How to run an efficient remote design critique

4 min read
Greg Storey
  •  Apr 20, 2020
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After many years in business, InVision product teams are still evolving our methods for weekly design critiques. While getting used to doing these things remotely may take some time, there are a few positive outcomes. At InVision, each design team gets one hour a week for critique. Time is divided equally depending on the number of projects that are flagged as needing review for the week. Critique sessions are facilitated by the design lead of each team and partners in product management and engineering are invited and encouraged to participate. All of the work to be reviewed is placed in a Freehand along with a uniform outline the designer uses to provide constraints for feedback.

This is the outline template we follow: 

  • What I am sharing today: (Please include the actual problem you are seeking to solve with this work)
  • The work is at the stage of: (e.g. “discovery”)
  • The constraints I am dealing with are: (e.g. “I only have two weeks,” or “We don’t have x data available”)
  • I am looking for the following feedback: (Be as detailed as necessary)

During the critique, participants are encouraged to focus on providing feedback and asking questions. We have tried more formal frameworks in the past, but they ended up taking longer without improving the quality of the sessions and didn’t justify the additional time. InVision designers prefer to use Freehand to present their work because if a new idea comes to mind, the team can quickly jump in and work on it in realtime. Having been a part of critiques in the past I can tell you that being able to quickly sketch out ideas in the same space as the work being reviewed is truly valuable for team ideation.

Everyone attending the critique is required to have their cameras turned on at all times. This helps to show that people are engaged, but, more importantly, it conveys the tone of the feedback and provides a sense of shared vulnerability. Providing feedback through voice alone comes off as absent of empathy. And I’m going to show my age here, but what are we—Charlie’s Angels?

Now it gets better: Sessions are recorded and shared out afterwards which lets the designer focus more on interaction with the people providing feedback and ideas during the session (rather than trying to document everything). If there is one aspect about working remotely that’s super positive, it’s that right there: the ability to focus on interacting rather than trying to transcribe in real time.

Note: The design teams tried using a dedicated notetaker in the past but reviewing the video leaves nothing up for interpretation.

Other considerations:

  • The leader should set the tone for the session when they log in. Focus on making the interaction productive and fun during the review. This event is super important to design team culture. The key is to provide enough process, but not to the point of rigidity.
  • It’s easy to be less personable when you have a screen and camera in your face. Lead with empathy: How are the people presenting feeling? Be personable and positive. Be a reminder that you’re all there to critique the work, not the person.

For a team working remotely for the first time it will take a bit of trial and error to find the right virtual experience. It’s important to remember that what works for us at InVision may not be the right fit for you. Charge your team with exploring new ways to host a better critique and have fun with it.

This excerpt has been edited for length and clarity. To read the full, unabridged chapter, download Remote Work for Design Teams.

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