How To Get More Accurate Design Feedback. Image Credit: Roman Pohorecki Https://www.pexels.com/u/romanp/

How to get more actionable design feedback

Designers need feedback to check with the team, stakeholders, and clients if they are on the right path. Too often we tend to show screens with little direction, and the design feedback is unfocused. As a result, it is not clear what the expectations are for next steps. I have coached my students in portfolio class and the designers on my team to set up design feedback sessions to guide people to give more actionable input. Here are the three steps that we use.

1. Articulate clear goals for design feedback

Communicate the design prompt

When I was new to my career, I made the mistake of assuming the reviewers knew the project as intimately as I did. So, I would just launch them into my screens without any context. Even if they had seen some of the work before, they might not remember all of the details around the work. Remind them of problem you are trying to solve and the progress you have made up until this point.

Draw obvious boundaries for feedback

There are some things that you cannot change (i.e. the global navigation, the logo, or the colors). Make sure you tell the reviewers what is in the scope of the review. Be clear on the specific interaction models or workflows you need feedback.

First offer praise + Second ask questions + Third give comments

2. Create an environment that engages the reviewers

Facilitate a session where all participants have a voice

I have found in group settings personalities will shine through. The people who are more vocal will dominate the room, and those who default to being more passive will hide. To encourage more diverse input I have used a technique called, “Silent Feedback.” It is not new or revolutionary, but it forces all of the participants to silently put one thought on one Post-it note. Here are the steps.

  1. Designer prints out work and put them on a wall
  2. Designer walks the room through the work
  3. Reviewers write their feedback in the following order
    • Praise
    • Question
    • Comment
  4. Designer reviews feedback and addresses directly addresses questions or comments where needed

Why should the reviewers go through the steps of writing a praise and a question before any comments? It is to help them observe more before giving their initial reaction.

Nudge reviewers for more clarification where necessary

I have been encouraging my designers to take a few minutes to process the feedback and group them where they see overlaps. To them some feedback may not be clear or may seem to offer a premature solution. They should ask questions about the contents of the Post-it notes. It is challenging to get a complete thought on a small piece of paper. The reviewer may need an opportunity to articulate more.

3. Summarize the takeaways

I never assume that designers know what to do next. At the end of the session, I ask them to list out what they think are next steps. It gives them a way to confirm with the room what they need to do, and the participants feel that their feedback is valued.

Interested in more articles on UX process? Check out these posts on how I practice and teach design.

Matt Eng

Product Designer at IBM Design. Based in Austin,TX. Worked with clients such as IBM, Alcatel-Lucent, Polycom, Symantec and Pebble. Volunteers with AIGA Austin and teaches at Austin Community College.

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