Here’s a question I hear all the time what’s the ideal designer to developer ratio? When people ask this question, they want to know how many U.S. staff members should be on a team considering the number of developers on that team. That’s a really difficult question to answer, because many factors influence what constitutes an appropriate amount of U.S. resources, how you I intensivist the work, for example, or how complex is the product where the domain. So I’m going to tweak this question slightly before I answer it to what is a typical ratio of designers to developers and bonus, what is a typical ratio of researchers to designers. Then I’m going to share a surprising research finding about design team impact as it relates to these ratios. I surveyed hundreds of UX designers about the number of people in various roles in their organizations, including design, research and development.
There was a wide distribution of responses, but the most typical responses were one designer per 10 or fewer developers, with 50 percent of people reporting this ratio and one researcher per five or fewer designers with 37 percent of people reporting this ratio.
We could therefore rationally extend these most common responses into a ratio of one researcher to five designers to 50 developers. But here’s the surprise to additional data points collected from the survey, one team’s self reported ability to impact key business metrics and to their likelihood to agree with statements indicating UX maturity had very little relationship to a team’s designer to developer ratio. This takeaway is critical for design teams. A typical ratio alone does not ensure greater organizational impact, better designs or more usable products. To understand your design team’s maturity or influence, it’s better to measure factors such as impact on key business metrics or health of the design team, not team ratios. More design and UX staff can support the team’s ability to increase these measures, but it does not guarantee better UX or greater impact alone.