The design review can be one of the most stressful milestones in any website project. While feedback is a valuable part of the overall process, sometimes the process of getting there is complicated and unwieldy.
Facilitating a flawless design review takes commitment on the part of the primary designer and team participating in the review. You, the designer, can help establish a set of ground rules and process to help make each design review more valuable for everyone at the table, resulting in a better design project.
1. Figure Out the Logistics
There’s a time and place for design reviews. Some teams plan them on a schedule with the rest of the project to catch up on milestones, while others meet every month like clockwork. While the timing of your reviews may vary, it is a good idea to build them into the project timeline.
The designer always needs to be at the design review (if there are multiple designers working on the project, the lead designer should be there at a minimum). The lead designer should be the point person for the review and run the meeting. The group should not be too large; think five to eight people to keep the conversation manageable. Everyone involved in the discussion should have some understanding of the project, but should be somewhat independent as well to provide the most broad spectrum of understanding.
Participants may include the developer, client, sales team member, company president or CEO, marketing or branding team member, designers not working on the project or anyone else who might touch the project or company in any way.
Make sure to find a space that’s comfortable for everyone and provide a place to go over the visuals. You’ll probably need a room with a large screen and internet connection. Set a time for the meeting and create an agenda in advance so that everyone stays on task.
2. Send Invitations and Set Ground Rules
Try to remind reviewers about the meeting well in advance. Even if the dates and times are outlined in the project file, send a reminder at least a week in advance of the meeting.
Make sure to include everything a reviewer would need to come to the meeting ready to talk.
- Time and location (or call in number if the meeting is virtual)
- Outline of project goals and constraints
- Specific goal of this review meeting
- Project timeline (and where you are in the process)
- Materials to bring (such as phones or tablets to view the design)
3. Prepare for the Meeting
The lead designer or art director should be running the design review. Prepare accordingly, especially if this kind of event is intimidating. (The more you go through this exercise, the easier it gets.)
Be ready to facilitate the conversation. Plan to ask questions that help get targeted results:
- Do the color and typography palette reflect the tone of the content?
- Are there missing elements in the design?
- Does it work as anticipated?
- Did you stumble on any parts of the design?
- What things did you like?
- What things did you not like?
Anticipate questions and concerns that might come up so that the discussion can keep moving forward. Know that reviewers might be thinking ahead of where the design is in its current iteration and try to keep the discussion focused.
Be prepared to stop the meeting if the group isn’t ready to discuss the design. Sadly, this happens all too much and just holding a meeting because it is on the calendar doesn’t benefit anyone.
4. Check Your Feelings at the Door
This might be the most important – and most difficult – step: You have to check your feelings at the door. Designers tend to be passionate about projects, but this is not the time or place for it. You need to step back and listen to feedback.
Not every bit of feedback will be useful. There’s probably a lot of it that actually won’t be useful at all. It’s ok to disregard some ideas from the design review. What you really want to look for are recurring themes in the feedback that might indicate a potential stumbling point in the design.
Remember: You are not the design. A design that is not liked is not a personal attack or reflection.
5. Start the Review with a Recap
Breathe. Walk in the room (or start the video chat) with confidence.
Start the design review with a recap:
- Outline design goals
- Explain the problems that needed to be solved
- Describe the timeline and made milestones
- Explain what happens next
- Walk through the design and explain how it meets goals and solves problems
Once you break the ice, open the floor for feedback. Try not to let any one person dominate the conversation and have a process for allowing everyone to speak if necessary. Allow the conversation to continue until there’s about 10 minutes left for the meeting or comments come to a natural conclusion.
6. Speak Honestly and Respectfully
Reviewers will speak open and honestly if you do the same thing. The way you act will set the tone for the entire review.
Make a point to take notes and ask questions as well. This shows that group that you care what they think. Pay particular attention to areas where there is a lot of people who not the same issue or areas where there’s a lot of discussion. There are places design flaws often lurk.
As the meeting winds down, recap the feedback you found most useful and invite the team to provide further feedback or ask questions within a certain time frame. Don’t commit to changes during the design review; you never know what will and won’t work until you get back to working on the project.
7. Follow Up After the Review
When you have a quiet minute, collect notes from the design review and follow up with a thank you to the team and next steps. Remind the team when the next milestone will hit and what they should expect to see at that time.
The design review process does not have to be painful. Practice will make these meetings more useful and effective, so don’t keep pushing them off.
Start with a plan of action and goals. Explain them clearly and respect and respond to feedback. You’ll become a better designer for it.
Creative Commons images are used in this article. You can find them at Unsplash.
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