FAQ | The Power of Feedback in Design: A Designer’s Guide to Growth and Success

Apr 26, 2023Dianne Eberhardt

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Hello everyone, welcome to the next episode of Pixelated Perfect. I'm Diane. I'm the host and today we are doing another FAQ episode. Today's FAQ episode is gonna focus on feedback. So the goal is to help you, the designer, to have some tools, how to receive feedback and just how to get better at giving feedback as well. So this is something at TDP that is one of our core values is getting feedback, receiving feedback and being able to have those conversations. So this one is near and dear to my heart and extremely important to me and the Design Project team. So let's get into it. The first kind of question I wanna start with is, what is feedback and why is it important? So as designers, we are working in an environment where there is no right or wrong answer.

For the most part it's creative, it's coming up with concepts. Of course there's constraints that we have to think about, there's rules to follow, there's best practices, but overall it is not math. There is not an equation that will get us to this one result. And so in that case, feedback is really important to be able to brainstorm ideas, to be able to come up with and present the best designs we can for the user by getting feedback from everyone on what is makes sense, what doesn't make sense, where are you struggling, what looks good, what doesn't look good, why? And that's why it's so important because as designers, if we work in a silo alone we are our own biases. And so we might not see the full picture and that's why putting it in front of other people and gaining that feedback is so valuable to the end goal of what we're trying to build.

So that's getting off my soapbox. That is basically feedback. So there's kind of, I wanna talk about feedback in terms of if you're a solo designer working in a startup, you're doing your own thing, you're a freelancer, how are you able to get feedback? And then also if you're on a team, how can you be best in getting feedback? So if you're working alone, say you are that sole designer in a new startup, one of the best ways to get feedback is stakeholders and users or potential users. So along the process you should, at every single step, at every single chance, you should be opening the discussion to others. Whether it's the developers, whether it's the project managers, there should be discussions that should not be you taking a brief and just designing on your own. You need to be getting that feedback.

And so some great ways to get feedback are at each little step at, maybe it could even be daily, whatever that makes sense for your team is showing where you left off and asking specific questions. So something that is really important is at different stages of the design process, we're looking for different feedback. So if you're at a wire frame stage, you're not looking for feedback looking for feedback on ui, right? So you also need to help those people giving feedback, understand what they're giving feedback about. And so if you're kind of on your own, it's even more of a process because they might not know design. So you're like, okay, here's a quick sketch. What do you think about this flow of a user clicking on this button and it opening this screen, blah, blah blah, whatever that looks like. You should be sending that out to <laugh> everyone you can at every stage and gathering that feedback.

And then it's not you making that decision based on your own biases, it's making that decision as a team or understanding how people are interacting with that. And that's super, super important. And that's why I suggest that as a designer , getting feedback is literally just if it's a stakeholder, if it's a friend, whatever, just getting some form of feedback early and often and pivoting and iterating and building. And this is also probably another FAQ episode, but like how do you show the value of doing these steps to those stakeholders and how do you explain why it's important to get that feedback? I think we can definitely dive deeper into that at another time, but what I will say is it's kind of based on explaining the ROI of design, right? So like by doing these quick, getting this quick feedback early and often you are actually saving time in the end because if you work through in your own world, you work on this design, you make pixel perfection, the devs build it, the devs build it, and then you put it out in the world and users don't like it, that's way more costly than if you spend a little bit more time upfront getting that feedback and tweaking those designs before it even goes ghosted development.

So that's kind of, there's way more to talk about there, but that's kind of the high level reason how you can kind of push for, for getting that early and often feedback. So let's talk about a team, how to get feedback on a team. So there should definitely be a process and a setup and it, it depends on your team and we work agile with a lot of our customers. So I think it is like scheduling that time once a week, twice a week, no matter what you are getting feedback from the stakeholders, from users, whatever that looks like. And then within your team, so if you have other designers, something we do at the design project is every week we have a weekly designer review where all the designers come together, they get to share the work they're working on and get feedback from everyone on the team.

So everyone on the team is designers, co-founders, whoever that is, they're there to kind of offer their 2 cents and their feedback so that we say that we're giving the best we can to our customers versus that designer just again, working in that silo. So we wanna open that up and there's a process. There should definitely be an understanding when you start a project or when are we looking for feedback? How often are we looking for feedback? And so that you have these steps ingrained into your process so that your team is completely on board of when you're looking for feedback, what kind of feedback you're looking at at each stage and working within that team to be able to provide that feedback to know when you're iterating and to move forward. So I think when everyone is on the same PA page and everyone is involved in that feedback loop, that that leaves room for everyone to grow and understand the problems and to face them together instead of say you're working in a team but your team is split and you have the design team and then you have the developer team and then the design team makes all these decisions and goes out and does this research and then hands it off to the developers.

The developers might find a lot of problems and they're like, oh wait, we can actually do this, or Why would you do it? But by having everyone in that team in that process is a way to make sure that everyone is on the same page, that everyone's having those discussions about that feedback and everyone's moving together. So I think that's really insightful and something that we try to do with our customers and that we try to do and I think that really leads to the best design. Let's talk about the actual act of receiving feedback. And how can you as a designer avoid feeling attacked or become defensive? So as designers, we build something and we put it out in the world and we're excited about it and then we get negative feedback. Our first instinct as designers is to protect it, to speak about it, to get frustrated.

And I think that it's really hard and I think it gets to this point where you have to remove the ego from it. And you have to understand that feedback is meant to, everyone is giving feedback to build the best thing possible. So they're not attacking you, it doesn't have anything to do with you personally. It has to do with how we can build something together that is the best design, that is the best product for your users. And so I think this is a skill that you continuously grow and learn. I think one way to maybe think about getting feedback and being able to defend it if you feel strongly is you should have a reason for everything you designed. So whatever flow, whatever process you can, I think it is important for you to like to speak about why you did what you did and why you think it makes sense.

And then having a discussion with someone else that maybe thinks differently and agreeing to disagree, coming up with a solution, having those tough conversations at that point to lead to the best designs. So by having a reason behind it, you're not just saying, oh, this is pretty or this is best because I did it. You need to actually have something concrete. I think that's a really important thing when going in kind of defending your work is you definitely need to have that and then be open to that discussion. But at the end of the day you have to just know that collectively you guys are all on the same page. And so I think that's like the best advice I could give for that. And I think it's a learning process. I think it's taken me a long time to feel not always attacked.

I think it takes a lot of designers that time and that space to go through it. So it's gonna be challenging. Like it's never not gonna be challenging but you just have to have the right mindset and the right frame and you also have to have the right place that you're getting and receiving feedback. You need to be feeling like everyone is open and you're all on the same page and everything like that. So it's really important to have that like space to be able to, to have those feedback sessions. How can I differentiate between subjective and objective feedback and what should I do with each type? This is an interesting question. So I think you have to understand that when someone is giving feedback on a specific element, it is understanding what the feedback is about. Is it better for the user?

Is it feedback that has, is backed by data, is backed by research or is it an opinion of someone? And I think the best way to distinguish that is also to ask questions like, oh, why do you feel this way? Why do you suggest this doesn't work? And again, like I said, you should have reasons for why you did what you did. They should have reasons for why they're giving feedback and be like, oh cuz this is how I feel. And you need to be in that space and on a team that understands that and appreciates that and has those conversations of what is this feedback about? Do I feel like I can engage with this person and understand whether this is a subjective objective? How is this feedback going to impact the design? Can we talk about it together?

So I guess that's really important to understand and I think another thing to think about is who's giving the feedback. So there are a lot of customers of ours and then just in general in the design world is there is that decision maker whether it's the c e o, the founder and they feel near and dear to their heart and they have an opinion and they might not have anything to back it, but they feel strongly about it. And us as designers and as a team have to just do it. And so I think it's recognizing and you feeling like you were able to defend and explain why that doesn't make sense the best you could. But at the end of the day, if that stakeholder and that main decision maker tells you to do something and you are not in a position where you're in a team where you guys have come to an agreement I think the best thing to do is to, to, to do two things is to do what they asked and then also to do what you asked.

And if you can actually put it in front of a user and get feedback from it, I think that's really like, hey, let's take all the opinions out of this and let's just put it in front of users and let's get real data to back up a b testing and go with that option. So I think that's something to keep in mind is as a team or as you're getting feedback and receiving feedback, if you guys get into the loop of no one, everyone has their own opinions. No one really knows what to do when you're just stuck. You need to get out there and you need to show your work and you need to get data and you need to get feedback from users to understand what works and what doesn't. So I think that's a really great thing about product design, like design is that it isn't just like feelings.

There's a lot more to it so that you can actually push for getting that data to back up any decisions that your team makes. What are some techniques for handling difficult or negative feedback and how can I maintain a positive attitude and mindset? I really think we talked about this when feeling attacked. If you're receiving feedback again, I think it's taking ego out, which I know is a lot easier said than done. But I think it's really important to recognize that you're not being attacked or you shouldn't be attacked. You should be in a safe space to be able to share ideas. I also think practice, I think the more that you feel comfortable giving feedback, getting feedback, the more that you will be open to it. So I think like a lot of more junior designers, they're still questioning their decisions and so they might feel like, oh no, I did it wrong and it's not doing it wrong, right?

It's like you needed to do that step to be able to understand and to get that feedback to know that that wasn't the best decision based on many factors. And so I think the more senior and the more you grow as a designer the more impactful that feedback is. Cause you know, you're really working with a team. And so I think if you think about letting go of those negative feelings the more you can focus on growing as a designer and growing as a designer means being able to get feedback and give feedback in a more neutral way with the end goal being building the best thing you can.

How to deal with customers that don't give feedback. <Laugh> this is a good one, is like we kind of talked about is there's sometimes there's decision makers that are like, I don't care what you say, this is what I wanna do, which we talked about. And there's also some people that are like, I don't know, I trust you do whatever. And in this case this is also kind of a not the best experience because they probably have opinions, but they feel like you are the experts so they're gonna let you take it on. But I think in a team setting, everyone has a role and everyone has something, an expertise that they can share that's super valuable. So I think it's really important for the designer to create and facilitate a space where you explain the importance of feedback and how everything, every piece of feedback you get is going to help push the team to build something better.

And so if no one's giving feedback and you get to the end, there's definitely the chance of it. Now you weren't able to build something in the best way possible because you didn't get that information you needed out of someone or it kind of flopped because you feel like you're again working in the silo. So I think that's, that's an important part of feedback is you need to make sure you're getting it <laugh> and you're receiving it. How can I create a feedback culture within my team or organization and what are the benefits of doing so? Feedback culture is near and dear to my heart, like I talked about at the beginning. And I think having that culture where people feel like they can give feedback and get feedback is what creates a really strong team and bond. Being able to have those difficult conversations and being able to disagree is what makes your relationship with your teammates, with your company, with your stakeholders, with your customers.

So powerful is being able to get to that next level with them and know that you're all building something together that's going to solve a problem. And so without that feedback culture, you're basically all kind of working in silos, building on one person's ideas and not coming together and not putting it out there in the space and getting feedback. So I think if you're building a product, if you're a designer in a company, there's no situation where feedback is not going to get you to a better place. And so I think that just makes, like we said, a strong culture internally makes teammates feel her mates, teammates feel like they can bond with them, with their other teammates. I think from a business standpoint, you're really understanding who your users are, you're getting feedback from and you're really building something for them that's solving their problems which means the company's gonna be successful and grow hopefully. So those are kind of my overall thoughts on, on feedback. I hope you guys enjoyed Thanks.

Dianne Eberhardt

Dianne Eberhardt

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