Giving and receiving feedback on UX designs

May 22, 2023

In this article I’m going to share my experience as lead UI/UX consultant about giving and receiving feedback on the designs. Everytime you share work with anyone, you should be ready to receive feedback whether from the customer or your own team members. Feedback means asking or receiving ideas about what is working in designs or what is not. As a designer you are limited to your own perspective of the design challenge or any biases you might have and good feedback can help you come up with new questions or ideas that you might not have considered before. Taking actions on good feedback leads to improvement of the final designs.

feedback is a natural part of design evaluation however not many resources for designers discuss how to receive or give feedback on designs. Receiving feedback and processing it into actionable items is a critical part of the design iteration process and it leads to better customer satisfaction so in this article I try to share my experience with feedback and how to process it as a consultant with consideration for time and budget.

Receiving feedback

It is important for UX designers to understand their personal knowledge and values along with any biases that they might have on a design project. In the same way it is important to reflect on how much feedback they give to other designers at different stages of a design project. There are many reasons to receive feedback on your designs.

  • You might receive an idea or suggestion that you might have missed through your designs.
  • Feedback builds a relationship between you and whoever gives the feedback because by acting on good feedback you can show continuous improvement over time.
  • It helps broaden your perspective in a domain. In a design project you will work with people from different skills and backgrounds that aim to answer a design challenge. They will help you identify opportunities to improve the design from their perspective which helps you expand your perspective on that subject.
  • It reduces your potential biases in the design since you receive feedback from a diverse range of people that potentially results in mitigating personal biases.
  • It can potentially introduce UX that are different from those initially conceived.

Giving feedback

Sometimes as part of the design team you might need to give feedback to other designers. It could be difficult to give feedback since you are in the same team however early feedback before presenting designs to the client can save time and effort and build better relationships amongst members of the design team.

In my experience as the lead UI/UX consultant I realized that feedback should be adjusted to each person and situation. The experience level of the designer who you are giving feedback to is a very important consideration. You need to explain things in detail if the person you are giving feedback to is a newbie so that they understand the underlying reason behind your feedback. Another point that is related is to support your feedback with a reason. Broad feedback especially based on personal preferences is not helpful as it doesn’t indicate the issue rather points to a broad problem.

For example, in one of the challenging design projects that I led, the junior designer team received feedback that the client doesn’t like the color that he chose. This was not helpful feedback since the choice of color was based on brand identity and the designer didn’t know how to change the primary color without breaking away from brand style-guide. After a meeting with the client we realized that they have produced a separate system with specific colors and they wanted the new system to look like that to make sure the users experience consistent experience between two systems. Once we realized the underlying reason behind the feedback, the designer changed the color variables accordingly and the client approved the style-guide. Providing good feedback leads to actionable items that the designer can take to improve the design.

Another important point in giving feedback is to describe the problem and not offer solutions. As a designer when giving feedback to other designers you might be tempted to provide a solution but since you are not involved in the piece of work that you give feedback to your solutions most probably won’t include all aspects. Sometimes receiving feedback might make others feel defensive and uncomfortable so it’s important not to include solutions in your feedback to avoid creating those feelings.

UX design critique session

Design critique session is a meeting where designers present their design milestone work to the client and listen to their feedback. At the beginning of a design sprint, a designer should provide a breakdown of milestones and expected time of delivery for them. At the end of each milestone, the designer conducts a design critique session to present the outcomes and get feedback. Design critique sessions are essential to show progress and provide a chance for the client to exchange ideas and make a collective choice about design direction.

Important key in this session is not to think of it as a performance review session, but rather a way to bond with the client and incorporate good feedback to your work.

Example of milestones in a UX design project

For a successful critique session, there are three main essential roles that need to be present.

Facilitator: their role involves coordinating the session and guiding the process. They also keep track of time and make sure that meeting objectives are fulfilled in a timely manner. On top of that they make sure everyone gets an opportunity to have their voice heard. They engage with the audience and ask questions to encourage participation. In a small design team presenter could be a facilitator but in my experience a facilitator is necessary so that presenter can focus on feedback.

Presenter: presenter or the designer is the person who is sharing their work with others. As a designer they need to prepare milestone deliveries beforehand, actively engage with the audience, leave gaps in between of presentation so people can process and ask questions and finally record the session so they can review and take notes later. I personally prefer a deck of slides, live Figma prototypes if applicable and using Chrome plugin to record a transcript of the meeting. After the session is over, the presenter needs to summarize it and send a follow up email to all attendees.

Viewer: viewer or audience gives feedback about the design and offers actionable items. Depending on the nature of deliverables, the audience can be different in each milestone. Typically it involves marketing teams, project manager, product owner, or tech lead. As a designer you might touch base with viewers individually or at workshops during the design sprint and design critique session is a good opportunity to get their collective feedback.

There is no formula for design critique sessions and it can be performed in different ways. Here is one way that I have been doing. First facilitator uses a design roadmap to book meetings in advance so everyone can review the time and revise their schedule if necessary. Then for each milestone, the facilitator defines clear agenda and structure which design design critique

session might follow. Then at the start of the meeting, the facilitator provides an overview of the session and explains the objectives. Next, the presenter shares their work and viewers take notes during the presentation. My personal preference is to let viewers ask questions right away but some designers would rather take questions at the end of the presentation. If the viewers are not engaged, the presenter can ask clarifying questions to encourage engagement. Finally the facilitator wraps up the meeting. An important thing for facilitator is to make sure all questions are answered before the meeting ends so as to avoid the sprint’s deliverables being dragged to a new sprint because of unresolved questions.

Example of a design critique session done remotely during COVID lockdowns for lovelibra project.

What to look for as a presenter

Presentation is the key for design critique sessions and a great opportunity for the designer to showcase their work and build relations and confidence with the viewers. Showing gradual progress and tangible outcomes of milestones helps building confidence with the viewers so does a structured presentation in a timely manner. Make sure the meeting invite includes a link to the design assets so the viewers can study them in advance.

Another key factor in my opinion that doesn’t get mentioned often is telling the story behind designs. Design critique session is the only place where you can share your thoughts behind design decisions and explain how they align with goals of the milestone. Try finding answers for these questions and use that as the basis for your presentation.

Who is the persona that you designed for?

What is their particular problem in the context of the milestone deliverables?

How is your design addressing the above problems?

At what stage of the design process you are now?

What aspects of the design do you need feedback on?

Are there any design decisions that you were not able to answer?

Answers to above questions will help you boil down your presentation so you can explain them to the viewers better. Also it helps with timing of the presentation since it potentially answers many questions that the viewers might have. This way you’ll have more time to discuss ideas and allow for follow-up questions.

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