designer/programmer ratio?

24 Sep 2006 - 9:39am
7 years ago
6 replies
1423 reads
mtumi
2004

Hi -

I'm looking to find out the desirable ratio of design staff,
including IxD and visual design people, to programmers. It seems to
be a common phenomenon that small companies in the software industry
compare themselves to companies with large dedicated design teams (ie
Apple, Google, Yahoo), while allocating scant resources themselves to
design.

I'm wondering if those who have (or have seen) a good balance could
share what they consider an ideal breakdown to be. I realize it may
vary depending on the work...

thanks -

Michael

Comments

25 Sep 2006 - 12:24pm
Paul Sherman
2006

I have looked at this issue in my organization. Here's what I have been
telling the product mgmt & engineering leadership in my company:

- Our UCD team consists of:
5 interaction designers / usability analysts
1 visual designer
1 manager
1 director

- The team supports a combined team of 100 developers + product
managers. This is a ratio of about 12.5:1, or 10:1 without product
managers.

- For small teams, I recommend a "two-drink" minimum, that is, hire 1
usability & 1 design person.

- When they ask why the team needs a manager and/or director, this is
what I say:

"You need someone to champion the cause, lead the process changes, serve
in the escalation path, and communicate in business- and tech-friendly
terms to the rest of the organization. In short, you need a leader."

HTH,
Paul Sherman

----
I'm looking to find out the desirable ratio of design staff, including
IxD and visual design people, to programmers. It seems to be a common
phenomenon that small companies in the software industry compare
themselves to companies with large dedicated design teams (ie Apple,
Google, Yahoo), while allocating scant resources themselves to design.

I'm wondering if those who have (or have seen) a good balance could
share what they consider an ideal breakdown to be. I realize it may
vary depending on the work...

25 Sep 2006 - 2:00pm
mprove
2004

Yes, I agree. My 10yrs+ experience at large companies (100, 3000, 30000 employees) indicates a desired ration of 1:10 between UX and programmers. Everything less than that drives your product towards the techie edge of the scale.
-Matthias

PS: A book chapter on this subject (in German) at
http://www.mprove.de/script/03/hanser/Kapitel4.html

--

User Experience and Interaction Design :: http://www.mprove.de

25 Sep 2006 - 2:45pm
John Schrag
2005

If one of the goals of your project is to be really innovative, you'll
probably need a higher ratio than that, more like 1:5. We had one
project where the ratio was 1:1 (2 interaction designers, 2 coders, one
graphic designer part time, plus technical management. Amazing results,
but a rare, rare opportunity.)

-john schrag
Autodesk, Toronto

-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of
Matthias Mueller-Prove
Sent: Monday, September 25, 2006 3:00 PM
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] designer/programmer ratio?

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted
material.]

Yes, I agree. My 10yrs+ experience at large companies (100, 3000, 30000
employees) indicates a desired ration of 1:10 between UX and
programmers. Everything less than that drives your product towards the
techie edge of the scale.
-Matthias

PS: A book chapter on this subject (in German) at
http://www.mprove.de/script/03/hanser/Kapitel4.html

--

User Experience and Interaction Design :: http://www.mprove.de
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25 Sep 2006 - 3:11pm
Dave Malouf
2005

I have to say I'm not so sure I buy the whole ratio of
designers:developers methodology.
The reason being is that they are in different time phase alignments and
both have differing levels need depending on the specific criteria of a
project.

so my answer to all this, is "it depends".

What is important is for the design team to understand their roles and
responsibilities and for them to be in enough control to set their
resource and timing needs for the types of projects they are working on.
A magical equation is not going to be "one size fits all".

-- dave

25 Sep 2006 - 3:21pm
Paul Sherman
2006

Adding to Dave's comments, I also want to point out that it's initially
quite difficult to integrate a user-centered design process into
existing development processes and customs.

I have seen many efforts to incorporate UCD fail because the other
disciplines (project mgrs, dev, product mgrs) quite literally didn't
know what to make of these new interaction designers & usability
analysts and their fancy-pants methods.

Paul Sherman

-----Original Message-----
What is important is for the design team to understand their roles and
responsibilities and for them to be in enough control to set their
resource and timing needs for the types of projects they are working on.

A magical equation is not going to be "one size fits all".

-- dave

25 Sep 2006 - 4:19pm
Nasir Barday
2006

A "one size fits all" ratio assumes that there's a constant relationship
between the output of the design team vs. the work required of an
engineering team. We can't know how much engineering work is ahead of us,
regardless of the amount of time spent on a design. Some complex
functionality is surprisingly easy to build, and vice versa.

Maybe instead of a simple UX to Engineering ratio we need a Product
Complexity to Engineering ratio, where Product Complexity comes from
Business Requirements, Functional Spec, etc.

- Nasir

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