Facilitating an effective design critique is a great way to have a conversation with stakeholders and check in on the progress of your project, collecting a wide breadth of feedback as you do so. Leveraging the feedback of a group, however, exposes you to many perspectives which may be unhelpful if you don’t use your time well during the critique meeting. There are several ways to avoid ambiguity and incorporate feedback more strategically–here are three tips to improve your critique process.
1. Evaluate the Context
Before starting any critique, the presenter should give a brief summary on what they are working on, no more than a couple of minutes. People in the room may have no prior knowledge about what you do and why you are showing what you’re showing. By giving a high level summary of your work and anticipating any big issues ahead of time, you can guide your audience toward providing timely feedback on your main objective.
In addition to summarizing the project, this is an opportunity to give context to the project itself. This includes:
- What stage of the design process are you working in? (Early/late stage)
- What type of feedback are you looking for? (Visual/interaction/brand/etc.)
- What options have been considered and what has been ruled out?
2. Assign Critique Facilitators
Every meeting should have at the very least a presenter, a notetaker, and a facilitator.
- The presenter is the one presenting the work. He or she should give a brief summary describing what is being presented, as well as setting the context described in #1.
- The notetaker helps by jotting down key ideas and actionable takeaways for the group. Notes can also include any disagreements or items to follow up on. He or she can restate decisions and areas of agreement so it’s easier to apply the feedback to the product.
- Lastly, the facilitator is someone who might be a more experienced design lead, someone who can redirect the conversation in case it segues into too many side conversations, verbal sparring, moving the conversation away from opinions, or another conversation dead end. He/ or she also keeps track of timing in case there are multiple topics to be presented, making sure the meeting objective is clear for everyone in the room.
3. Focus on Good Questions
Avoid “design by committee” by directing the conversation toward questions around how to make the experience more consistent or customer-centric.
Ground your feedback with data, principles, or usability heuristics–this makes the difference between subjective feedback (for example; “I like rounded corners more than square corners” vs. “rounded corners fit into the existing system of our design language for this UI”). The focus should be on moving away from opinions and toward options or ways to validate any hypothesis based on data and research.
Often times, even experienced designers can get stuck on initial ideas and find it hard to apply design feedback. It’s important to focus on the goals of the design, rather than an individual designer’s decisions, and create some separation between the work and the designer. That way, critical feedback won’t feel like an attack on character. The feedback itself is most helpful when it’s grounded in usability heuristics, or principles around consistency.
Remember, at the end of the day, you are solving a problem for the end user so focus your feedback on how to solve the problem best, whether dealing with design, marketing, engineering, or any other tool.
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