When it comes to design, UX experts are keenly aware of the importance of empathy. Understanding end-user issues is the key to creating a product that meets end-user needs. Empathy ensures that you have a true view of these issues, and there are many tools and best practices that make this possible. But there is a blind spot that has grown from all this goodness, and it forgets to apply the exact same principles to our colleagues, stakeholders, and peers.
Creative tensions between teams across departments are positive, but only if they understand each other’s goals, critique their work, and know how to be criticized in a constructive way. In short, we can struggle with ideas while being kind to our colleagues. It is good for the business to be able to retain the ability to evaluate and re-evaluate our work as a designer for our crafts and our customers while increasing the trust and respect within the team. Here are some tips for creating an effective and robust review framework to get the most out of your critique workshop.
1. Define the feedback session framework
In 20 years of experience, I’ve learned that setting up a feedback session scene is essential to getting the most out of all relationships. Not only does it provide a clear boundary for criticism, but it also ensures a natural progression along the product roadmap, providing a deployable solution when the session is complete. Here’s a trio of reliable feedback stages I’ve tried:
Session 1: Where is the direction?
The first session or design sprint should focus on whether the first brief was captured. It is not the function of the button or the appearance of the icon. This is a quick assessment from key stakeholders and you should decide if you started designing against the core business goals of your solution. The result of this session should be a highlighted green light that will allow you to begin your journey to a minimal viable product.
Session 2: Is everything functionally there?
This session should focus on the key requirements of the solution. We haven’t considered the aesthetic details yet, but we’ve made sure that the functional components of the solution, the core functionality, are in place. You need to make sure that nothing has been ignored at this stage.
Session 3: Let’s take a closer look
You can now start drilling down on text changes, icons, buttons and menus. This is the stage of digging into the details, digging deeper into how we feel about the smallest design options, and then fine-tuning.
The point of the three steps is to avoid an endless review loop. Once the session is over and the direction is agreed, proceed. If Session 3 provides contextual feedback in Session 1, you will not be able to go too far along the roadmap and return to the blueprint. This is why it is imperative that all stakeholders be represented at each stage.
2. Avoid feedback pitfalls
There are three main errors that can occur when it comes to feedback. First, you can proceed with your design without asking for any feedback. This is arguably the most damaging approach. We miss a big opportunity, as if we weren’t taking the initiative to seek feedback. We have not designed the perfect solution. Therefore, you need to leverage the experience and expertise of your colleagues to make decisions. Remember that we are all better than any of us.
Second, we can ask for feedback without asking. A review session should be considered a boxtick exercise, especially if the person providing the feedback feels not close enough to our work to understand the desired results or the reasons behind the design choices. I can. Entering a feedback session with this idea is a fatal mistake. By not listening to your colleagues, you miss valuable insights into how you can improve your design. Those invited to criticize our work will also find our indifference and reluctant to share our thoughts.
Finally, when you feel you’ve done a good job, you can ask for feedback for praise and verification. No matter how effective the points are, this approach ensures that we are not in the right way of thinking to hear them. This can lead to overlooking important flaws and, seriously, failing to meet customer requirements.
3. Accept criticism and increase your value
It is important to remember that there are important business cases for identifying flaws as soon as possible. The earlier you discover it, the easier and cheaper it will be to fix. Finding errors during the design phase is much cheaper than if the solution was under development, and repairs are about 15 times more expensive. The cost is proportional to each progress along the product roadmap. For example, defects that occur only when the solution reaches production can cost 100 times more to fix than defects that surfaced during the design phase. This requires significant rework and integration by engineers.
One of the best tools in the toolbox for catching design errors is design peer review at key points in the product development life cycle. Taking the time to make these as effective as possible is not only important for efficiency, but also an essential factor for an organization’s bottom line.
4. Use the data to back up your design decisions
Before you start your design work, workshop your ideas, perform user testing, and collect feedback according to UX best practices. Accurate recording of feedback data is essential at this stage. This is to be the ultimate ally when challenging design decisions.
With data, you can empathize with your concerns rather than personally. We are also confident that we will show why the decisions we have made are correct, or at least according to customer requirements. If you have a well-understood design paradigm that communicates features, you do not need to back up each feature design with data. For example, in an application with multiple menus, if you know that a particular style meets the functional requirements of 99% of users, you do not need to justify the design of each menu.
If the challenge surfaced an unprecedented problem, we must accept the possibility of an oversight. In this example, you need to create a basic prototype, present it to the user along with the original design, and collect quick feedback on some AB tests.
This is where an agile approach is essential. Adopting this approach means not being afraid of the failures that are essential to innovation. You have to give it a try if you need it, but effective feedback is very important to your business because it fails early and fails quickly.