As a designer, besides selling the design to different stakeholders, receiving feedbacks/design critiques and giving insightful and effective feedbacks is equally if not more important in a cross-functional team. It is an art to give feedbacks which are effective and insightful to different people in a more acceptable way. Receiving feedbacks is also important for continuous improvements. Here is what I have learnt about giving and receiving design feedbacks/critique during my work and I would like to share with you.
I find the Situation-Behavior-Impact(SBI) Feedback mental tool is helpful. It is developed by The Center for Creative Leadership to outline a simple process that how people can give feedbacks. I translate it to a version which is specifically for design feedbacks/critiques and hope it could be helpful to you as well~ :- )
1. Identify the Situation/Scenario
When you’re giving design feedback, first define the use case or users’ using scenario that you’re referring to. This will puts the feedbacks into context, and gives the other person a specific setting as a reference and also help the other person to better understand why you give the feedbacks.
2. Describe the Behavior
Describe the specific behaviors that a user may take in the scenario referring to the design.
3. Explain the Behavior’s Impact
Explain what the user will face when they take the behavior: whether it will brings confusion or clarity; add memory burden or reduce cognitive load; reduce chance to make errors or lead to potential errors…
(*4. Give your suggestions or raise the question)
If you think something is really great! Please point it out. It is a great encouragement and recognition for the person to feel motivated and keep up the great work. If you are pointing out something you think is not ideal, it would be very helpful that you can tell the other person how you think it could be improved; if you just think it is not ideal but you do not have a better solution in mind right away, you can raise it as a question following the SBI framework to the person and then move on to the next piece of feedback; Alternatively, if time allows, besides raising it up as a question, you can also encourage the person work together with the entire team to think together for better solutions during the meeting for future iterations.
Tips for Giving Feedbacks/Critiques
- Ask for explanation
Make sure that you listen carefully when the person presents the design. If you are not clear about some part, please ask the person to explain his/her logic and reasoning behind the design before you raise and talk about your thoughts and feedbacks. let other people to explain his/her design is a respect for the person and also a great chance for the team to be on the same page and to solve potential confusions.
- Be specific with context and reasons
When give feedbacks, make sure that you describe your thoughts and reasons behind the scene and give the feedbacks in a context. The SBI framework is a helpful tool to construct your feedbacks. It can helps you to better express your thoughts, help the person to take your feedbacks more easily, and help other stakeholders to think together and understand each other.
- Tell me something actionable
When you give feedbacks, it could be very helpful to not only point out the potential issue, but also actively think about the solutions as well. Even though sometimes, the quick solutions that come to your mind might not be good enough, it could still inspire the person or other stakeholders to find better ones in the future.
If you know anything else besides potential solutions, you can also raise that up to make your feedbacks more insightful and bring more actionable items. For example, list similar features/products to learn from, direct the person to someone who could give more insights, etc.
- Organized, Prioritized, and One by One
Before the critique session start, ask the person whether he/she prefer to hear feedbacks as they raise or hear all the feedbacks after he/she finishes the presentation.
You might have lots of feedbacks. When you give these feedbacks, make sure that they are organized and prioritized. Being organized can help others to follow your logic and thoughts. Having the feedbacks be prioritized will be helpful especially when time is limited, you want to make sure that important feedbacks are communicated.
- Actively listen to other people’s feedbacks
It is also important to listen to other people’s feedbacks. It might help you solve some confusion. You might also find other people have the same feedback as yours. Listen to how they give that feedback and then add your inputs to the discussion if necessary.
- Art of speaking
Don’t assume that everybody is just like you who is hard to feel offended and always open to critical critiques. It is an art that how you express your feedbacks to the other people to make your feedbacks more acceptable and comfortable to be heard.
Do not say that “What you presented will not work/is problematic when (…situation… ), I think (…your solutions…)could be better because(…your reason…)”. In this way, you are putting the other person easily into a defensive mode. It is not a collaborative atmosphere to work together to find better solutions.
To be honest, everyone want to have the best ideas. :- ) Be a little soft, patient, and say something like “what you presented can be a good solutions to (achieve … goal); besides the current design, I have some concerns, for example, (…situation//SBI framework description…); Maybe we could also try to use (…your solutions…) because (…your reasons…), what do you think?” Recognize the merit the the current solution first to show that you understand the design, then raise your different opinions.
It really depends on who you are giving feedbacks to and what style that person is. In all, find a style which works best for your team to create a collaborative atmosphere is important in design feedbacks/critique sessions.
- Ask feedbacks on your feedbacks
Giving feedbacks is for designing better solutions together. It is part of collaboration process. Therefore, when you give your feedbacks to the person, asking what does he/she think about your feedback. It can help the entire team better understand the concerns and come up with a better solution together.
You can not control how and what feedbacks will be given to you, but you can decide how you deal with the feedbacks when you receive them.
- Be specific and goal-oriented
Before your design critique session, be specific about what you want to get from people in the team. This will help to make the best use of everyone’s time.
For example, you can make it clear that you only want to get feedbacks about workflow in this session instead of any feedbacks on the looks and feel. Then, in the meeting, if there is someone raised a feedback on the color and shape, you can politely remind him/her that even though you appreciate the feedback, it is out of scope and maybe better to save for next time. Being specific and goal-oriented can help to make people focus and come up with more effective feedbacks.
- Keep an open heart, don’t act offended
Remember, nothing is personal. All the people just want to work together to have the best product. People in the room is sharing the same goal with you. Even though some people might speak in way which you are not very comfortable with, don’t act offended. Calm down, ask the reasons behind the feedbacks to find better solutions together.
After the meeting, you can use the SBI tool in its original intention to communicate with the person to let him/her know that there could be a better way to communicate :- )
Additionally, if it is something very obvious that you did wrong, just accept it. Don’t find excuse. You are so luckily that your teammates helped you find out it but not your users. People pointing out mistakes is not to blame you, but just want to work together with you to prevent any potential mistakes being exposed to the users.
- Explain your design with patience
Similar to giving feedbacks, how to act when receives feedbacks is also an art. If you hear something in the feedback is a misunderstanding about your design, do not rush to explain. Listen to the person to finish his/her feedbacks first. You may be able to find out the reason why there is a misunderstanding while listening patiently and that might be insightful for your future iterations. Then, you can point out the misunderstanding part and explain your design again to clarify the confusion and to ask for feedbacks.
- Ask questions
If the feedback is too general, make sure that you ask for clarifications and more context. Don’t make assumptions. When receive feedbacks, you can also try to put them into the Design Critique SBI framework talked above to help you better organize the information and find out the missing pieces to ask questions.
- Organize, prioritize the feedbacks
Sometimes, there will be lots of different feedbacks from all different perspectives. You do not need to action on each single feedback. When there are lots of different feedbacks, before taking actions to address on the feedbacks, you can organize them to put them into groups. Then, prioritize them and start from the most critical ones to take actions. It will also help you with keeping a track on your progress and preparing for the next design critique session. There may be some feedbacks which seem not make any sense to you, sometimes, instead of ignoring the feedback, it could be more helpful if you can ask the reasons behind the feedback. It is important to bring every one on the same page in a cross-functional team.