Feedback can be a scary thing in the workplace.

Whether you’re the one providing it or the one receiving it, critiques often makes both givers and receivers uncomfortable because there’s always the possibility of offending someone or causing creative differences between co-workers. And when you have to face each other every day of the work week, who really wants that?

But no matter the outcome of the constructive criticism, each respective party should feel confident that everything discussed comes from a mutual desire to service the project as best as possible. With that mutual trust and understanding, potential conflicts are minimized and project productivity is set up for success.

At Designzillas, we’ve found the most effective way of providing/receiving creative feedback is to come at it as a process. Here’s an inside look at that process for our team:

Come with an open mind.

Open Mind

For the giver:

While it’s important to approach feedback with creative ideas and data that supports why something will or will not work, it’s also important to remember that other people have different perspectives and that there were likely very specific reasons for creative choices made. If you’re the giver, you shouldn’t be afraid to come prepared to give suggestions—just keep an open mind if someone justifies their choices and be willing to understand the reasons why they’re defending them.

For the receiver:

The receiver is so vulnerable in this process. Their work is out in the open, ready to be judged, poked and prodded by their peers and superiors. So when you happen to be this person, remember to be receptive to others’ opinions and suggestions—as they have a unique perspective that you may not have considered when creating your design.

Feedback should be clear and concise.

For the giver:

Giving them the “why” may inspire them to create something even more user-friendly than either of you imagined.

If you’re providing feedback, remember that you need to be very clear with how you believe someone’s work can be altered to better achieve the goal of the project. The receiver needs feedback with suggested solutions, like “To make your CTA more noticeable on that page’s background, you might want to make the text size a little bigger and the color more contrasting.” What they don’t need is emotion-based feedback, like “I don’t like that CTA” or “That CTA doesn’t feel right to me.” Giving them the “why” may inspire them to create something even more user-friendly than either of you imagined. Timeboxing or limiting your character count when providing feedback is a good way to stay laser-focused and productive during the process.

For the receiver:

Similarly, if they don’t give you the “why”, ensure you’re getting the information you need to make changes by asking for clarification on their feedback. Make sure they are clear and to the point so you’re not making guesses or having to read through/listen to a ton of feedback first.

Ask questions.

Any questions?

For the giver:

To emphasize the previous point, you can provide clarity in your feedback to the receiver by asking questions if you’re unsure of the intention of the design. This can provide context to the content right off the bat. One thing to be mindful of, however, is avoiding “sneaky” questions. It’s common for creatives to get defensive when asked why they’ve made certain design decisions, so just be sure to ask questions that are more about user experience than what you think looks best or not.

For the receiver:

If someone is providing unclear feedback, take a minute to see what specifically they mean. “Taking another stab” at something can only be effective if there are a limited amount of options for change. It’s best to know exactly what someone means when they encourage you to do something different with any aspect of your design. It will save time in the long run.

Track feedback and share it.

For the giver:

When you’re offering suggestions, it’s best to have everything written down so the receiver can go back and review it at a later time. It also ensures things don’t get lost, misunderstood or set on the backburner.

Empower your fellow creative to take your feedback into consideration by making it tangible and traceable.

For the receiver:

When you’re receiving feedback, document the highlights yourself. Make notes to help you remember what certain things mean and how they relate to your design. If you don’t have a moderator, or if others aren’t great at documenting their feedback, it’s important that you at least have what you need to make changes. Make the most of your time collecting feedback from your peers by ensuring you won’t have to bug people again to repeat the same information later on.

Most importantly, remember that it’s not about you—it’s about the user.

It's not about you

For the giver:

No matter how much research you’ve read or how well something has worked for you in the past, or even how visually stunning a specific design might be in your opinion, at the end of the day, whatever feedback you have should be centered around the user. Period. Because the only way a design is going to be received well is if it’s made with the people using it every day in mind. So be sure to give your opinion, but ensure that it aligns with what a user needs from the experience. Read more about advocating for users over egos now.

For the receiver:

It may be difficult, but try not to take anything personally. No, really. Like, none of it. People have different communication styles and different ways of expressing their feelings and opinions. If they don’t like an aspect of your design, it’s likely they’re just trying to point out something they think might be unclear for users. Your job in return is to thank participants for their feedback and to go back and assess how that feedback can be applied to your next design draft—even if you don’t end up using all of it.

Rinse and repeat.

Once you’ve implemented this process, continue to make it work for your team. Have a second round of feedback if you feel it needs it. Make changes or add steps to the process if it needs it. Take stuff out if you want, too! But once you’ve established your feedback system, continue to implement with each creative project—you’ll be glad you did.

Hearing about growth-driven design for the first time? Learn more about the three pillars of GDD and how this methodology can help you solve your greatest marketing challenges.

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blog author


Josh Roth

Designzillas’ ferocious Marketing Intern for summer 2017, Josh assists the Marketing Team with drafting content, conducting research, reviewing sites for UX issues and more.

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