Effective Design Feedback: 5 tips to empower your Design team
From offering constructive criticism to focusing on the user's perspective and respecting the design process, empower your team.
Providing feedback is an honor and can greatly empower others’ work. However, when it comes to design topics that are out of your scope, it might be hard to know what to focus on and what will bring the most value to the design team.
Designers also play a part in this, as the way feedback is requested and how the designs are shared can greatly impact the quality of feedback received. There is also the matter of when to ask for feedback during the design process, to maximize the input from the ones reviewing the designs and achieve the best possible version of the final design with the least back and forth.
Design is highly regarded at Tailwarden. Iterative feedback has led to great improvements that would’ve been more costly if the designs were taken to the development team straight away.
These qualities tie into our values since one of them is Trust & Transparency — feel free to check them out here. There is always a user-centric approach and a culture of direct and meaningful feedback 💜
Throughout the last year, the Product Design team has experimented with various methods and processes that would help the rest of the team to provide better insights and stay more connected to the most relevant design stages. There is no magical recipe, but there are definitely learnings to be shared!
But before we move to the how, it’s important to understand the why.
Why is it important to improve your design feedback? 🤔
- It improves the final result, as another pair of eyes is able to analyze what the designer has been looking at every day in a fresh and unbiased way.
- It provides more opportunities for the design team to align with the product team, as relevant issues might be spotted and addressed earlier.
- It gives insight to designers about the possible user experience and what assumptions they might have made.
In this blog post, the focus will be on tips for the reviewer of the design, but there are more to come in the near future for the designer requesting feedback!
Whether you’re a designer, part of another team, or even a client, here are some tips to help you empower your design team:
1. Constructive and descriptive feedback is very valuable 💡
To nail that constructive feedback, you need to ally your criticism with information. We’ve all looked at something and thought “Yeah, that’s not good”, but giving that feedback would lead nowhere, as it doesn’t provide new information to the designer and can actually be harmful - as it can leave them frustrated with their performance and lack of better solution.
By focusing on a goal or even a problem, it’s possible to redirect the designer to a new train of thought that could lead to better solutions. One way to do this is to ask questions as feedback. It might sound odd, but it’s a very powerful way to express your thoughts while challenging the designer, without disregarding their proposal. Another way is to use previous personal experiences as pointers toward a better path. If there's a specific element that you're not happy with, you can screenshot it or point it out.
There is also the possibility to suggest a solution, but this can limit the designer’s vision and exploration. If the solution is obvious or there is a good reference that might be useful, do share your proposal, preferably along with a specific but thorough description and visual examples.
Regarding these visual examples, a video can also be a great way to showcase an interaction or a flow that would otherwise be unclear through screenshots.
2. Communicate your words with kindness 🌟
Being kind while criticizing can be a challenge at times, but it has an enormous payoff.
Direct feedback is always easier to process and leads to more meaningful discussions, but that doesn’t mean the words used must be devoid of respect and a nice tone.
The goal is not to be authoritative when expressing the feedback but to inspire the designer and guide them in a better direction. By complimenting the highlights of the design and expressing constructive feedback in a supportive manner, you’ll have a higher chance of motivating the designer while directly exposing your concerns.
By using “I” statements, you’ll be able to better express your perspective in a more sincere and personal way, as it should make it easier for the designer to understand where it’s coming from.
A nice approach to consider is to give feedback in person or through a call, as it can help both parties express themselves better and come to a solution together.
3. Focus on the user’s perspective 👤
It’s quite easy to review a design from a personal perspective since we’re all users at some level. However, it’s important to distance yourself from your own experience and to consider not only the targeted audience but also data that can back up your claims.
By gathering context and understanding the goal of the design, you’ll be able to provide better feedback and focus on the user experience. Using the right design terminology can also improve communication and keep things objective.
Nothing proves a point better than data, and designers will recognize that. Of course, data can be refuted with more data, but it leads to a more fruitful discussion than subjective feedback.
4. Be mindful of the stage of the design 🌱
Depending on the project size and the design team behind it, design processes will be different. This might also reflect on how many moments for feedback there are and what type of feedback is being requested.
To give an example, when a designer asks for feedback on a low-fidelity wireframe, it won’t be productive to focus on the copy or some of the visual aspects - like animations. To identify these stages and provide relevant input, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the stages of the design either through documentation, research or even asking the design team for more details on what’s needed at the moment.
Taking this into account, it would also be important to be mindful of the deadline or time frame for feedback. By giving out feedback in time, there will be better chances the designer will be able to address it and make the necessary changes before moving to the next step. This includes following up on the feedback, as having a discussion can sometimes lead to better outcomes than leaving a single comment and possibly the designer hanging in doubt.
Providing feedback too early can be an issue too. Some designers like the Wardens share the design files at all times, for transparency. However, it’s important not to step in and comment on something that still is being designed and experimented with. That feedback might lead the designer to feel watched and might constrain them, or it might distract them from their focused and creative mind state.
By giving your design team room to iterate and develop the designs, while respecting the time frame given to express your feedback, you’ll be one step closer to empowering them and getting better design results!
5. Rely on your Design team with confidence 💪
Although feedback is welcome and valued, trust is necessary to get the best of the designers. They are experts in their field and will do their absolute best to translate your feedback into the best solution possible for the user. By creating a collaborative relationship with the Design team, you’ll be setting the design up for success. There is much to be learned, and by combining knowledge and experience with the best intentions and clear goals, feedback can be taken one step further and provide all with a rewarding experience and final product.
By keeping these suggestions in mind, it’s guaranteed that the Design team you’re working with will feel empowered and ready to design their best work yet!
But as it’s been mentioned, the responsibility for good design feedback also falls into the hands of the requesting designer. Worry not, as a future blog post will cover tips for these designers, so that this process which can be so complex, may be simplified and worthwhile for you 🙌