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Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

Three women in front of a laptop computer

Have you heard the idiom “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the stew”?  The idea behind this saying is that if too many people try to work on something, the result won’t be as good.  That is why restaurants have one head chef, and everyone else takes direction from them.

Ask almost any website designer, including myself, and we will have some reservations about a website design process that involve a group of people who all have a voice in the final design. 

Design by committee or having too many people making decisions without a clear structure can delay a project, will take more design time, and may increase the cost for the client.

On the other hand, having more than one person’s input brings different points of view to the website design project and, if done right, can produce a better website in the end.

The Benefits of Design by Committee

If the website project is set up right, there are many positives when multiple people are involved in the process.  More opinions and eyes on a project can spark ideas that can improve the final design.

Three women working together

1. Power of a group

While you can definitely brainstorm by yourself, it isn’t quite the same as coming up with a group of people.  Often we start out with a good idea but can’t see past that initial concept to make it even better.  By talking with others, it is easier to buid upon and expanded our original thoughts to make a better final product.

2. Alternative points of view

Your final website needs to appeal to your ideal audience.  While you might have a specific idea of who that person is, in reality, the people visiting your website are a diverse group of people.  Having multiple people on your design team will give you a wider view of what appeals to that larger audience.  

3. Trouble Shooting

Having multiple people looking at the design means more minds thinking “what if”.  Often having more than one person looking at something allows the holes or faults of a project to show up faster.  While people might think this is a negative, it is actually a good thing for problems to be discussed and solved as early in the project cycle as possible.

4. Less Work  

If you are the sole point person on a design project, you are responsible for all of the decision-making and deliverables.  But if you have a group of people, tasks can be distributed among the group, which greatly reduces the amount of work that a single person is responsible for.

5. Excitement  

When a team contributes to the decision-making process, they will feel a closer connection to the overall project. By allowing multiple people to be involved in the decision-making process, you increase enthusiasm for the company, the brand, and the success of the project.

The Downside of Design by Committee

Women looking at color swatches

On the other hand, if a project is not set up with structure and boundaries, design by committee can delay a project and increase costs.  So beware of some of the pitfalls that come with adding multiple people to a design project.

1. Too many opinions

Each person has their own opinions, points of view, and preferences.  As I tell my clients – if you ask five people for their opinion, you will get five different answers.  For example, if you pick a color palette, some people will love it, some will hate it, some will suggest you darken the color, others will suggest a lighter color, or a completely different color, or …  the list goes on and on.  

This is exacerbated when people are directly involved in the design.   Each person wants their ideas heard and chosen, which can make it very hard to decide on the final design direction of the project.

2. Confusion for the website designer

If more than one person is communicating with the website designer, they can end up with conflicting messages.   I have worked for groups where multiple people were on the design committee, and responses to a review of a website page ranged from “love it, let’s go live” to another person questioning the layout and image selection. If the website designer doesn’t have a single point of content, then the multitude of different inputs is overwhelming and results in a delay while everyone sorts out what the final decision is.

3. You can’t make everyone happy

With a group larger than one, someone’s ideas will ultimately be chosen.  This can cause tension or bad feelings among the team members and distract from the ultimate goal of creating a website that speaks to your intended audience. 

Keep in mind that in the end, the goal for your website is to attract your ideal client or customer – so you are designing it for them.

Final Thoughts

So, as you can see, “designing by committee” has both advantages and disadvantages.  

On one hand, you have 

  • The power of brainstorming with a group that is invested in the project
  • A variety of viewpoints improves the final design
  • Additional eyes on a project can spot problems before they happen
  • The work can be distributed so as not to overwhelm one person

On the other hand, you have

  • Too many viewpoints can stall the progress of a project
  • The website developer will be stuck if they get differing instructions
  • In the end, people’s egos might be bruised if their suggestions weren’t implemented

So, if you are going to launch a website design project with a group of people, I recommend doing the following so that your project proceeds smoothly

  1. Appoint one team member to be the point person between the design committee and the website developer.  That way, the developer is only getting one set of instructions.
  2. Create a clear structure of who is responsible for what
  3. Decide in advance how decisions will be made, and disagreements will be solved.

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