All web designers have to answer to someone. Employed designers hand their works over to a supervisor and freelancers are required to turn their works in to clients. There’s always someone up in the hierarchy that gets to review and offers an opinion. Reviews can have influential effects on a project and often it is for a good reason. Progress could never be reached without new, fresh insights; but other times, review process can kill creativity and misguide the whole project. Many factors, including the size of the review team often plays a key role in this process.
Some web designers are very social and they enjoy receiving feedbacks from any source. But others hate it when people second guess what they have worked really hard to achieve. Ideally, a review process can help web designers to acknowledge their strengths and weakness. An obvious question is, how a review team should be structured. Like many things in our life, we can’t get a clear cut answer and it won’t be as black and white as we would like it to be. When it comes to refining your review process, it is important to acknowledge the strengths and weakness of each structure.
Small Review Team
The power of a small team should never be underestimated. They are less vulnerable to bonds of compromise and can deliver stunning results. Small teams can “get in the zone” faster while carrying out ideas with focused and masterful execution. There are fewer people that second guess someone’s choice. A small team can have an unimpeded flow of ideas. In smaller projects, the review team is consisted of only a single person that provides all evaluation from start to finish. In larger projects, the review team is consisted of senior web designers and representatives from client.
These are common advantages of a small team:
- Focused feedbacks: Small groups can often produce focused feedbacks. You won’t find a room full of professionals blurting our random ideas that lead to longwinded arguments. It’s more likely, you’ll find a few individuals that are really exploring how the project could be better and honing in on creative tasks at hand.
- Shorter meetings: Ideally meetings can act as productivity booster, but unfortunately nothing kills productivity faster than a bunch of people chatting and sitting around a table for hours. Web design projects with smaller review teams can often get feedbacks more efficiently and faster. People can get into the meeting room faster and greetings are less formal.
- Easier agreement: A small team is more likely to reach a conclusion on how to improve the project as a whole and move on to the next phase. Small review teams can make projects go faster and produce more cohesive end results. Disagreements can still happen, but resolutions can be handled directly and approached quickly.
Remember that these are only best case scenarios. These advantages can be negated instantly, when a wrong person is thrown into the mix.
Thus far, a small team sounds like the way to go. We can gather much benefit from a tight-knit group of reviewers. Unfortunately, a small team format may come with its share of obvious downsides. These are a few hurdles you should be aware of when forming a small review team:
- Mistakes are easier to miss: A small review team may miss some mistakes due to fewer pairs of eyes. If you get 10 or 20 people scrutinizing at the same thing, they will likely tear it apart and find every little problem: broken links, alignment issues, spelling mistakes and others. When there are only one or two people, it’s easy to overlook them.
- Less varied ideas: A small team often has fewer ideas to toss about, which results in less creativity. Having fewer ideas can be useful when your team is on a deadline and need to quickly move the project along. However, during early phases of a web design project, it can be debilitating, especially if the client stubbornly demands better results.
- Too much harmony: If you throw enough people in a meeting room, you are bound to find someone who consistently whines about everything. With a small team, the desire for common agreement and harmony is more prevalent. It may sound like a good thing, but too much harmony can hamper the creativity. Less unique thinking can be counterproductive in a web design project, which is essentially a highly creative process. This is the moment when we need unusual or even crazy ideas by getting far outside of the box.
Major web design and marketing firms prefer a large review team. They gather in a large meeting to review a web design project to produce evaluations and feedbacks. After you read through the drawbacks of a small review team, it is very easy to find advantages of a large review team, because they are essentially the direct opposite:
- More mistakes can be addressed: A large review team can catch hidden mistakes in a web design project. If problem-ridden web design is reviewed by a small team, it might still be published with many glitches and annoy thousands of website visitors.
- More feedback and ideas: In a large review teams there’s bound to be a lively discussion for how a project can be improved. The larger the review team that evaluates a project, the bigger the chance that someone will come up with a critical opinion. A review team is not meant to give web designer team a pat on the back; instead, they should form professional criticism that can improve the whole project. Quality critic is hard to come by and when web designers do come across it, they should treat it like a valuable part of the creative process.
- Specialization: A large team can divide and conquer a review task. Instead of having a few people handle everything, the leader of the review team can afford to allocate people on what they are good at. For example, a sub-team can evaluate the aesthetic and graphical factors, while another examines the website usability. This will make sure that a web design project can head to the proper direction.
Two heads are better than one; this is an old adage that we hear far too often. While it is generally true, it turns out ten heads are not always better than five. These are a few things to watch for when working with a large review team.
- Reduced feedback quality: There is often a tradeoff between quantity and quality. Ask someone to evaluate a web design project and it is quite likely to get a focused and clear response. The person may easily miss more than 50 percent of what’s wrong with the project. But we already have a strong basis to make a convincing feedback. Try that with 20 people in a room. Suddenly, the arguments are all over the map. It is difficult to get everyone on the same page, because each has a unique idea that contradicts with others.
- Inefficiency: A large creative team can be inefficient. When too many people gather together on a single web design project, nothing ever gets done. A large review team may require a whole day to make a feedback that is eventually turned down by the web design team and rejected by the client. On the other hand, a smaller team can produce more feedback; while some might be rejected, others are often approved. The problem isn’t the skill and knowledge the review team, instead, a large team size can be a real hindrance. A large review team offers a critique; the original ideas and goals can become ignored in the cacophony of argument as everyone wants their opinions heard. The end result may be consisted of a mess of compromises that has no a unified vision.
- Disunity: In an attempt to achieve specialization, a large review team is broken down into smaller sub-teams. But sometimes, they become competitive with each other and set agenda that’s separate from the common goal. This will result in counterproductive anti-communication, bickering and unnecessary bureaucracy that ultimately taints the quality of the end results.
Obviously, small and large teams come with unique, inherent strengths and weak messes. Proponents of one can easily find an argument to condemn another, but by doing so, they ignore potentials and advantages of another. This article is not intended to reach a final conclusion that both methods suck or work equally. Instead, web design professionals should realize that there is no magic formula to define the correct size of a review team. You shouldn’t fall into the “others’ grass is greener” mentality and think that any issue in the review team can be solved by adjusting the number of people involved.
It appears, the real takeaway is that we need to make a few experiments to see which approach makes the most sense for a specific web design project. Once you decide which one to use, you should anticipate drawbacks you are going to run into. For example, if you choose a large team, set a timer if you know long meetings can kill productivity. On the other hand, if a small review team prone to overlook mistakes, have some a few fresh pairs of eyes from other departments to look over the design from time to time.