10 Rules and Resources for Better Design Feedback

Everyone loves to get feedback, but it’s not always easy to get the feedback you need, the kind of feedback that brings a fresh perspective and valuable insight to your project.  Whether you are a professional designer, freelancer, client, friend or boss, learning to give and receive effective feedback is an essential skill.  Here are 5 simple rules you can apply today to make sure you get the right feedback:

1. Start by clarifying the objective

What is the goal of your project?  Make sure the people offering you feedback know exactly what is.  The response you receive should revolve around better ways to achieve this objective.

2. Be specific

Let people know what it is you want feedback on, don’t be shy.  The more specific you are, the better advice you will get.

3. Listen

As obvious as this rule may seem, it’s easy to turn away ideas because they’re different from your own.  But keep in mind, a different perspective is exactly what you’re looking for and may be just what you need.

4. Invite constructive criticism

How well do you deal with criticism?  For most people, their first reaction is to get defensive, or even lash out.  However, oftentimes specific, thoughtful criticism can be much more useful than a generic positive remark.  Don’t let your pride get in the way and pass up a great opportunity to take honest feedback at face value, and improve.

5. Take the advice

Not all of it, but take the time to sort the good from the bad and implement the changes.  Don’t just get feedback for feedback’s sake.  Not only will this improve your work, it will make your contributors feel appreciated (speaking of which – be sure to say “thank you!”).

Getting feedback is the fun part, but what about giving it?

1. Be respectful

You all know the Golden Rule, and that’s about all this first point boils down to.  Acknowledge the hard work the designer has put in and be sensitive to their situation.  Are they a newbie?  Are they actively seeking advice?  Always make sure that this respect is reflected in your critiques.

2. Be specific

The more specific you can be, the better.  Try to avoid generic comments like “change the font”, and instead provide specific, actionable suggestions. Offering alternatives, sketches and details ensure that you are both on the same page.

3. Provide justification

Do you have a reason behind your feedback, or is it just your intuition?  Whenever possible, provide examples, resources or educated reasoning that back up the advice you are offering to avoid a “battle of opinions”.  If it’s just your intuition from experience, that’s fine, but let them know that.

4. Balance the positives and negatives

A healthy balance of pros and cons keeps everyone happy.  Never underestimate the confidence-boosting power of a compliment, but by the same token, be open and direct with criticism.  Remember, honest, well-meaning criticism can make the greatest impact.

5. “Have you Considered?”

When dealing with a newbie or “sensitive” designer (you know the type), try framing your criticism with “have you considered…”.  This gives the designer the opportunity to offer their reasoning and not feel “under attack”.

Ready to try out your newfound knowledge?  Here a 5 free feedback sites for designers:

Concept Feedback – A professional feedback community where designers, developers and marketers can exchange third-party reviews.

Smashing Forum – A simple, but effective text-based forum from Smashing Magazine aimed at designers looking for general feedback on web design.

FiveSecondTest – An online usability test that helps you identify the most prominent elements of your user interfaces.

Sitepoint Forum – Geared towards developers, Sitepoint provides a relatively active text-based platform for design, website and content reviews.

Design Critique – Critique web designs via Twitter in 140 characters or less.

Additional Resources:

Do you have feedback tips or advice from your own experiences?  Let us know, we’d love to hear about it!

About the Author:

Andrew Follett is marketing director at a small business outside Chicago, Illinois and founder of the new design feedback community, Concept Feedback. Follow Andrew and Concept Feedback on Twitter.

Andrew Follett