I have many conversations about User Experience with many different organizations. A recurring theme is one of “what do we measure?” and “how much do we invest?”. The key to both these questions lie with the single most important metric in User Experience:
The Designer to Developer Ratio
What is this ratio? Simply, you look at how many dedicated user experience people versus how many dedicated developers. This gives you a ratio – a ratio which is extremely usable in answering all kinds of questions like:
- What is your organization’s current capability?
- What can stakeholders expect from their investments?
- What activities should you focus on?
- How much do we need to invest to reach our goals?
Once you find your ratio you might be interested to know how you stack up. And looking at the ratio across different industries, you can make some broad categories:
The Average Gartner Client self-reports a ratio of 1:17, this is pretty bad.
Enterprise Software Vendors have between 1:10 to 1:8, it is a segment that is full of distinctly mediocre solutions.
Digital Service Companies, like Netflix, Google and Facebook have between 1:5 and 1:4, it is a segment where they live or die on the quality of their User Experience, no wonder they have a good ratio.
Full stack UX agencies, the guys that come in when you have to get that website or mobile app completely right and want a team that does both the design and the development, they have a ratio of 1:4 down to 1:3.
Problem is that the best practices on User Experience is written by designers in sub 1:5 environments. Best practices that is impossible to do without working 24 hour days and burning out in the average 1:17 environment.
In fact, most designers in environments with a poor ratio should not be on projects – they should spend all their time making developers better. The appropriate ambition for a 1:17 environment is to strive for mediocrity.
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