The problem with feedback—and how to solve it

4 min read
Emily Esposito
  •  Aug 8, 2018
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You share a design on a social platform, and after a few hours, you get a ton of likes and a couple dozen comments. The problem? Every comment is something along the lines of, “Nice work!”,“Great colors!”, and “Cool!”

While these kinds of comments can be a great ego boost, they might go against the whole point of uploading your work in the first place: to get feedback. Real feedback.

At work, you may get the opposite end of the spectrum, where non-designers suddenly have pages and pages of critiques, but nothing truly actionable or insightful.

How to solicit better feedback

Good feedback not only helps you grow professionally, it ultimately improves the user experience. By gathering multiple opinions, you can ensure your design will resonate with a diverse audience.

Want to get better feedback? Try these five ideas:

Get a feedback buddy

There’s often no shortage of people who want to give feedback, but the real question is: Will it be honest and valuable? Instead of guessing and hoping for a positive response, get yourself a feedback buddy.

A feedback buddy can be a fellow designer, a non-designer, someone you know, or a complete stranger. The goal is to find someone you can ask for help, knowing that he or she will show up in an authentic way. You want direct, honest feedback that can help you improve your design. And, of course, you need to be prepared to return the favor.

“Good feedback not only helps you grow professionally, it ultimately improves the user experience.”

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Set expectations around what you’re looking for

Make it clear what you’re looking for. If you don’t specify what you’re hoping to learn, people usually stay on the safe side—commenting on things like color, font, or layout.

Instead, make your ask clear and direct. Do you want their thoughts on the navigation menu? If the checkout flow is confusing? It’s very likely that you’ll have to ask different people to critique different parts of your design.

Ask the right questions

Please don’t request people’s opinions by asking “What do you think?” or “Do you have any feedback?” These kinds of questions are just setting you up to receive vague answers.

Try asking these questions:

  • Is this page clear?
  • Are you able to find the information you’d expect on this page?
  • How did the effort to accomplish XYZ task compare to your expectations?
  • How easy is it to navigate XYZ?
  • How does this page make you feel?
  • Do the visuals feel cohesive with the brand?

If you’re still not getting insight that you can act on, press for examples. Ask people to show you different websites or apps that illustrate what they’re trying to explain.

“Asking ‘What do you think?’ or ‘Do you have any feedback?’ will only get you vague answers. Be clear and direct.”

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Give people time to digest

Most people can’t give good feedback on the spot. Many need time to digest and reflect before sharing their thoughts in a productive way, rather than just spitting out the first thing that comes to mind. So those meetings when you present your design for the first time? They may not be the best time and place to get the feedback you need.

Don’t eliminate these meetings—just give attendees more time to prep. Send them your mockup a few hours before the meeting so they can thoughtfully review it on their own time.

Prioritize and be intentional

If you work on a remote team or if your feedback buddy lives in a different city or state, the onus is on you to prioritize getting feedback. You won’t have those frequent, impromptu moments to receive feedback like you would if you were physically closer. You’ll have to go out of your way to replicate these exchanges.

Maybe you set a reminder to check in with your buddy once a month. Or you schedule critique sessions with your team every week. Whatever you choose, try to avoid email or chat. Video calls are the best way to catch all the nuances that are inherent with these kinds of conversations.

He made the mistake of asking “Do you have any feedback?” Photo: @twinshenanigans.

Promoting real feedback

When delivered correctly, feedback can give you the insight and perspective you need. The problem is, it has evolved into a form of ego boosting—especially online, where people seem to be afraid of coming across negatively by sharing their critiques.

To combat this, take charge of the process by talking to the right people, asking the right questions, and setting expectations.

And don’t forget that feedback goes both ways. Set a strong example by giving the kind of feedback you’d want to receive. Others will follow suit.

What are your tried-and-true methods for getting actionable feedback? Tell us on Twitter: @InVisionApp.

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