Delivering Design Feedback: 9 golden rules

Delivering design feedback is not a simple task *at all*. I have realized through the years that it’s essential to address this issue firmly, politely and quickly. The consequences of not being well prepared to deliver positive and negative feedback clearly to your team throughout the whole design process are really utterly harsh.

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A crucial part of understanding how to give feedback is deciding what feedback to give and when. It’s very important to understand one big thing: you don’t want to tell people what to do. We are focusing on design, but this also applies to other areas too. If we boss people around, we will certainly limit innovation, creativity, and confidence for designers in the future. Your ideas can be good and maybe senior designers can take that as a starting point to think of their own solutions. But even there, we are skewing the designer’s vision, which is not ideal. So, remember: feedback is not about making people do things just as you’d do them, it’s about helping them grow as professionals.

So, what’s the best way to deliver feedback and what’s useful for designers?

As a Product Designer, I’ve been leading projects for over 7 years and this has always been an issue that concerns me. Positive and negative feedback are 100% necessary and 100% tough to deliver. This is why I decided to put together a list of 9 golden rules I find useful to follow when giving feedback. If you have any other tips, trick or advice to give, I’d love to hear it.

1. Remember that you have to launch a product.

If you find that there’s a lot of stuff to highlight or fix in a design, establish priorities and deliver feedback about the essential and most important issues. Don’t overload or discourage your team, remember that there’s a product to be released and deadlines to meet.

2. Choose when to give feedback related to aesthetics.

Sometimes we find that things are not attractive to everyone on the team. Let the lead designer work on it and give them the confidence to do so. If you are not the more experienced designer, depending on the context, you can give your opinion and ask them to think of alternatives that could suit better.

3. Remind the team constantly of what’s the goal.

Remind them what’s the goal of the feature, screen or page they are designing. If you are Product Designer or someone in the project that has the vision and the goals in mind, you can easily detect if that’s not being achieved and help get the team back on track. Sometimes designers get tangled up in details and forget to look at the big picture.

4. Remind the team why achieving that goal is important.

Keep the team aligned. The importance of the goal must be crystal clear for everyone in the team before getting to the design itself. Everyone needs to know the long-term business goals and KPIs defined for the product.

5. Give them some time to came up with ideas.

Let your team think of alternatives and come up with ideas. Create that space during daily or weekly meetings and, if the challenge is more complex, give them some hours after the meetings. Everyone in your team needs to know they have a voice in the project they are working on. If they are really stuck you may give your perspective on the issues you are dealing with and communicate your thoughts on how that can be solved but it’s better to start out with open-ended questions that help people begin to think of solutions to a certain problem or challenge.

6. They have the last say.

Designers have the last word on how things will look. They are responsible of that. This is related to rule #2.

7. Make yourself available.

Feedback goes both ways. Offer your time to help and sit down to work with them if necessary. Sitting side-by-side will make them move faster, take better decision, be more focused and avoid overthinking. Also, be prepared to receive feedback.

8. Be very specific.

Feedback should be task-focused and to the point. General comments like “Your work needs to be improved” or “I wasn’t very impressed with those designs: you have to do better than that” will leave them confused and in the dark as to what aspect of their work needs to be corrected.

9. Don’t wait for the retrospective meeting.

Address issues as they occur. If left unsaid, the problems will only recur and may multiply by a domino effect, so that by the time the retrospective comes around, you’ll have to address a ton of issues or, even worse, you’ll forget to mention them.

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