We are going through the Lingopal design process at the moment for various products (J2ME, Website etc.). It’s all heating up as launch approaches.
This is the worst nightmare result – design by committee:
(via Slashdot’s new idle.slashdot.org)
Above all the video demonstrates what happens when you have lots of people inputting and yet no real decision maker. You lose simplicity, and gain features. Great design is the reverse.
Ideally the decision maker is the graphic designer/business guy/founder/programmer/marketing guy, and s/he has remarkable talent in all those areas. Clearly that doesn’t happen that often.
However no matter what the team’s composition, there does need to be a boss, someone who actively solicits input, actually values and uses that input, “gets” what great design is, has a very clear vision for the product and is the final decision maker. This too doesn’t happen as often as it should, but it does happen enough. Apple with Steve Jobs, and Trade Me are two examples of this working well.
During my time at Trade Me the design and usability talent was excellent, but ultimately one person made the go-no go decision on design. That person was Sam. The result may not have been agreeable to all, (nobody else liked the name “SMaps”), but it almost always was, and we were also very quick to change tacks when the results were not up to expectations.
For website and product design there is often no right answer – there may be better answers, there always worse answers, but until the products is tested in the real world we just don’t know the result.