When people talk about design feedback, they usually focus on how to give better feedback. While that's good, I believe it's a two-way street and we should also talk about getting design feedback.

I'll outline several ways of how designers can better request and receive feedback.

Requesting feedback

It all starts the moment you request the feedback. The way you do it will have an impact on what you get.

Sync vs async

First, consider the way you want to communicate around the feedback. If you're working with an in-house team, it can be tempting to hold a meeting. Don't jump to it too fast though, because there might be a better way.

From my experience, when you're presenting a design to, say, 7 people and then they discuss it and give feedback, it can be a) skewed by the group dynamic (e.g. not everyone has the same voice in a group discussion) and b) quite hard to manage to stay focused and timely.

Consider instead doing it asynchronously. It can have several advantages:

  • everyone gives the feedback on their time (instead of being forced into a meeting)
  • everyone has the same voice (instead of being drowned out in a group discussion)
  • everyone can take their time and really think it through (instead of rushing to say it)

The last point is especially important. When people take their time, the quality of the feedback you get can be much better.

Set yourself up for success

The worst thing a designer can do is showing a mockup and saying "This is the design. What do you think?". Or worse "Do you like it?".

Unless others have been working with the designer on it and have a perfect understanding of the context, the feedback from that will probably be useless.

There are a couple of things you can do to make sure the feedback you get is more relevant.

Decide on the kind of feedback you need

Depending on where you are in the design process and also the fidelity of the design, you might need different kinds of feedback. Is the design just a paper prototype in the early stages? You'll probably want to focus on things like a problem-solution fit. If it's a high-fidelity mockup, you might want more feedback on the visual design and copy. Or maybe you need a comprehensive review of the whole thing. The important thing is to be clear about the kind of feedback you need and communicating it to others.

Start with a problem

Others can't evaluate the solution unless they know what problem it's supposed to solve. Frame the design in a problem definition and provide enough detail for others to understand it.

Explain constraints

No design lives in a vacuum and there are always some constraints, whether technical or business or others. Help others see those constraints so that they can better understand the context you've been designing in.

Show the process

If you've been exploring several ways of solving the problem at hand, it might be a good idea to show the other approaches you've had. Provide reasoning on why you'd prefer the main design you're showing and why you perhaps discarded the other ideas.

Pinpoint issues and unknowns

Chances are, you're already aware of some possible issues or open questions regarding the design. Sharing those can help others focus on certain parts of the design that require the most feedback.

Receiving feedback

Hopefully, you've got some good, relevant feedback on your design. Now the question is what to do with it.

Not all feedback is equal

One of the most important things I've learned about feedback is that you do not need to act on every piece of it. You know the whole context the best so it's up to you to critically evaluate what feedback is relevant and actionable and what isn't.

Just because something was expressed, doesn't mean it has to be acted on.

Get ego out of the way

Feedback on your work isn't feedback on you. It took me several years to remove my ego out of the equation. But once your mindset shifts from "this design is my baby, don't you speak foul of it" to "how can we collectively make this design better?", the results are so much better.

When your ego doesn't stand in the way, you are able to view all feedback from the perspective of making the design the best it can be. Even when the feedback is poorly given and might feel like a personal attack, you can always focus on what it means for improving the design.

Getting good feedback starts with you

Knowing how to give good feedback is certainly valuable, but also knowing how to get it is just as important. Getting bad feedback can't be blamed entirely on others. Providing enough context or not taking feedback personally are some of the ways for you to make the most out of it. Remember that getting good design feedback starts with you.