Tom Chi  

Manager Centered Design

April 29th, 2005 by Tom Chi :: see related comic

Since it’s not always possible for HCI/UX people to own the company, sometimes we need to figure out how to sneak good design by our managers. When that doesn’t work at all, we can end up with “Manager Centered Design.” You know, when that one little thing that your manager wants somehow becomes the basis of the entire design? Something like, say:

  • “I like Amazon. Give it tabs like Amazon.”
  • “Green and magenta seems about right…”
  • “Well it works for Microsoft, so…”
  • “Courier is what people know.”

Why do managers design? Because no one can stop them. And while I could spend a couple pages detailing professional ways of handling such situations, I think it’d be a lot more fun to hear other examples of MCD out in the world. What’s the funniest (or most horrendous) design decision your manager has ever made?

18 Responses to “Manager Centered Design”
Matt wrote:

“I want 10px Arial for EVERYTHING, even the text on the logo!”

Paul Roub wrote:

How about 10 design revisions on a completely useless splash page (redundant, I know). Most of the revisions were spent tweaking the *rate* at which the cheezy “glow lines” around the main figures faded in and out. I thought our graphics guy was going to kill himself.

dave wrote:

Mandate to use the words ‘Buy Now’ for product links to give users ‘a sense of urgency’ even though it takes them to a product info page, rather than a cart where they can actually buy…now.

David Heller wrote:

“Make it more ‘webby’ looking.” This was for a highly sophisticated enterprise content-management system (to remain nameless). Oh! this one was a Dilbert, too.

Matt K wrote:

“I want curves and bevels… everywhere!”
Don’t even get me started.
Right now I’m dealing with MECD (Multiple Engineer Centered Design). I spend weeks designing and then I get ganged up on by 4 engineers systematically trying to redesign everything.

Nick R. wrote:

While looking at a form on a site developed some time before the company hired me: “Why can’t I select more than one checkbox here?”
“You can’t. We made it so you can only choose one.”
“Oh you mean like radio buttons?”
“Yeah, but we liked checkboxes better.”

I couldn’t help but just shake my head.

Ron Zeno wrote:

Problem is, I have a hard time differentiating MCD from what some (most?) “designers” try to pass off as “good design”.

In my experience, managers design because the “designers” do no better.

Ash Donaldson wrote:

Users: “The mainframe is too slow.”
UCD: “The mainframe is one of the fastest in the country with near instant responses. Research revealed that the users have to constantly perform multiple consecutive steps for common actions, making it seem like a slow process. You should streamline the workflow around their goals.”
Manager: “Yeah, and we’ll make it a web app!”
UCD: “It’s a secure internal application that currently responds almost instantly and requires only basic hardware. The page rendering alone in a browser will make it a few hundred times slower, not to mention the expense of upgrading systems across the country from dumb terminals to PCs that will serve no purpose other than to run this application.”
Manager: “Yeah, but all the other guys are doing web apps, so we’ll do that.”

Sarah Kling wrote:

Ooh, it’s so hard to pick one…what comes to mind as the most frequent ridiculous request is:

Manager: “Can’t you just make it more sexy?”

Me: “We’re selling enterprise software to the IT community, not sex.”

Manager: “Okay, then just give it more pzzazz.”

Me: “Define ‘pzzazz’ - what’s an example of a UI you like?”

Manager: “Um, you know, something that looks sexy.”

[I flee the building screaming.]

Victor wrote:

This is like the pointy-haired-boss version of the design world. I quote (almost) Paul Graham:

“The pointy-haired boss miraculously combines two qualities that are common by themselves, but rarely seen together: (a) he knows nothing whatsoever about design, and (b) he has very strong opinions about it.”

Seele Varcuzzo wrote:

How about spending over 100k on hiring a UX consultant to reorganize, reaudience and redesign our company site when the manager says “Word from the mother ship (corporate) is we have to use the (disgusting) corporate site template, styleguide and content index”.

Omixav wrote:

Baby is just out from multiple iterations with techical team, and confirms mostly to the standards and in house guidelines(approaved earlier by management board for “consistency”)

Manager : Its bit dull looking
Me : Yes, because its a web app, and CRM, people have to look at it whole day long, so not very contrasty colors

Manager : Umm….in that case it’s too simple, can you make it like Microsoft Word or outlook
Me : Its application, but its on web.

Manager : In that case, put some windows greys, and 3D borders, most people use win2k, and it’ll look like thick client to them
Me : It’ll look heavy, and bevelled corners took up spaces and do not add anything to the application, so its gotta be flat.

Manager : Oh, but that’s personal preference, let me tell you, put some colors like yahoo, amazon and ebay, and put some borders and headers like win2k and winXP, and we’ve a winner at hand, best of web and application world.
Me : ….

Manager : don’t worry, I’m telling you so…this is where the world in going

Carlos wrote:

We want sounds, we want video, we want flash.

Sarah F wrote:

In the olden days of web, the MD of the company I worked at (which sold theatre tickets) wanted his photo on the homepage with a statement. I managed to persuade him that some show-related images might be more appropriate!

At another ticketing related site I worked on, my boss wanted an interactive dog to help people buy tickets online. mmmm (he didn’t get it)

JB wrote:

I’ve also lived the “interactive dog” theme for a site that had nothing really do to with dogs, I was once asked to make the search button say Fetch instead of Search. “And, could we make the button in the shape of a bone?”

Ian Stalvies wrote:

When working at (large multinational jobs site) we had just finished a mail to go out to thousands of users, all brand guidelines ticked, beautiful yet functional design … coffee coloured with hints of green …

Newly appointed director of Marketing views … just HAS to add something so he is “contributing” … which takes the form of huge, aggressive white SUBMIT buttons with red text throughout the body. Who would have thought he’d help drive the company under 12 months later?

Kevin Cheng wrote:

People … if you’d just email us half these kinds of stories, we’d be set for comics for years. These are great.

uxdesign wrote:

GREAT! Fr%#@k’n love it.

My favorite: “Make it pop, more.”


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OK/Cancel is a comic strip collaboration co-written and co-illustrated by Kevin Cheng and Tom Chi. Our subject matter focuses on interfaces, good and bad and the people behind the industry of building interfaces - usability specialists, interaction designers, human-computer interaction (HCI) experts, industrial designers, etc. (Who Links Here) ?