Does Google depend too much on data over design instinct? Yes, says former Googler Douglas Bowman, who posted a goodbye note to the company on his last day there today. From his post:
Without a person at (or near) the helm who thoroughly understands the principles and elements of Design, a company eventually runs out of reasons for design decisions. With every new design decision, critics cry foul. Without conviction, doubt creeps in. Instincts fail. “Is this the right move?” When a company is filled with engineers, it turns to engineering to solve problems. Reduce each decision to a simple logic problem. Remove all subjectivity and just look at the data. Data in your favor? Ok, launch it. Data shows negative effects? ….
Yes, it’s true that a team at Google couldn’t decide between two blues, so they’re testing 41 shades between each blue to see which one performs better. I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can’t operate in an environment like that. I’ve grown tired of debating such miniscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle.
Postscript from Matt: For those who may not know, Doug Bowman is a star in the web design world. You’ve probably seen a lot of his work without realizing it — he created several of the most popular Blogger templates after Google bought the popular blogging platform software, and led the redesign of Blogger itself, too. He also helped design/develop Google Calendar, among other Google products.