Asking for is never easy, to the point where it is flat out avoided at times. The reasons could be fear of critical comments, someone challenging your thinking or the not getting the approval from your colleagues. Over time I’ve observed and practiced different ways to turn into something I actively seek. Here’s a few handy ways to keep useful, constructive and something you’ll learn to embrace over time.

The 30|60|90 philosophy

I first heard about the 30 percent feedback philosophy from Jason Freedman of 42 Floors. Sharing work when 30 percent complete has many benefits when seeking feedback. This is a great framework where the type of feedback should align with the stage in which your design is at e.g. sharing work when 30 percent complete should provide feedback on the big picture and overarching direction, ensuring the solution is solving the right problems for the right people. If work is 90 percent done, aim for feedback that is more focused on the detail e.g. typos, colours of a button, alignment of content elements etc. 30 percent should be early enough that if needed, a new direction can be taken with minimal time investment.

Obtaining early feedback can be a little uneasy the first few times but it’s guaranteed to save you time in the long run. Furthermore, everyone will be aligned with the design narrative, concept direction and be looking forward to 60 percent feedback. A helpful rule to follow is to ensure work is at least around 30 percent complete before seeking feedback, otherwise, sessions can turn into a design by committee situation — good for brainstorming and ideation, not so much for productive critique sessions.

When presenting work in its concept stage, try some of these to help sell your designs and articulate how you arrived at your decisions:

  • Describe the idea — How does it address pain points?
  • Draw it or wireframe it — A rough sketch is fine. (so the audience matches the visual to your pitch). Think about the features and benefits of your idea.
  • Now sell it — Use language like “This is for [this person struggling with this]. The need it is fulfilling is [needs and goals identified]
  • Talk about the top 3 reasons to develop this. What are the benefits to the customer and the business?
  • What are the biggest barriers to the success of this idea?

Get the right feedback by setting expectations

Tell people explicitly what you’re looking for and what you’re not. If there’s one or two components of a design you need feedback on, let people know beforehand. Vague questions can lead to vague feedback.

Give people time to digest

When I’m asked to give feedback, I’m hesitant to give feedback on the spot before having time walk through in my own time. If you’re planning on a formal design review, send the attendees the designs earlier for review. Alternatively, send artefacts after your review so people have time to provide valuable feedback in their own time.

What if you’re the one giving the critique?

A good start is to lead with what’s working and then discuss what you think could be changed and why you think this way, ask for the rationale behind decisions if you have to. From a presenters perspective, hearing what works from various people helps solidify core components that are to stay. Be cognizant not to give an opinion for the sake of it, keep feedback rooted back to customer insights and focused on solving the right problems.

Setting up a framework for feedback with your team can advance design to levels you might not have achieved otherwise. Sometimes it’s just a matter of creating an environment to leverage your team’s knowledge and viewpoints. More often than not, it’s the collective thinking and input that can lead to better discussions and ultimately better design.

Have you found other useful ways to obtain feedback? Drop me a comment!

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If you enjoyed this, check out my other -y articles:

How scenarios help the design process

User Research: Real world vs in the lab feedback

Effective ways of communicating UX research

5 benefits of a UX review and how to go about it

Empathy through Experience Maps

Learn from people-design for people

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