The best way to improve the effectiveness of your design work and to meet client and user needs is to always seek quality feedback.
We say quality feedback because not all feedback is beneficial or actionable. Sometimes we receive feedback that isn’t clear or that we simply don’t agree with. This can often lead to frustrations with the person giving the feedback, rather than realising what the problem is and how to address it.
Sometimes a feedback session can feel like it’s turning into a personal attack all too easily when there is a lack of empathy, the process is not well defined, or when a person’s ego gets in the way of the overall progress. Therefore, it’s essential that all involved in providing and receiving feedback master the art of good communication.
Here are a few tips we have learned over the years that should help you obtain high-quality feedback and avoid hindering your project's progress.
1.) Educate the audience
It’s incredibly difficult to receive high-quality feedback on something when your clients don't know what the aim is. Begin by stating the goal of your design or the reason for requesting the feedback.
Reiterate the user goals or business goals but communicate these as behavioural goals. For example, a business goal might be to “increase the number of subscribers to a blog,” this would then become the behavioural goal of “we need to get more people to convert on the signup form”.
Whatever the goals for your project are, be sure to state them up front. Annotating designs or prototypes with rationale and explanations that reflect these goals could pre-empt any potential questions or queries.
2.) Be productive rather than precious
Sometimes our personal preferences are so innate to our decision-making that it can be really challenging for some people to overcome. We have all heard it before “you are not your user” or “you are not the customer”. When receiving feedback, it’s vital that you remove as much of your own aesthetic preference as possible and try to focus on what the customers will like, and what makes them feel they can trust the product or website you are designing. Both client and designer need to focus on what makes the customer or user's life easier.
With this in mind try to refrain from letting subject feedback and personal pronouns affect your process or rationale. Feedback like
“I don’t like how you’ve laid out the menu, it looks unbalanced.”
Most likely this isn’t a personal attack on you from the client. Try to take it as
“The menu looks unbalanced due it’s layout”.
The difference is very subtle but try to separate the work from you personally, and it will feel more like a critique on the design and not on you as a person.
3.) Explanations over opinions
“I’m not feeling it”, or “We don’t like it” we all loathe those vague statements on our work. Not only because, we feel we missed the mark but more importantly they provide zero value. It’s our duty to help clients frame their feedback and describe precisely what it applies to. Is it colour, layout, typography, or usability that’s the issue? To do this we must specifically ask something such as
“Could you please explain why you don’t feel the layout is working? How do you think this will affect the user?”.
Always seek clarification and justification to differentiate between getting a personal opinion as opposed to quality feedback. For example, rather than asking “do you like this design?” which is vague and allows for a yes/no answer, push for more explanation by asking “does the call to action draw your attention?” or “what do you think the purpose of this section is?”.
In your own responses always try to use succinct terms for clarification and avoid innocuous phrases. Keep everything connected back to your findings from research and your design experience. “We feel this hero image creates an emotional connection to the audience” is more beneficial than “the hero image stands out”.
Feedback is always a discussion so ask clarifying questions so you can better understand comments and get to the bottom of the issue quickly.
4.) Use data to explain decisions
Referring to data gathered from early research or through testing is a solid way to back up design decisions and explain your thought process. Data can prove the effectiveness of a design in a way that subjective opinion cannot.
If you have access to research, use quantitative data to define, and qualitative data to describe your decisions.
Having these forms of data at your disposal will save considerable time trying to explain design decisions empty-handed.
Other research and testing findings like personas, can provide qualitative data that will make sure you can strengthen design decisions that are centred around user stories, user needs and user goals.
Remember, without supporting data your design the client may still like the visuals but without consideration and focus on users and their needs your design could be meaningless and fail to meet those business and user goals.
5.) Which feedback tools to use?
In addition to face to face design meetings, we at i3 Digital use various tools to gather feedback. Whether we are critiquing wireframes, concepts, or prototypes or carrying out system testing and quality assurance testing we use a varied array of informative and reliable tools for effective remote feedback. Numerous word docs lost in email threads are a thing of the past, and with the tools available it’s easier than ever to keep on top of your feedback.
We often use the ‘Share’ mode in Adobe Xd to do exactly that, Share our work with our team members and our clients. This fantastic tool has built-in pre-sets, such as Design Review, Development, and Presentation to share your documents, manage your shared links, and use the same URL for multiple share workflows. A great tool to gather early feedback on design work.
Invision is another fantastic tool for collecting comments on designs especially as clients are able to drop comments directly onto the artwork with comment pins. Having this capability can really aid in cutting out the explanation of specific areas of feedback. Rather than getting granular and trying to describe where their question resides, they can simply attach the comment to the area. Likewise, this is extremely helpful for designers as we can annotate wireframes and concepts using this method.
Slack is a brilliant conversational tool used by many organisations and teams across many industries. It’s a superb alternative to trying to manage mass email feedback that would have been the norm in the past. Using this application to discuss and collect feedback from clients is easy as you have dedicated channels for clients and their workstreams. You can create a channel, and upload and post the progress and updates, allowing design members and clients to review it, request necessary clarifications in a thread, approve it, and schedule the changes when needed.
Azure DevOps Services
Moving beyond wireframing and concept feedback we seek feedback on our design builds during User Acceptance Testing (UAT). We do this by using Microsoft Azure DevOps. Once we have a working prototype of the project, we use this tool for discussions with our Quality Assurance (QA) testing team but also for clients during UAT. Clients are able to review the work providing videos, screenshots, written comments, and ratings. Their feedback is captured into work items that we can review and use to create bug tickets or capture new request items.
This is a simple and fast tool for screen sharing, setting up online meetings and team collaboration. We use join.me for all of our remote meetings and with its screen share feature, we can engage and obtain feedback from our clients easily and efficiently.
You can even pair join.me with Slack’s quick messaging platform. If we need to finalise a document, we can launch join.me from Slack for a screen share review. It also affords us easy video calls with our slack channels if need be. Definitely a communication tool worth checking out.
Hopefully, you have found these tips informative and they are beneficial when trying to streamline your feedback process in the future. Do you have any tips of your own you would like to share? Are we missing out on other fantastic tools to gather feedback? Why not let me know by getting in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in learning more? Check out our other insights.
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