The UX industry is still growing and finding its feet, but by now we have a pretty decent set of standards and practices that most people agree on. One of these is team size. I think almost everybody agrees that a small team is best, with a lot of communication.

I'd like to know whether any work has been done on adapting these methods to scaling up to huge team sizes. Open source products have succeeded in competing with closed source software largely because they can count on a large number of volunteer programmers, and they have their tools scaled up to allow collaboration between so many people. Unfortunately, they often fall behind in design matters, because traditional design doesn't seem to work in a crowd-sourced context. Whenever open source software does succeed in getting a decent design, it's because they hire a designer, who will then dictate a design (usually causing friction).

I'm curious if there are any projects where people have attempted to get the community more involved, particularly getting them to do some of the design work. Everybody can only donate a little time, but the sum total of time is vast. Can we channel all those little efforts into a quality design? My interpretation of most UX tactics is that they are about communicating the ideas and issues behind a design, so that everybody can get involved at their own level without arguing about the minutiae. I feel like it should scale, if you do it smartly.

One example I know of is the UX redesign of Drupal 7. Leisa Reichelt and Mark Boulton functioned as lead designers, but they really tried to rally the community, and involved them both by communicating their intermediate results, and by getting them to do micro-tests. I don't know that it was as successful as they hoped, but it was an interesting experiment. Can you think of any other examples?

  • I love this question. My change management experience tells me that one person has to have a vision for the design, and it's very difficult to distribute that and have it managed in a diffuse way, because it's all about how it hangs together as a whole. Great question. Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 16:34
  • This is a very interesting question, but in a way I think it is difficult to do because creative work requires interpretation and the overhead of having to realign design variations due to different input can outweigh the benefit. In crowdsourcing/open bidding project websites like Freelancer.com, usually people work on separate ideas and the buyer chooses the solution they like the best, similar to a brainstorming session. Perhaps this is best suited to a 'think tank' size team rather than a crowd.
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 22:44

1 Answer 1


Have a look at this Boxes and Arrows article: http://boxesandarrows.com/bringing-holistic-awareness-to-your-design/

The challenge with teams, large ones especially, is to promote holistic understanding of the project. The article argues that the quality of the project and the user satisfaction is influenced consistently by how invested and informed each team member is about the project.

  • I think this definitely describes the key issue. I think you can scale the team up to any size you like, so long as there is a shared vision of what the goal is, what the parameters ares and what methods are used. Scaling up to a crowd would mean putting plenty of energy into achieving this consensus, and resisting the temptation to split off a small team to dictate the design.
    – Peter
    Commented Jul 19, 2013 at 9:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.