Giving constructive design feedback

Photo of Mariana Morris
Mariana Morris Founder & Managing Director

When a designer asks you for feedback on their work, how do you go about it so that the feedback is effective and motivates the designer to improve the work?

At Fruto we run regular design critique sessions within the team. These sessions help us keep improving the quality of our work on a regular basis. Some of our team members (including myself) teach at universities or mentor other designers.

Here is a technique I often use when I’m asked to evaluate someone’s design work:

1. First: Look for the positives

Start by looking for all the good things and things that work well in the design. And then give your feedback on those. By giving positive feedback first, you’ll show respect for all the work they’ve done and it’s more likely that they’ll to be open to hear any following criticism.

2. Think before you speak

Take your time, don’t rush to speak immediately. And look carefully. Keep in mind that what you see has probably been done by conscious decision by whoever created it.

3. Pick 1 thing

If you had to pick 1 thing that would make a major difference on the design, what would that be? Things to look out for: colours, position, size and alignment of elements on the page, hierarchy of information, usability, page flow and general concept.

4. Ask questions, before commenting

Once you picked the thing, understand why it’s been done the way it is. Consider the fact that the person might already have thought about what you are going to say and may have made a conscious decision. It could be for technical reasons, requirements restrictions, time constraints, all sorts of things. Ask them. A good way to ask a question (that can feel less confrontational) is by using "What" instead of "Why", such as "What made you choose this colour?" or "What was the reason for choosing this label?"

5. Say what you think the problem is

Don’t try to solve it, say what the problem is. For example, “this button is not prominent enough”, “this colour is not in line with the rest of the design”, “this area is a bit confusing”. Be tactful on how you say it. You might want to use sentences like “Consider this…” “Do you think this could be…”

Repeat 3-4-5

Repeat 3-4-5 as much as you need. This process may sound like it’s long but in reality it’s a quick thought process and conversation. Once you’ve done this a few times, it’ll just come naturally.

Written by

Photo of Mariana Morris
Mariana Morris Founder & Managing Director

A UX influencer, Mariana hosts monthly UX Oxford meet-ups, trains new and established designers, and talks regularly at digital events.  Mariana has 18+ years of experience designing digital products. She holds a MA in interactive media and BA in graphic communication.

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