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I'm working on the UI-side of a project which is under intense scrutiny by our Marketing group. Most of the time, we're reviewing functionality requirements.

Once in a while, however, they will get very in-depth regarding colors, styles, etc. For example, I've been tasked by Marketing to make one particular button a very specific color and a very specific size,

In other projects I've worked on, however, these types of requirements have been quietly ignored or rejected when they came from Marketing. Managers and tech leads have insisted Marketing shouldn't be specifying details like colors, styles, control layouts, etc., but I've never really been told why.

Is it inappropriate for Marketing to list detailed style requirements for a UI, including colors, shades, layout, sizes, etc.? If so, why? Is this just a case of conflicting philosophies regarding Marketing responsibilities?

(I should probably mention that we're not working with a unified style guide for company-wide applications. In the past, other projects I've worked on have "winged it" when assembling their UIs.)

Edit: I removed an editorial comment I made which probably implied this post was a complaint couched in a question. I'm not really concerned with what I should do, but rather I would like better understanding as to what Marketing's responsibility is regarding these types of requirements. I've had very little exposure to Marketing (I've been more distanced from them in previous projects) and I don't understand their role as it pertains to UI styling.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

It can be appropriate yes, but it is probably not the best idea for a number of reasons.

Marketing people usually put a lot of research into their customers wants and needs and they also do a lot of research on competitors products. Many times they want to either distinguish themselves from competition or they want to emulate them. Their responsibility is to generally help create and promote a product, on the work that the software team usually produces. They generally should have some influence in the look and feel.

The problem with them having full control however is that they may not be as qualified as a designer. They could be making some very poor UI design judgments that will impact negatively on the usability or the look and feel.

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In general, I have found that the average marketing person is better at design/layout than the average developer... I agree though: Marketing having full control is not a good idea. – Treb Jan 3 '12 at 11:14
+1, thanks for your response. These are helpful thoughts regarding marketing responsibilities and how they pertain to style requirements. – bedwyr Jan 3 '12 at 22:24

Is it inappropriate for Marketing to list detailed style requirements for a UI, including colors, shades, layout, sizes, etc.?

Yes. It's inappropriate.

They're idiots and don't understand the consequences of their actions. Want consistency? Don't listen to marketing.

No. It's not inappropriate.

They're describing to you precisely what the customer wants to pay for. Want to sell product? Listen to marketing.

Is this just a case of conflicting philosophies regarding Marketing responsibilities?


You should, perhaps, find the "Product Owner" who has the final say in this. That's the usual approach.

If there is no product owner, you have an organizational problem.

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-1: I'd delete the first half of your answer. "Want to get sell product" WTF?? +1: Find the product owner. +1: If there is no product owner, you have an organizational problem. ==> Overall +1. – Peter K. Jan 3 '12 at 1:31
-1, Stereotyping all marketing types as idiots is inappropriate and incorrect. Further it is not true that they will always lead to inconsistency. Good ones try to take the application suite of the company and create as much visual consistency as possible. I really do agree though that they should not be the final say. The product absolutely needs an owner that should not be in marketing. – maple_shaft Jan 3 '12 at 1:47
@maple_shaft: I was trying to repeat the assumptions inherent in the question. Shouldn't you also consider downvoting the question since it makes the same assumption about marketing being "wrong"? – S.Lott Jan 3 '12 at 23:04

What each unit within a company does can easily change from company to company.

For example, many companies have detailed requirements around how their brand is portrayed. If we are making software that incorporates our company's brand then we must use colors from a specific set, the logo must be positioned like so, etc.

Have you asked why they make these requests? That might go a long way to understanding if it makes sense or not.

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Heck, no, it's not inappropriate. In the modern world of web-based consumer-focused IT, you should never assume that the product stands alone. Marketing (including the product owner, who is often a Product Manager in the Marketing department) may very well have non-product reasons for the choice of styling. Does a particular shade of blue display well in printed materials, like ads and brochures (yes, some do). Does your target market respond particularly well to orange (yes, if they're Dutch).

After all, Target stores are so closely aligned in people's minds with bright red concentric circles that its name is often downplayed in its advertising.

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