Feedback is a natural and important part of the design process, but the trick is how to ensure that the feedback you give is both constructive and well-received.
If you collaborate with designers and seek to enhance your feedback-giving skills, or you're a designer looking for ways to effectively receive and act on feedback, then this article is here to assist you.
We spoke to UX and UI design professionals across several industries, including a few of our own Lyssna team members, and asked for their best practices and top tips on giving and receiving design feedback. Whether you work in UX/UI design, product, or graphic design, the advice shared below is applicable to all design and creative fields.
Design feedback can take various forms, including written comments, ratings, and suggestions, and can address different aspects of the design, such as usability, aesthetics, navigation, and functionality.
This crucial stage in the design process helps designers understand how users perceive and interact with their designs, and identify areas for improvement, and allows designers to refine their work to better meet users' needs and expectations. However, it’s important to ensure that the feedback received is constructive and actionable, without subjective biases, in order to derive maximum benefits.
How to provide effective design feedback
If you review designs often in your role, or if you're hiring and briefing a designer, then this section is for you. We reached out to several experts in the UX industry to ask for their insights and recommendations on how to provide effective and helpful feedback. Here are some top tips they shared.
Understanding the context of the design was one of the most important tips Chethan Chandrahasan, Senior Product Designer at Lyssna, shared:
“Although you may be seeing the design for the first time, the designer may have spent hours, if not weeks, working on it. So, respect their time and try to understand why they made those decisions before giving feedback. Also, understand the opportunity well, such as the problem we are solving, what we know about the customers, the business objectives, etc.”
Chethan follows this with another recommendation, emphasizing the importance of respecting other people's time and providing feedback at an appropriate time and in a suitable setting.
“Try to give feedback when people can actually do something about it, not when everything is in full swing. Also, try to give feedback in a safe space. Not everyone will appreciate a public critique.”
When speaking to our professionals, there were three key points raised multiple times. Chris Bryant, UI/UX Designer at Graphic Pie, sums this up below:
“Be specific: Use concrete examples to illustrate your feedback, and avoid vague statements. Be objective: Try to focus on the design problem rather than the designer, and avoid personal attacks or opinions. Be actionable: Provide suggestions and alternatives to help the designer improve their work.”
Nebojsa Savicic, Co-founder of Plainly, suggests using visual examples to help ensure specificity. He also emphasizes that the person who briefed the project should take some responsibility for the first draft.
“Designers follow briefs and if you haven't given them enough input at the very beginning, it often leads to back-and-forth communication until you get to the final version. What's important is that you acknowledge your role in shaping the design through clear instructions.”
While Simon Bacher, Co-Founder of Simya Solutions and creator of the Ling App, is a firm believer of the need to remove subjectivity out of any feedback:
“Use reliable data insights to provide more objective feedback to product designers. Design feedback is usually subjective, which involves praising what’s pleasing to the judge’s eyes. But subjective feedback can lead to bias, confusion, and mistrust. The best approach to giving and receiving feedback is being agile and objective.”
When it comes to providing feedback to other designers, James Maryan, Senior Product Designer at Switch Automation, draws on his experience as a snowboard coach, employing a feedback strategy called Positive To Try (PTT):
“The PTT method starts with positive feedback about the work done, followed by highlighting areas of improvement, then concluding with an explanation on how those improvements will enhance the overall task or product.
This approach ensures that the feedback given is constructive and delivered in a positive manner that acknowledges the effort and time invested. It helps improve the product while also focussing on positive reinforcement to encourage growth and improvement,” he adds.
Design feedback examples that are helpful versus not helpful
Constructive feedback can help designers refine their ideas and create better products, while unhelpful feedback can leave designers feeling frustrated and unmotivated. So, it's important to understand the difference. We asked UX professionals to provide real-world examples, and here’s what they had to say.
Focusing on the negative
Scott Kirkman, Senior Brand & UI Designer at Lyssna, shares that excessively critical and negative feedback can have a detrimental impact.
“In the pursuit of creating the best possible design outcomes, it’s easy to forget that there is a person behind the design. Delivering feedback in a manner that is overly blunt or dry, focusing only on the negative, or simply picking the design apart can really affect the designers' self-confidence, and cause them to second-guess their work in the future.”
What to say instead:
“Try approaching feedback by asking two questions, “what is working?” and “what could work better?” Leading with any positives that you can find about the design will soften the blow of any negative feedback, and reassure the designer that they know what they are doing,” he added.
According to Scott, vague design feedback isn’t particularly helpful. Specifically, the phrase, ‘I’m just not feeling it.’
“This type of feedback can really confuse the designer and send them down the wrong path in trying to address the issue,’’ he shared.
Coen Jonker, UX Designer at PrijsVergelijken also shares this opinion. “An example of feedback I receive often is: this design needs to be clean, but then asks to include 500 characters. That’s pretty contradictory and hard to process. Specific feedback is very helpful to me instead of: ‘I don't want this or that.’"
What to say instead:
“If you are struggling to articulate exactly what you think isn’t working, instead of giving a vague response, take the time to go away and pinpoint it first. Is it the spacing, the color palette, the typeface choice, etc? The more specific you can be, the better,” Coen adds.
According to Chris Bryant, comments that are too general or subjective, such as "I don't like it" or "This looks bad" are great examples of design feedback that isn’t helpful.
What to say instead:
Daniel Chabert, CEO & Founder of PurpleFire, offers a solution:
“Helpful feedback should strive to be specific, actionable, and supportive. For example, the feedback might focus on how the design could better solve a user’s problem or goal, rather than pointing out individual errors or mistakes.”
Chris adds, “Examples of helpful feedback could include pointing out inconsistencies in the design, suggesting ways to improve usability, or offering alternative solutions to a problem.”
Being too prescriptive
Milo Cruz, CMO at Freelance Writing Jobs, shares: “Avoid being prescriptive when providing design feedback. Prescriptive comments can be demotivating, as they restrict creativity and limit a project's success.”
What to say instead:
When providing feedback, it’s important to share the issues you’ve identified and the areas for improvement, but make sure you’re still allowing the designer to explore alternative solutions.
Milo continues, “Let's say a designer has presented a new mobile app interface to a team, and you want to comment on the placement of a specific button. Instead of saying, ‘move this button to the top right corner’, a more constructive feedback would be, ‘I think the user might have trouble finding the button. Perhaps we could try placing it in a more prominent location?’"
Providing feedback this way “lets the designer think creatively about improving the design rather than simply executing someone else's ideas. It also promotes open communication, encouraging the design team to engage in collaborative discussions and work together to find the best solution,” added Milo.
Overall, when offering design feedback, take the time to be specific about what you’re referring to. Throwaway lines like "I don't like it, but I don't know why", are counterproductive and demoralizing.
Nebojsa Savicic offers this advice when articulating feedback:
“Underline what you like about the design and provide visual references for the look and feel you are aiming for.
“It's helpful to provide feedback in a way that reassures the designer that they are indeed the expert while you're the one with the outer perspective. It's not helpful to use too many words to describe what you want: examples and mood boards are there for a reason. Otherwise, the goal can get lost in translation.”
How to receive and act on design feedback (for designers)
As a designer, receiving feedback is an essential part of the job. Feedback can help you improve your work, identify blind spots, and ensure that your designs align with the goals of your stakeholders. However, receiving feedback can also be challenging, especially when it’s critical or conflicting. Knowing how to receive and act on feedback can make all the difference in the success of your design project.
Chethan Chandrahasan shares his top four pieces of advice when it comes to receiving feedback:
Remember, every design is a hypothesis:
“Until the final product is in the customer's hand and does what it's supposed to, everything is an educated guess. So, educate yourself as much as possible about the customer, opportunity space, business context, etc. And don’t fall in love with your solution too early.”
Finding faults in your designs is a great thing:
“Hearing about potential problems with the designs early on from your team members is far better than hearing them from an angry bunch of customers. The more holes you poke in your designs and the more iterations you do, the better the outcome will be.”
Don't take the feedback personally:
“Not everyone is great at giving feedback. Even if the feedback sounds personal, try not to get offended. Instead, ask further clarifying questions. Sometimes, the person giving feedback didn't fully understand the context, or maybe you misunderstood something.”
When in doubt, user test:
“There’s literally nothing worth ruining the relationship with your team. If someone feels something is terribly wrong with the designs, but you feel otherwise, whip up a prototype and do a usability test. In the worst-case scenario, you found a problem early on; in the best-case scenario, you have something to convince the other person – it’s a win-win.”
In terms of advice for designers on how to receive feedback, Chanée Grant, UX Designer at Ventive, believes that “one of the hardest things to remember is that you are not your design or your user. The more time you spend with a design, the harder it is to separate your identity from your designs. But if you want to collaborate with a client successfully, you have to understand what they like or don't like about your designs so you can adapt to feedback in a non-defensive way. Ultimately, you're building a product for them.”
4 strategies for incorporating feedback into the design process
It can be challenging to know which feedback to implement and how to do so effectively, especially with so many opinions and perspectives to consider. These four strategies will help ensure your design meets the needs and expectations of clients, stakeholders, and users.
1. Set a time limit
Scott Kirkman shares the importance of dedicated time limits for feedback, especially when in a hybrid or remote work environment.
“Since going fully remote, I prefer silent critiques over verbal feedback. I use FigJam to set the context and walk the design team through my concepts. Once all the clarifying questions have been answered, I’ll start a timer, allowing the team time to leave comments and ask any further questions via sticky notes.”
2. Document and prioritize design feedback
Chris Bryant shares his company’s process to ensure that feedback from stakeholders isn’t missed:
“In terms of our process for receiving feedback and incorporating it into the design process, we have a structured review process where all feedback is documented and prioritized. We make sure to involve all stakeholders in the feedback process, and we have a system for tracking and implementing changes.”
NMG Technologies Design Head, Puneet Manocha, also uses this method of categorizing feedback. “We use a questionnaire to set clear expectations and receive specific feedback from clients. When receiving feedback, we categorize it into actionable items and hold internal discussions to determine the best course of action. Our process is focused on open communication, collaboration, and delivering a successful project.”
3. Only involve necessary stakeholders
In a subjective space like creativity, a difference of opinions and feedback is inevitable, which is why UX Designer Coen Jonker suggests limiting the number of stakeholders in the feedback stage, especially for the first round.
“At the first feedback round, we like to keep things small. Not everyone needs to be there to see the first version of a design. If the second version is good enough, we include more people and end users as well. After gathering all that feedback, the first smaller team decides what to implement, and I make a better version of the design. For big changes, we use A/B testing as well.”
4. Set clear goals
The design feedback process will be far more streamlined when all the necessary stakeholders understand the product goals and work toward the same timelines. According to Greg Findley, Lead Designer at Mantra, “Clear, concise, and phased timelines that incorporate sign-off dates are vital to ensure everyone understands the milestones and progress of the project.”
“This approach encourages collaboration, promotes shared responsibility, and helps set realistic expectations.”
Best practices for effective design feedback
We asked UX professionals to share their overarching best practices to ensure that design feedback is received and delivered in an effective and constructive manner. By following these recommendations will help lead to better design outcomes and stronger collaboration between designers and stakeholders.
1. Open communication
According to Lyssna's Scott Kirkman, maintaining an open form of communication between stakeholders and designers is paramount. As a designer, you can set these expectations first by expressing how you like to work.
“When presenting a design concept, I like to give the reviewers a quick guide on how I’d like to receive feedback. During this time, you can direct them to address the questions, 'What is working?' and 'What could work better?'. You can also specify what stage the project is at, and what type of feedback you’re looking for. For example, if you’re still in the early exploration phase, you may not want to receive detailed UI feedback.”
Leizel Laron, UI/UX Designer from ExaWeb, agrees, and also ranks open communication as a must-have skill in the design process.
“Communication is the primary key when working with various people. Everyone has different opinions and takes on feedback, hence it is a must to have good communication skills with everyone. In terms of design aspects, clear and direct communication gives a better understanding of what needs to be met and what needs to be improved.”
2. Settle internal debates with user testing
If in doubt, conduct a user test. While everyone may have their own viewpoints on design feedback, ensure the end user remains at the forefront of the decision-making process. Running a swift user test can provide the necessary data to support a position.
“If we're undertaking more serious changes in the product, we will first do a round of user interviews and use their feedback to shape the design,” shared Nebojsa Savicic.
3. Work as a team
For best product outcomes, Greg Findley emphasizes the importance of working together as a team.
“The best projects are a collaboration between client and designer. As a designer, I always respond better to feedback that comes from this perspective. It gives the sense that we're working on this as a team, and how we can make it better. It also encourages the notion that this is objective feedback about the work, it's not a personal critique.”
Lead Product Designer at Z1, Lucía Guillén, shares that weekly team meetings help teams be more aligned and creates a far more collaborative and safe environment when sharing design feedback.
“One of the best practices is to use weekly team meetings. This encourages visibility of the projects the team is working on, provides a way to learn how to give feedback, and allows learning from the solutions and opinions provided by other members of the team. It is important to lose the fear of giving an opinion, and to trust in our own experience and criteria to provide solutions.”
Feedback is an essential part of the design process that can address different aspects of design, such as usability, aesthetics, navigation, and functionality. However, it's crucial to provide constructive feedback that's specific, objective, and actionable, while avoiding negative or vague feedback.
By following the tips and best practices in this article, designers can refine their work, meet users' needs and expectations, and create better products.
If you're looking to validate your designs, Lyssna offers remote unmoderated testing that will give you feedback and data to make better informed decisions.
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