Leadership Should Not Be Involved in Design

The bottom line:  Leadership shouldn’t be making the design decisions because all too frequently, they are more concerned with pretty and shiny and the Gee Whiz Bang than they are about how well a product or service functions.

They will preach all day long about how important it is to have a well-oiled machine, a cohesive team, highly collaborative organizations, and the like, but when it comes to approving designs, they always seem to fail to ask the most important question, which is not simply “Does it work?”, but “Does it work well?”

One instance that comes to mind is the menu interface for Verizon’s FIOS television service. At heart, it is a grid layout like Cox Communications’ interface, but Verizon thought they needed more colors and shapes and logos which makes it more difficult to read the menu as the size and shape of the box change, as well as the color. There are two or three different layouts from which the user can choose their favorite. Unfortunately, they all suffer from the size and shape change. Now, it is likely that a designer/developer came up with the interface, but it was almost assuredly thumbed up by at least one level of management before being implemented. It’s quite possible that the initial design was more plain, but deemed by managers to need more style. Who wants a boring, simple, easy to read menu?

While I’m bad-mouthing Verizon, let me also add that their remote is horrible. It had more buttons than necessary and no ‘live’ button. The button you use to instantly get back to the live feed (if you’d paused the show for some reason) will take you to the live feed…unless you are on a channel that has a special feature. In that case, you get taken to a different channel/feature instead of just to the live feed. Shouldn’t be too big of a problem, except that more special features are added to more and more channels. You can see the problem.

The web and software are another couple areas where management should leave design to the experts. Instead of seeing something on a popular site and telling your folks that you want that feature, provide the goal you wish to accomplish and let the people you’ve hired (because they have more knowledge in these areas than you) come up with the design/interface. That neat widget you like may not be what’s driving traffic/interest to the other site/product and may not accomplish your goal.

Leaders, do your job: lead, provide vision, set goals…then let the experts do their jobs. Ensure the product isn’t hideous and that user feedback is captured, perhaps before unveiling the final product, but don’t lock in on something that may not be relevant to your product/brand. Trust your designers…or replace them with yes men or monkees, because they can produce unusable products for you without being driven to drink.

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