Product design is a team effort. There’s no way around it. From researchers to developers to, well, designers, creating a digital product for the masses involves a number of opinions from a variety of sources. Everyone involved plays an important role and has valuable input that factors into the design process.
That being said, how large does your project team need to be? Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, has said that teams shouldn’t be larger than what two large pizzas can feed. In his opinion, small teams make it easier to communicate more effectively rather than just more, and smaller team sizes encourage high autonomy and innovation.
But does this “one (small) size fits all” approach still apply in the age of fully remote companies and advanced digital products? Let’s take a look at why the “two-pizza team” approach isn’t a best fit for digital product design.
Related: Get over yourself: Collaboration is the secret to great products
Design has more stakeholders from different areas
Unless your team is made up of hungry teenagers, two large pizzas can (reasonably) feed five to eight people. When did you last work on a design project that involved fewer than a dozen stakeholders? Digital product design involves many people with many different specialities: research, design, front-end development, back-end development, copywriting… the list goes on. Not to mention executives and project managers and the users themselves (you are user testing, right?). And don’t even think about trying to get everyone in the same room all at once, even with the appeal of delicious pizza.
Instead of limiting your team size to improve communication and the feedback cycle, why not improve your processes instead? Implementing design operations will allow your team to collaborate in a way that feels less convoluted and hectic while still allowing everyone to provide the comments and criticism that comes along with designing a digital product in stages.
“The ‘two-pizza team’ approach isn’t a best fit for digital product design.”
Design is becoming a more autonomous process
As more companies move towards including remote workers or freelancers among their ranks, processes like digital product design are becoming more asynchronous. Companies are beginning to recognize that there’s amazing talent to be found when you don’t limit yourself to one centralized office location. But what does this mean for collaboration and communication within product design teams?
Remote work involves some level of autonomy and asynchronicity, and the two-pizza rule is difficult to apply if your team isn’t all working in the same place at the same time. Web designer Mark Johnson said, “Autonomy is a precursor to motivation which is a precursor to focus which is a precursor to good work.” The best work occurs when a team is encouraged to work independently of one another while continuing to contribute to the project as a whole. That’s why remote work, even remote design work, gets results. You don’t have to limit your team to the number of people who can fit around a large table.
There are more design collaboration tools
Speaking of team communication and collaboration, the two-pizza rule’s main focus is to reduce the number of connections between members of a team. Because the cost of coordinating, communicating, and relating with each other could snowball to the point that it would lower individual and team productivity, it made more sense in the past to keep teams small. But times have changed.
It’s easier than ever for teams to keep with the Cheers rule (where everybody knows your name). Working collaboratively has become less challenging as well. Design doesn’t have to be limited to whiteboards and quick sketches any longer. Tools like Slack, Dropbox Paper, the Google suite of productivity tools, and InVision have all made it easier to work together in-person or spread around the world.
Related: How to help your team excel at remote collaboration
So while we’re all for the occasional work pizza party, when it comes to digital product design, you don’t have to limit your team size (or location) to be successful. You can work together apart from one another with as many talented people as it takes to make the best possible product for your users. And the best part? Now you can keep all the pizza for yourself.
The new InVision Studio incorporates prototyping, animation, and sharing, which makes it great for collaborating with the rest of your design team, no matter where they are. Studio is is early access now, so give it a try!
by Will Fanguy
Digital content wrangler | UX enthusiast | Recovering educator | Shameless nerd & GIF connoisseur | Hockey fan (Go Preds!) | Oxford comma or death | It’s pronounced FANG-ee