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Using Offshore Designers

I am working with a new design firm and this time to save some cash I decided to go offshore.  The guys I am working with right now are in India and I seriously think they don't get it.

In 2001 I had an offshore project management firm and we had partners in India, Belarus and Ukraine.  Honestly all of them sucked.  The best offshore designers we worked with were in Argentina.

I can already hear a bunch of voices complaining about generalizations, however I am not the only person to notice this.  Today I decided to go a step further and figure out: "why is it that the guys in Ukraine or India do not wow me with their designs?"

Let's dissect this latest project and figure out what has been going wrong.  I believe it's indicative of design issues in general.

  1. the designer didn't have an overall strategy for the design.  For example: are we going to go with vector graphics, photos, straight edges or rounded edges?  A lot of those types of decisions need to be done on an architectural level and the rest of the design flows from that.  What you get in the end of consistency in the application.  Can you imagine if Facebook all of a sudden had a big round beveled button somewhere?
  2. the designer doesn’t have the confidence or the genius to suggest something innovative.  A good design is innovative enough, but familiar enough that users are not confused.

Let’s take my last project for example.  I am trying to put a new skin on the projet I created during the DreamForce Hackathon –  I gave the designers the overview of the solution and I gave them some designs I liked.  What I got back were three starting designs.

The designs were a variation on the same theme.  One of them actually mixed photographic and drawn images in a way that didn’t work.  Another one had a bunch of colors. All of them had all caps text everywhere.

I decided to give the designers more direction and wrote out the text, while pointing out all the obvious issues like – please don’t put anything in all caps and keep the colors consistent.  What came back were three variations with all caps and a color scheme of an Indian rug.

The next iteration I got one design with a bright yellow color, which is nowhere to be found in Twitter or Chatter.  So I basically decided to lay out the front page in OmniGraffle and see if I can get these guys back to something normal.

Another iteration, better but not there – repeated elements on top and bottom, again new colors appearing out of the blue and still ALL CAPS everywhere...

So what now?  Is it a language barrier?  Is it an attention deficit?  Is it that people don’t understand the value of consistency and small things?  Who knows, but I bet its not the last time I am struggling with these guys.

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