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The Village Stew : Comments

By Nathan Smith

February 12, 2007


Dimitry Z.

February 13, 2007 9:45 AM

Love the article.

Working a small online company as an in-house developer, I see this ‘Village Stew’ on a weekly basis: every one in upper management has input into the final design.

This type of practice devalues the role of the designer to a simple mock-up artist. Not only is it degrading but the final product is the work of people whose job is not design in the first place.

We haven’t implemented a solution to the situation, but our dev team is small, always overloaded and outnumbered. Only an unfortunate event (loss of visitors, complaints from advertisers, etc.) could bring an end to this situation.

Dave Peele

February 13, 2007 10:07 AM

Great article, Nathan!

This is definitely a problem that we have dealt with in the past and it continues to persist with some of our clients. The “Village Stew” is a great metaphor to use when having to explain to a committee the need for a central focus and decision maker. Thanks for giving and reaffirming some methods for dealing with situations like these that arise.

Nathan Smith

February 13, 2007 11:17 AM

Dimitry: I feel your pain. I’ve been there too, and it’s never fun having to fight that up-hill battle for quality vs. multiple conflicting opinions.

Dave: Thanks. The “village stew” analogy seems to go over well, because nobody is insulted – These are all indeed everyone’s favorite things, but mixed together they spell disaster. It seems to be a concept most people take to without much explanation.


February 13, 2007 3:08 PM

Couldnt agree more, we see this knd of situation all the time – almost as often as the client who wants a site but has no idea what he wants from it, in it or basically anything to do with it, then expects you to pull the lowest possible price out of your backside with no notion of whats involved. Just say NO

Robert Foerster

February 15, 2007 12:16 PM

I think this article hits the nail on the head…sorry for unoriginal quip!

BUT..Alas it’s not always so perfect. I know at times you don’t “really” have too much choice sometimes. Perhaps you don’t have every villager coming in with their own item to add to the soup, but if the mayor and reeve come with a couple bad things, there isn’t much you can do without coming across like a tyrant.

Besides, it’s a work in progress. You can backtrack once those people leave. :)

Tongue planted firmly in cheek

February 16, 2007 4:06 AM

Great article.

I read this article on the train on the way home. I have the same “problem” here at work where Chiefs and committees are deciding how things are done at our website, without really knowing what’s functional/interesting/usable.

I loved your story of the village stew. If I may, I will certainly use it at future meetings :)

Nathan Smith

February 16, 2007 9:38 AM

Robert: Yeah, it is tough to balance trying to do the right thing, yet also trying to be diplomatic in articulating the point.

Brock: Sure, please do use the analogy in your meetings. I am glad that you liked the article. Hopefully it will prove helpful in illustrating web-dev difficulties to your clientele.

Jeff Lin

February 19, 2007 7:18 AM

great article to print out for my bosses to read! In the article, it mentioned the right questions to steer the clients into the right direction, but just exactly what is the right question for the clients? I am curious about this.

Nathan Smith

February 19, 2007 7:25 AM

Jeff: These questions would be highly subjective, but good ones to ask would be:

— What is the scope of the project?
— What is the timeframe?
— What is the budget?
— What is the end goal?
— What are we trying to accomplish?
— What is the metric for success?
— Who are impacted the most by changes?
— Who are our competitors?
— Who is in charge of branding?
— How does the information architecture look?
— etc.

John Casey

February 20, 2007 6:06 PM

Great list of questions to ask. An obvious question but I don’t think has been asked yet is “What is the main objective?”

Steve D.

February 28, 2007 4:02 AM

All very true of enterprise chain-of-command…but I’ve found that human behavior and corp culture are somewhat immovable objects. You need a sponsor who really is on your side to provide “air cover” on Exec Row. You can’t assume you’ll have access or rapport with the real decision makers.

One other thing to add…velocity suffers when committees are involved…forcing projects to fall behind the curve of real-time business realities. In particular, budget re-projections can wreak havoc as previously “approved” capex gets rolled back, especially in Q3/Q4. And committees are notorious for reversing decisions on this basis, due to “meataxe” policies from the CFO.

Expect that this will happen and have prepared contingency plans in your vest pocket…nothing relieves a constipated committee like a sensible plan to deal with financial cutbacks.


June 17, 2007 3:16 AM

I feel your pain. I’ve been there too, and it’s never fun having to fight that up-hill battle for quality vs. multiple conflicting opinions.

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