The best way to improve the effectiveness of your designs is to always be seeking quality design feedback. I say quality design feedback, specifically, because not all feedback is created equal.
Receiving quality feedback is very important for all designers, including graphic designers, web designers, product designers, and UX/UI designers, as well as other types of creative professionals. High quality feedback provides designers with an alternative point of view, which will ultimately help them improve both their current and future design projects.
Decent feedback is an especially important currency for designers. On an ideal team, there is ongoing collaboration between key stakeholders, including developers, designers, product managers, and clients. In order for projects to be successful, constructive routes for feedback must exist between everyone involved.
Like any other important conversation, a design feedback session can turn into a hurtful experience all too easily when there is a lack of empathy, or when the process is not well defined, or when egos get in the way of progress. Therefore, it’s essential that all involved to master the art of good communication.
Here are a few tips for how to ask for feedback in a way that helps you get high-quality input that can move your project forward.
1. State the goal of the project
It’s impossible to give high quality design feedback on something when you don’t know what it is, or what it aims to be. Always begin by stating the goal of your project.
Design project goals can be defined as the purpose you set for your design, that will result in both the activity and feeling needed, in order to help users move towards their goal.
Good design goals are user goals or business goals, communicated as behavioral goals. For example, a business goal might be to “increase the number of subscribers,” leading to the behavioral goal “get more people to submit the signup form”.
Whatever the goals for your project, be sure to state them upfront.
2. Present the problem, not the solution
Be sure that your feedback session is centered around the problem your design is trying to solve, rather than the possible solution. This will help to keep the discussion open.
For example, saying “I think this button should be orange” doesn’t offer any information about the problem. Instead, try saying, “We need this button to stand out. What do you think?” This is more likely to lead towards a collaborative conversation about different potential designs.
By focusing on the problem, you’ll likely also get less subjective feedback based on people’s personal preferences. You can also focus on similar questions like, “How will people use this?” or “How will this solve the initial problem?”
3. Announce the type of feedback you want
After sharing the goal of your project, and the problem you’re solving, it’s also good practice to tell people the goal of your design feedback session.
Just as writers ask for various kinds of feedback (like commenting, editing, and proofreading) designers can request different types of critique too.
For example, depending on the stage of a project and the problems you’re tackling, you could be looking for:
- Suggestions about which visual direction to take
- Another pair of eyes on work to catch mistakes and omissions
- Someone to brainstorm or talk through design decisions with
Usually, of course, all kinds of feedback are welcome. But in some cases, like when you’re stuck on something very specific, it can be frustrating to have to field a much broader set of comments.
You can also avoid this by guiding your feedback session in a very organized way: get feedback piece-by-piece, with each one relating back to your overall goal for the session.
4. Control the environment by using the right tools
If you’re seeking feedback remotely by sending your mockups to a mentor, team member, or client, using a project management or team collaboration tool can be especially helpful.
My favorite tool for design feedback currently is Miro. The app allows you to easily ideate, organize insights, and create end-to-end design flows. With Miro you can share mockups, get feedback, and gather approvals all in one place and in real-time.
You can also seamlessly add Sketch, InVision, Adobe Creative Cloud and more to your Miro workflow through integrations.
Miro allows you to easily share your work through presentation mode and high resolution exports of board content. By controlling the environment of your designs in an app like this, collecting and tracking feedback becomes 10x more organized, and effective.
5. Limit the options
A great way to get specific, actionable design feedback is to limit the number of choices available.
For example, if you’re unsure about the color of a button, but know there are only three appropriate colors in your brand’s color palette or design system, display only those three options, and make it clear that other possibilities aren’t available for that project.
Limit the number of designs you ask for feedback on as well. Don’t overload your reviewer with too many items for a single discussion. Instead, focus on quality over quantity. Use approaching deadlines as a guide for deciding which pieces to ask for feedback on.
6. Provide data to support your design decisions
Referring to data gathered from testing or from a live product is a surefire way to get informed feedback. Data can prove the effectiveness of a design in a way that subjective opinion cannot.
Use quantitative data to define, and qualitative data describe. Both types of data are necessary to paint a complete picture. For example, suppose that you’re redesigning your software company’s free trial experience.
To fully understand the impact of a redesign, highlight quantitative data from before and after the redesign, like action-completion rates, conversions from free to paid accounts, and so on.
If you’ve conducted user research and testing, showcase any qualitative data available when discussing design decisions with your reviewer. Paired with personas, qualitative data will make sure that design feedback stays centered around user stories.
Remember, without supporting data your design might be weak—but without a story, your design could be meaningless.
7. Provide multiple opportunities for feedback
Don’t fill design “feedback” sessions with your own thoughts or defenses of your design decisions.
Leave space for your reviewer to provide their honest feedback. You must ensure that the reviewer feels both comfortable giving you candid critique, and has multiple opportunities to provide feedback on each topic.
Coming back to a topic later on—after discussing the project in its entirety—can give both you and your reviewer a new outlook. Similarly, offering enough time to pause between topics and allowing for feedback to organically conclude, will help the review process.
8. Ask specific questions, and then ask ‘why.’
Many people want to know specific questions to ask during a design feedback session. Here are some of the things Designlab UX Academy students are encouraged to ask during group critiques:
- What is memorable?
- Where did you become bored?
- What problem is this solving?
- How does this information support this page’s purpose?
- What is confusing?
- Does this design appeal to you as a person?
- What is missing?
- Where would you put this element?
- What could be removed?
- Did I emphasize this enough?
Then, once your reviewer has given you their unique point of view, prompt them to take it a step further by asking, “why?” and if necessary, “why?” a few more times too.
9. Ask them what they don’t like
While you should obviously understand what others do like about your design, be sure to also capture what they do not like.
This is kind of like that interview question “How could our company could do better?” This question makes it so that constructive criticism is almost required in order to properly provide an answer—after all, everything can be improved.
10. Accept feedback gracefully
Above all else, the best way to get helpful design feedback is to always accept it gracefully—both praise and critique. A guaranteed way to not get helpful feedback in the future is to come off as argumentative or too defensive when offered constructive criticism.
While receiving constructive criticism can be ego-bruising, it’s important to receive it with tact and grace. Here are some tips on handling constructive criticism:
- Try not to react at all—whatever your first reaction is, shut it down.
- Say thank you—and mean it. After all, even negative feedback is usually out of care, not malice.
- Engage your most thoughtful self, and shut down your combative self.
- Seek to fully understand the other person’s feedback and perspective. If you don’t understand, ask further open questions.
- Deconstruct the feedback to get to the root of the issues raised—after the conversation if necessary.
Whether you’re in design school, working on a design team, or design freelancing for clients, asking for design feedback is an integral part of any good design process.
Ensuring that feedback is high quality, through these helpful tips, is what will make your designs truly succeed.
Ready to up your UX design game? Check out our courses!