Let’s face it, some of the things in life that help you to grow and improve are not always the most pleasant experiences, but if you put in the work, they can lead to exceptional results. Training for a marathon and studying for the LSAT are just a few examples. Receiving critical feedback can also be added to that list, and we all know that it can be a little painful, especially if you’re not well equipped. But when done correctly, it can be a great practice that will challenge you to learn and improve. As a User Experience Designer, we are creating products for others every day. It is especially important to seek feedback for your work and to learn the best way to return the favor and provide it for your peers.
Design feedback can come from many sources, such as clients, peers, users or even your family and friends. For this post, I will focus on discussing designer-to-designer feedback, using tips from my personal experience while working on a design team.
Be specific about what you are looking for:
One way to avoid being overwhelmed by tons of feedback is to be upfront and specific about what exactly you are looking for. Whether you casually ask a coworker or are presenting at a formal review, it is helpful to focus on the problem you are trying to solve and communicate that to your audience. Even the designers with the best intentions can get carried away when sharing their opinions of another designer’s work.
I find it helpful to call out what I am looking for feedback on by asking specific questions. For example, if you are looking for feedback on the user flow of a login experience, you can ask questions like: “Is there any point in this login flow where you feel lost or disoriented?” or “Do you see any pain points for the user in this login experience?”
When asking for feedback, remember that this is a chance for you to hear new ideas and to consider the opinions of others. However, it doesn’t mean that you need to throw away all of your ideas. When one of your ideas is being challenged, take a step back, remove your ego and try to understand the other person’s perspective. It is okay to respectfully defend your decisions, especially if you have data or other evidence to back it up.
Don’t wait until it’s perfect
It can be intimidating to show a half-baked idea to the world, but showing your work early on is a great opportunity. Feedback is valuable at all stages of your project, especially in the beginning. I would suggest letting your peers know what stage you are in before presenting so they can better understand where you are coming from.
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Understand what they are looking for
To give great feedback, it is a good idea to understand what that person is looking for. It isn’t helpful to start blurting out everything you notice. Especially with large or complicated projects, the potential for feedback can be endless and overwhelming. By focusing on a few elements, you should be able to come up with concise feedback that will be useful for that person.
Give actionable feedback
When pointing out an issue that you have observed, it is helpful to describe why you think it is problematic and to offer potential solutions. Saying something like “I think you used too much teal in your design” is not helpful to the individual seeking feedback. In this situation, actionable feedback might sound more like, “Teal is a great bold color. I feel like it could be of better use in this design if it was used more sparingly. Perhaps only on elements that you want to call attention to such as your primary CTA’s. I think this would allow those actions to stand out and it will be more effective.” Explaining the problem you see allows that person to better understand your perspective and will hopefully help them to come up with a solution.
And lastly, try your best to be respectful. When someone asks for your feedback, that most likely means that they respect your opinion. It should go without saying that giving them that same respect is expected. When providing feedback to someone, I like to use a “compliment sandwich”. I start off pointing out a part of the design that I think is great, I then follow up with something I think could be improved and then end it all with a compliment of their work. The way you deliver your critique can make all the difference. This is an opportunity to build your teammates up and to help them improve themselves and their work and the way you deliver feedback can make a big impact.