Giving constructive design feedback and critique

August 18, 2009

Social skills. There are times when you have to tell a website owner or another designer what’s bad about their design or site. In face-to-face discussions the way you communicate for optimal effect is crucial.

Roles: Presenter, Facilitator, Recorder

The importance of critique


How to give critique

  • Respect the design owner. Start with some positive feedback.
    affirmative criticism. Receiving a compliment delivers an endorphin rush. The presenter also hears what shouldn’t change or go away in future renditions of the work. In many ways, this is as important than knowing what needs changing. It forms a good design “root system” of that everything else can grow from.”
  • Just ask yourself these questions during your critique: What did I enjoy about this design and why? What concerns me about this design and why? What does this design remind me of and why?
  • Talk about the bigger picture/rationale. Instead of saying, “While I think those flyout menus are slick, I recommend you nuke them and put the links in the center of the page,” the critic might ask, “What alternatives did you consider for the flyout menus?”. While, in any project, practical constraints often win out, discussing the higher level concepts help the design owner (and other team members) make better decisions going forward.
  • Knowing that one day they’d also be a chosen one, the kids would be very careful about how they worded their “bads.” They’d try to be very constructive, often forming a question, such as, “Did you intend for me to see that was my card before you flipped it over? ” This gives the presenter a chance to think about what they intended to happen, versus what actually happened. 
  • “Have you considered…” is a great way to start an important criticism, since it gives the design owner a chance to say, “I did, but I chose this direction because…” Now, the team can talk about the bigger issues behind the rationale instead of nit-picking the design details.

“This is undesired behaviour.” or “not recommended’

“This harms or does not benefit findability.”

Other possible topics for this post: how to gather and structure critique.

Inspirational sources: (Dealing with criticism) (ID and Strategy)

Visual design review tool   Intersections are focus points for the eye. Others: contrast, blur, 50%, mirror, contrast, grayscale.

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