After a characteristically fruitless VP-mandated team “brainstorm” session on business goals not one of us has authority to influence, I was particularly refreshed to read Smashing Magazine’s recent post: Why Design-By-Committee Should Die.

As a content strategist trained on heavy artillery but often relegated to a BB gun, I would augment this title: Why Design-By-Committee Should Die–Slowly, and In a Fire.

An example.

My UX team and I had been working on a new interactive design for months. Balancing the complex, often-conflicting priorities of multiple stakeholders, we had finally arrived at an accessible, informative model based on research and industry standards.

The director of an adjacent department parachuted into one of our last meetings, having not attended previously, with this reaction: “Why are there so many words?”


You might assume that my gripe is with her question. It is not. She’s good at what she does, but what she does has absolutely nothing to do with the Web. I don’t expect her critique to be constructive, or even informed.

My gripe is that she was there in the first place.

How many brilliant products and services have bled to death on the altar of consensus-building? I don’t know. Is there a number bigger than a-hell-of-a-lot?

Now, I recognize how fortunate I am to have a job (at all, in this economy!) where I get to dig into so many communication channels even as they’re evolving. I love arranging and rearranging, learning and improving. I love content strategy! I only wish I could devote my time to it.

Instead, because of forces outside my sphere of influence, I spend much of my time in this sort of dialogue:

“I don’t speak Web.”

Allow me.

“What if my grandmother wants to use it and doesn’t know how to get back to the homepage?”

Your grandmother won’t want to use it. By the time you’re done with it, no one will want to use it.

Speider Schneider says it best: Most creatives choose to let it wash over them and collect their pay check. I suppose I don’t agree because I haven’t seen many pay checks made out to “Dance, monkey, dance!”

A word of advice to those of you who “don’t speak Web”:

I recognize that you don’t speak Web. I respect you for your expertise.

I do speak Web. Bring me your problem, then please stand back while I solve it.

A word to my colleagues and clients who do:

I promise not to bullshit you. If I made a decision based on my own preference, I’m not going to pretend I’ve got market research to back it up. But if I can back it up, let’s be done. We’ve both got better things to do than weaken this product with second-guessing and amateur input.

When everyone is steering, no one is.