At Infinity Works we practice user-centered design using an iterative process that relies on feedback. Our designers work openly, embedded in delivery teams where we learn, experiment and optimise together. Our ultimate aim is to design and build a product or service that works for both users and businesses alike, which means listening carefully to both user groups.
Feedback is the key to unlocking collective knowledge which helps designers to generate unique, creative solutions that work for the specific goals of a project. This article outlines how we can create favourable conditions for feedback, along with some tips for those providing it.
Types of feedback
Broadly speaking design feedback can come from three distinct groups:
- Design team and delivery team. For example, user researcher, product owner, engineer. These meetings are often called a ‘design crit’.
- The business, stakeholders or domain experts. These meetings are generally known as a ‘design review’.
- Users, usually fed back via research findings or analytics.
Design feedback can be delivered either:
- At a specified time in a group setting.
- Fluidly or asynchronously using collaborative, real-time software such as Miro, Figma, or Confluence, which can be made visible to everyone.
- By 1 to 1 communication with the designer such as email or discussion.
There are strengths and weaknesses to each method of gathering feedback, however offering choice can help people manage their current workload, supports people with different communication styles, and can enable more in-depth discussion on specific areas of interest.
However or wherever it’s gathered, designers need to create favourable conditions for the communication of feedback.
To do this your designer may:
- Provide designs and prototypes ahead of meetings to allow for pre-discussion consideration.
- Tell the story so far or give background information to provide context.
- Clearly identify scope. For example, by providing a summary of the business goals, design problem or objectives or metrics for success.
- Define what is out of scope.
- Explain the level of fidelity the designs are at. This is to avoid scenarios like long discussions on button colour on a low fidelity wireframe.
- Request how and when to provide feedback. For example, if they’re doing a demo or walkthrough they may ask for feedback at the end to avoid disruption.
- Use storytelling to present solutions.
- Give roles to people. For example, timekeeper, note taker, or technical support.
- Ask specific questions.
- At the end of a round of feedback ensure everyone has visibility of decisions. When designers make clear decisions about feedback and communicate this back to participants it builds trust.
Tips for great feedback
- Stay within the scope of the defined problem.
- Think about the problem from the point of view of users. Put yourself in their shoes.
- Develop an understanding of why the design has taken the selected approach. If you aren’t clear, ask for a recap.
- Focus on one thing at a time. The ideal atmosphere is one of careful listening and discussion.
- Use data or evidence.
- Contribute your expertise. This may be industry experience, best-practices, technical feasibility, business insights, etc.
- Try to avoid making absolute statements.
- Focus on the problem. Feel free to suggest a solution but frame it as one option and trust your designer to weigh it up amongst other possible solutions.
- Don’t ignore your feelings, but do try to back them up with evidence or experience.
- Be aware of your own biases – the lens you see the world through.
- Be specific and concrete, not vague.
- Use plain, jargon-free language. Make sure everyone can understand.
- If providing written feedback, split it into bullet points.
- Be realistic. Consider the factors that can impact design outcomes, such as time or budget constraints, research issues, delivery timelines etc.
- Depersonalise your comments. If you feel something is wrong the designer needs to know, but the message should be delivered with care. Not doing so can create anxiety and wreck trust, which is bad for designers and designs.
- Talk about positives and strengths too. This can stimulate more ideas!
- Encourage full participation during meetings, but don’t push quiet people for feedback. Ensure they have the opportunity to feedback using other methods.
- The best environments are respectful but also relaxed. Don’t sweat it if you contribute something less helpful. If you remain respectful your comments will come across as constructive and be perceived as useful and fair.
- Embrace a bit of healthy conflict but bear in mind that lots of conflicting feedback or major disagreements can hinder progress.
Design is often about trade-offs and this, along with different perspectives, can cause conflicting feedback. If robust discussions don’t get you anywhere you could:
- Add it to a backlog or take some time out and come back to it later – people may have changed their viewpoints after some time to reflect.
- Clients may wish to nominate one person to deliver feedback that represents the business’s final opinions.
- Test it. Setting up usability testing on a platform like User Testing is quick and can be surprisingly low cost.
- Got some big ideas you want to test quickly? You could do a Sprint.
- Don’t have time? Do a quick poll or vote.
Remember that we’re not seeking design perfection – we seek improvement. The thing we are designing is just a tool. What users and businesses really care about are the results.