A few years ago I was asked to host a workshop for a client, who flew in to join us for a review after designs had been drafted. To keep the conversation focussed, I referred to Adam o Connor’s Discussing Design book. This helped me to outline common goals and design a structured, controlled conversation – particularly when feedback got reactive and directive.
The 3 types of feedback
- Reactive feedback signals what people like or dislike. However, it doesn’t tell youanything specific about why your solution works or not
- Directive feedback tells you what a tactical change might be, to get approval. For example, ‘That list should be a drop down’. Again, it doesn’t tell you how effective an idea is at meeting an objective. The person giving it, may also have a vision of what this solution should be, which may be risky, if it’s unchecked.
- Critique refers back to an objective, and therefore suggests how effective a proposal may be at meeting a goal. For example:
- If the objective is to help customers understand how their bank balance will be impacted by a purchase
- …featuring the balance at the bottom of this page
- …may make it hard to spot
Broken down, it:
- Includes a clear objective
- Refers to a specific element
- Outlines why it may / may not make sense
Other benefits of critique
Critiques help us
- Create shared vocabularies – When you bring project teams together to critique on a regular basis, you naturally start to use the same words and speak the a same language
- Reach consensus – where critique happens frequently this helps teams focus on a stated objective. You avoid design by committee, where stakeholders have focus on features rather than customer objectives. Referring back to customer objectives becomes a natural part of a team’s culture
- Iteration – taking a step back to critique helps you gather new perspectives and ideas from a divergent group of experts with different potentially valuable perspectives… and give yourself a break.
Critiques are about enabling critical thinking which everyone can be better at. It’s an act of collaborative reflection. It’s part of learning. It’s for anyone involved in making anything better.