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How design reviews get you the feedback you need before it’s too late

Gathering design feedback can feel like herding cats. Learn how design reviews can you get the right feedback at the right time.

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Moving fast is slowing your design team down.

The counterintuitive truth is that taking time to pause for regular feedback gets you to better results faster.

High performing team members often struggle with showing off their work before it’s “ready.” If you don’t have a rhythm of frequent feedback on incomplete work, that perfectionist tendency pushes people to make lots of progress – just in the wrong direction. Fast work without feedback = re-work.

Design reviews make space for input throughout the creative process. At Switchboard we host one each week. The whole team is invited to see and discuss designs from initial concepts to production-ready flows. Coupled with other feedback channels within the team, these weekly sessions cut down on the re-work that often comes with trying to move fast.

Exposing your work to criticism before it’s done can be daunting. If you’re brave enough to try it, here’s what we’ve learned makes weekly design reviews successful.

Set the stage for your design review

This cool cat loves giving feedback

Take a few minutes to orient everyone at the start of the meeting. Share an agenda beforehand so people know what you’re going to cover. If you’re using a Switchboard room, like we do, add separate cloud browsers or files for each design you’re reviewing to speed up transitions.

Once everyone joins, go over what you’re going to review and the type of feedback you need for each design. If you’re sharing the vision for a new concept, it’s important to let the team know so the session doesn’t get bogged down in minutia.

Similarly if you’re looking to finalize a design, the team can be on the lookout for edge cases you may have missed.

The more the merrier

Actual Switchboard employees' cats reviewing product designs

Everyone at Switchboard is invited to join the weekly design review. Collecting feedback from different perspectives early is core to our process.

Customer facing teams like sales and support bring the voice of different types of customers to the table. Engineering teams can spot potential conflicts or technical constraints while there’s plenty of time to address them. If you work on a product that you use every day like we do, you have the added benefit of everyone bringing their own experience as an end user too!

Inviting non-designers to a design review can be intimidating. It can also be frustrating since feedback often starts, “Why don’t we design it like this…”

We’ve also found it’s helpful to remind the team to share reactions and perspectives, not solutions. Instead of saying “We should move the button to another part of the page?” it’s better to ask, “Could the user potentially be confused on what action to take next?”

When using Switchboard for design reviews, everyone in the room controls a cursor as well. That makes it easy for people to add in specific examples of customer feedback or design inspiration to the room in real time rather than breaking the conversation flow to ask to share their screen.

Herd cats

Where's the final design? Can we make it pink? Can the logo be bigger? When's dinner?

Getting derailed by one of the participants is the biggest risk when hosting an open design review. Designating a designer or a PM to play the role of facilitator during the session helps to keep things on track.

In Switchboard we use the Present feature to keep everyone focused on the right thing throughout the session. If someone’s feedback is taking up too much time, it’s easy to have them add their idea to a sticky note while everyone else continues on.

A stream of feedback and questions while presenting your designs can feel disruptive. Keeping a corner of the room set apart as a “parking lot” can help. Ask the team to jot down their thoughts in separate sticky notes until you’re ready for input. Then review as many notes as you can in the meeting. The notes will still be available after the session so the feedback isn’t lost.

You can also invite people to stay in the room after the meeting to continue the discussion.

Hosting a regular open invite design review may sound risky, intimidating, or like it will slow your team down. We’ve found it to be one of the key rituals in designing the best product for our users.

Not sure where to start? Open up a Switchboard room, add your designs, and try it with your team this week! Cats optional.

Stop, collaborate, and listen

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