Ground your feedback in data
To outsiders, design can seem like a subjective discipline where everyone just picks their favorite color and wham, the project’s done. But everyone involved knows that’s a fallacy. Successful designers work with data to improve their process.
That’s why a bald, “I don’t like it” is never helpful for the designer, says Elena Roca, designer at Justinmind:
“Purely subjective comments don’t bring anything to the table and don’t help improve the design. Using evidence and descriptive terms is a lot more helpful.”
So when you’re about to give feedback on a design, ask yourself, “Is this feedback objective and data-based, or opinion-based?” Imagine yourself as a kind of design detective, gathering evidence on the viability of a design.
Evidence can come from a variety of sources:
- The design team’s collective experience and knowledge
- Case studies
- Design principles
- Findings from usability testing
Come to the feedback session armed with this evidential rationale, but don’t forget to ask the designer for their quantitative data as well. They might surprise you by having something game-changing up their sleeve — and if they don’t, they’ll start making evidence-gathering part of their process too.
Use all the tools
Design critiques done in writing can be misunderstood, and email chains of feedback get lost or missed way too easily. So always give your feedback in person, if possible.
But that doesn’t mean that managers can’t use new tools and tech to improve their feedback. Collaborative prototyping tools like Justinmind and annotation apps like Red Pen allow multiple design reviewers to comment on a UI in real-time, and speed up the review process, particularly when one or more team members are remote.
If you’re looking to track how designers respond to your feedback, try a tool like Culture Amp, which allows managers to run performance reviews and see feedback trends over time.
Feedback is for life, not just Christmas
For feedback to be fruitful, you need to support the designer after the feedback session. This is easy to forget — everyone’s got work to do, after all. But feedback is most effective when approached as a process, not a one-off.
After any feedback session with a designer, make sure they have:
- Notes on what was discussed and what changes need to be made
- A timeline for changes to be made
- A scheduled follow-up review
- A scheduled postmortem/reflection session set for after project launch
Build ongoing employee feedback into your team’s culture and you’ll find that giving good feedback starts to come more naturally.
Be honest, be open, and (always) be learning
Finally, giving good feedback is all about attitude, says Justinmind’s Head of UX, Sergi:
Be honest and keep learning. Everyone can teach you something. Observe the people around you and if they can teach you something. Don’t dismiss that. Curiosity and willingness to learn will always be your best allies in becoming a better design manager.
Done right, feedback can motivate
By following these tips, you can make the feedback stage(s) of your design process one of its most powerful and effective elements, simultaneously motivating your designers to produce better work and reducing the need for redesigns.
We all need practice to hone our feedback skills. By implementing the tips above, you can build a culture of critique, learning, and skill-sharing.
And remember: designers want feedback, as long as it’s constructive. Give them what they need and the whole team will benefit.