Design is Decisions – Part IV

By | June 18, 2010

Design is decisions.  How do you make those decisions?  There are many competing schools of thought.  I’ll break them down and give you my experience with them all.

  1. A/B or Multivariate Testing
  2. Focus Groups
  3. Hallway Testing
  4. Consensus CYA
  5. Going with your gut

Consensus CYA
CYA stands for Cover Your Ass.  It basically means that you should get as many people in the room to make every decision.  Never venture out on your own.  Always spread the risk around.  Please initial here _____ and here _____ and here ______.

There are many rationalizations of why people do this, and make no mistake, everyone does this from time to time and many companies do this every single time.  One rationalization is calling consensus by the wrong name: collaboration.

Collaboration is when you interact with many people on your decision, but in the end, you make the final call.  Responsibility for success is not shared.  Consensus is when you interact with many people and they all get votes.  You are looking for the lowest common denominator that everyone (everyone with a vote) can agree upon.

Democracy is its purest form allows each person to vote and the majority will win.  The big problem with this system is that the lowest common denominator is never the best solution.  Getting everyone to agree to a design in advance is terribly difficult and doesn’t leave anyone as the “responsible party”.  Consensus is what waters down most products and services.  The very wise Kathy Sierra had a few images that demonstrate this very well.  This is my favorite.

Good products have 1-2 people who have responsibility for the outcome.  Of course, they should collaborate with lots of people, but you can’t abdicate that core responsibility.  When you have a decision to make, and you have a meeting where everyone is hashing out the outcome, you will end up with something pretty convoluted.  Remember the proverb:  A camel is a horse designed by committee.

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