Is UX Design Feedback Actually Worthwhile?

Feedback needs to be quality to be of any use

9May

When designing new products, it is not uncommon to lose perspective. We obsess over minor details, convince ourselves that users will love the features we love, and become protective over our vision. It's for this reason that designers need feedback - a fresh pair of eyes to look over a product and offer constructive advice around how to improve it. Whether or not you take the outsider opinion on board, getting the perspective of people not intimately involved with the project can be invaluable.

Identify quality feedback

Not all feedback is equal, though, and there is a growing consensus that poor feedback can actually be damaging to the eventual outcome of a product. Designers are, understandably, eager to complete projects so that they can begin the next, and feedback sessions are all too often rushed afterthoughts in the design process. Businesses will consult people without a design background, or even audiences that have no experience in product development whatsoever.

Of course, anyone's input can be valuable, but changing features on the basis of whether someone likes the design or not is rash. Design is inherently subjective, and putting people on the spot at the end of a design process to pick out elements they themselves don't personally like is not necessarily the best way to get results. Instead, ask a few trusted people to use the digital product for a day or so, and offer considered feedback in writing for your consideration.

Define your goals

Firstly, design feedback without defined goals is likely to be a useless scattergun of opinions. It's important to begin by setting out what you'd like your feedback providers to focus on, what the goals for the project are, and areas that you specifically need help getting right. Do this properly and your feedback will be considered and constructive, and will be more likely to ignore areas you and your team deem unimportant to the success of the project. If you're trying to find out how intuitive your landing page is to navigate, it isn't necessarily relevant how nice a color your hamburger menu is.

Embrace criticism

Secondly, people enjoy giving feedback - it makes them feel valued - but this isn't going to be a series of congratulations on how well designed your UX is. It will be people raising issues, pointing out elements they don't like, and suggesting design features you hadn't even thought of including. Ultimately, you have to be ready to accept the criticism - you asked for it, and highlighting problems is more worthwhile than a list of things someone liked.

It's all about how designers handle that criticism. There are three equally legitimate options: ignore the advice altogether, defend the original design, or explore it further and potentially make changes. The latter is the only time that design feedback is actually worthwhile with regard to the outcome of the actual product and, if the feedback comes from a trusted source, it should be the default response. This involves working with the person who pointed out the flaw. Ask them why they don't think it works, and ask them for a potential solution to the problem based on the difficulty they found with the product - if they haven't got an answer to either, the chances are they haven't thought through the point enough and it can be taken with a pinch of salt. If they have well-developed answers, though, it might be worth considering making changes.

Ultimately, a lot of feedback will be poor and without a great deal of thought. It can be improved by setting clear parameters for the feedback, knowing when to reject an opinion and stick to your guns, and knowing how to manage criticism in the most productive way possible. Don't accept feedback without clarification, ask those you trust and those with experience in designing, and don't be too precious over your original design. UX design feedback is a vital part of the product development process, but it is only worthwhile when it's quality - don't let it become an afterthought. 

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