance, the design team uses Illustrator and Photoshop and Sketch all for hi-fi, pick one and stick with it. People's feelings don't matter here; ultimately the goal is to make sure that the organization (and this team) can run efficiently. If that means that some members are going to have trouble initially, that's a small price to pay for the amount of time and effort you'll save in the long run.

I've been teaching UX and there are hundreds of different tools to use. Design teams (including graphic design and UI) are filled with people who live on individual tools/applications. For UX, the only tool I care about is my head and a whiteboard/paper. Everything else is for convenience. I'm intentionally tool-agnostic because there is no perfect tool, only the right tool for your team.

That said, both teams I've run I've instituted every tool, not just for the design team. Slack for communication (oh so hipster, before it was even out of beta), Sketch for hi-fi, Balsamiq for prototype, Lucidchart for IA, photoshop for marketing materials, Sublime for engineering (except for Xcode, stupid Apple), etc.

Part of being a manager is to manage the efficiency of the team.

That said, when you bring it to the given team and say that the switch is happening, if you explain why and that it's fine that efficiency will drop in the short run, most people are okay with that. Career-driven individuals may not enjoy the switch but they'll recognize that you're giving them another tool that they can put in their arsenal.

When I instituted Slack, for instance, both companies I did it at took convincing. Moving to Sketch was trouble, until my team actually went ahead and used it (and then they apologized because it's so great). And to be clear, it's not just for tools, the same works for processes. As a manager you can experiment with what works well and then formally move everyone to it. As long as you aren't mean/rude about it, good organizations will accept it and move forward.

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    Gosh, I couldn't disagree with your comment more. I want my team to be as efficient as possible, not wear the same trousers, it makes no difference to me if a wireframe, design or icon is created in Photoshop, Illustrator or Sketch, as long as the end product is usable by the development team for producing the application. Nothing, simply nothing, reduces productivity than enforcing an arbitrary regime on your staff simply because you think it's the way forward. Engage with your staff, don't rule them. – DarrylGodden Jan 6 '17 at 23:14
  • @DarrylGodden Individuals can be efficient while the team is inefficient. That's critical to be aware of when managing a team. For the agile teams I've managed it was never about acting as an overlord. The team agreed on best practices and best tools. It wasn't required to be unanimous though. – Jamezrp Jan 6 '17 at 23:46
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With regards to my comment above and to answer uxitect's question, my answer to his/her manager's is this.

I don't need to enforce a tool, I need to see a user centered design, how we get there, as long as it is usable by the people who will actually build the solution, is utterly irrelevant.

A few hundred pounds spent on several solutions that designers and UX staff are comfortable developing is peanuts in comparison to the time saved from compelling someone to use a new tool or forcing them to use a new OS.

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There are two extremes (viewpoints) of any creation:

  1. I understand the market and know what they want, what I'll make to satisfy that demand, and how it should look, act and be.

  2. I know where I want to go, but am not sure how to make a vehicle, nor clear a path to there. I believe asking will reveal how.

If you believe viewpoint 2 is superior, but you're not a decision maker in an organisation with leaders believing in their capacity to utilise their perspective from viewpoint 1, any attempt to champion viewpoint 2 is a challenge to the leadership AND direction AND processes of the organisation you're a cog of.

Are you prepared to lose you job over this?

Those, like Steve Jobs, considering themselves a marketing department of one, and making all the decisions based on qualities and approaches to marketing and being (that those unable to perceive simply can't know) are aware of viewpoint 2. They also know it's expensive, time consuming and risky, and have already decided it's inappropriate for whatever they're determined to create.

They've already decided to back their own judgement, for reasons you can't possibly know anything about, most of which probably pertain to matters well above your pay grade, position and responsibility.

Whatever they choose, embrace it. Failure to do so will make it obvious you are determined to undermine, challenge and discredit their processes, and that your attitude risks becoming a self fulfilling reduction and/or inhibition to success, or worse.

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This is a tricky one and I've often seen managers from 'Generation X' who typically can't live with the idea of a pluralist approach.

A lot or Project Managers just want everyone boxed neatly on the same tools because they have a mindset geared around heavy industry and economies of scale, unfortunately these paradigms are counter-productive in a knowledge-based economy where productivity is paramount and salaries are high.

Having said all that it's important that we don't go completely anarchist but rather create a sort of complex harmony where new tools and techniques are cross-pollenated and there is constant evolution within our community of practice (team).

It should not be acceptable for some people in the team to use very slow or outdated work practices and refuse to experiment with new approaches. That's like somebody saying they don't know how to use cloud sharing and prefer to use email attachments, which is a total productivity killer.

If you're getting paid $100k plus per year you better be delivering productivity and you better be pushing the boundaries and possibilities.

So in summary I'm saying that we should encourage diversity of tools and techniques used by our team, so that we can support a culture of continuous improvement, knowledge-sharing and collaboration in order to constantly drive innovation and productivity for our organisation.

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Why would you want your 4 designers to use the exact same tools in the first place? There are compatibility reasons, maybe economical reasons too but those two put aside, there is absolutely no reason to slow down a designer's work by forcing them to use a tool they are not comfortable with. I'll go a bit absurd but imagine an illustrator forced to use a touch device because it is the decided standard... He wouldn't be as accurate and couldn't provide his full potential as he always drawn using a pen.

The goal of a good manager is to make sure that the team works as best as possible, that its members can interact with each other and if a member fails on a task (or gets sick) someone else can take over without difficulties.

Standards should not be about choosing X or Y software or tool. It should be set as requirements. Just like in construction... They need something to hammer nails, screw and protect their feet in case they drop something heavy. They won't be required to have the exact same hammer, the exact same screwdrivers and imagine if they had to wear the exact same shoes of the exact same size...

To please 4 different people is hard, it makes it harder when it becomes 40 and gets worse when it becomes 400... Now we can't do much more here. But this exact problem is very far from the first problem at hand, which is to define how you will take decisions on an interface a lot of people will use.

  • There actually are good reasons for requiring consistency of tools, especially in design. If I have a team of designer/developers who all use Photoshop, and another comes along who wants to use GIMP, or Sketch, that's presents problems for compatibility and workflow efficiency. Also, if we stretch your building site analogy to cover this, it would be the same as having a team who only used Phillips' head screws, and another worker showed up with a flat head screwdriver. They don't need to have exactly the same screwdriver, but it does need to be the right format. – dennislees May 25 '17 at 19:32

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