Color of the bikeshed

I’ve experienced this so many times it’s something I come to expect when I work on any upcoming project.

The bigger – and more abstract – problem related to this is quite simply that a requirements grow, deliverables are behind and deadlines get missed.

People stay quiet on technical issues, but when an issue like indentation formatting or naming conventions arises, everyone has an opinion.

In my office, we’ve got a major product release going out next week. For this release, several changes need to be made to the technical operation of the web application. However, somehow there seems to be no end in sight of “critical” updates that just so happen to involve the design of some survey (which happens to get about 1 hit per week, not to mention contribute next to nothing to the bottom line), the use of case in all instances of Ajax (it’s been chosen that all instances should be mixed case instead of all caps). Don’t even get me started on the iterations we’ve gone through on datasheet design, padding of 15px vs padding of 10px and the like.

This is not the only workplace I’ve been at with this problem, but why is there so much emphasis on the colour of the bikeshed?

Ultimately, most of our users won’t even recognize we’ve got a colourful bikeshed, and most others couldn’t care less. Most users are looking for utility and ease of use. The colours of the bikeshed are nice, but not critical.

Don’t forget, there is no point in worrying about paint if the shed doesn’t even exist. And when most users will neither notice nor appreciate the colour of your bike shed, is this really where you should be focusing your resources?

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