The cornerstone of the design profession is giving and getting feedback. Product designers work collaboratively on every project. That means they must be able to listen to the opinions and concerns of their users, as well as engineers, product managers, executive stakeholders and anyone else involved in the project.
Being able to listen to critique and give constructive criticism in turn will make or break you in this profession.
“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.”
What it is.
Feedback is what drives and inspires the good designer. It is critical to the process, because only with it will you improve and your products improve.
How it’s used.
You’ll get feedback from engineers who aren’t sure they can build what you’ve designed; from product managers who question whether your designs will meet business needs, from marketing people who want more promotions and sales people who want more ads. You’ll hear from C-level executives who don’t understand the concept and VPs who liked their ideas better.
You must listen to all of them. They all have valid concerns that must be weighed against each other. (After all, you can’t just fill up the whole website with banner ads, no matter what the salesforce wants.)
The most important feedback comes from users. If they don’t like the product, they won’t use the product. Then it’s game over for everyone.
Have you ever worked for a boss who never wanted to hear your suggestions? Someone whose ego was so engaged that the smallest comment caused him to puff up his chest and stare down his nose at you?
Don’t be that person!
As a designer, you are saying to the world, “here is a thing I’ve made — tell me what you think of it.”
You can’t then be annoyed or hurt when the world tells you exactly what they think.
That doesn’t mean that you must believe all the criticism you hear. Consider the source. If it’s your mother telling you how much she loves the website you designed, you might want to get a second opinion. In the same way that if your jealous sister tells you how terrible the website is, you might want to hear from a neutral third party.
Some critique will be more valuable: it will inspire your creativity, confirm your doubts, send you in a new (better) direction.
Other critique will be less valuable: it will be biased, or based in a single, arbitrary view. It will have an agenda other than to improve your product.
Not all critique is equal. Consider the source.
How do you tell the difference?
That’s the trick, really. How to use critique appropriately. How to give it without destroying the one you’re critiquing; how to get it without throwing up your hands and giving up.
There are some very good techniques for passing along helpful feedback — and for getting feedback you don’t really want to hear.
It’s not always easy. But there are a few guidelines for giving and getting feedback. It should be:
- not personal
- delivered with consent
- a conversation
If you get feedback while you’re working on a project so that you can make changes (timely), and that feedback includes specific changes or improvements (specific), focuses on the work and not your quality as a human being (not personal), if you asked for the feedback (delivered with consent), it provides a path to improvement rather than a suggestion that you throw the whole project away (constructive) and you’re allowed to ask clarifying questions to understand it better (a conversation) … then that is the best of all critiques.
If it comes too late to make changes, expresses a vague dislike of you and the product, comes out of the blue and is intended to shut down all conversation, then it very bad feedback.