...Douglas Bowman, a top visual designer, left Google.
Mr. Bowman’s main complaint is that in Google’s engineering-driven culture, data trumps everything else. When he would come up with a design decision, no matter how minute, he was asked to back it up with data. Before he could decide whether a line on a Web page should be three, four or five pixels wide, for example, he had to put up test versions of all three pages on the Web. Different groups of users would see different versions, and their clicking behavior, or the amount of time they spent on a page, would help pick a winner.
“Data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions,” Mr. Bowman wrote.
Google is unapologetic about its approach.
“We let the math and the data govern how things look and feel,” Marissa Mayer, the company’s vice president of search products and user experience, said in a recent television interview...
The approach may be the ultimate experiment in crowd-sourcing — letting users collectively design products. But experts in design and innovation say the approach has limitations and downsides.
“Getting virtually real-time feedback from users is incredibly powerful,” said Debra Dunn, an associate professor at the Stanford Institute of Design. “But the feedback is not very rich in terms of the flavor, the texture and the nuance, which I think is a legitimate gripe among many designers.”
Adhering too rigidly to a design philosophy guided by “Web analytics,” Ms. Dunn said, “makes it very difficult to take bold leaps.”
And as much as it may sound jarring, the customer is not always right.
“Customers sometimes do not know what they want,” said John Seely Brown, the co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for Edge Innovation, a research and consulting organization based in Silicon Valley. “It can be dangerous to just listen to what users say they need.”
Fact is there's lots of data that ends up in the trash bin, that hungry people in certain places could use to feed themselves.
I'm not kidding.