How to Conduct a Proper Design Review

This may sound familiar:

You’re gathered around a computer with the project manager and two developers, evaluating and critiquing the current design work. However, everybody seems to have a different idea about what the outcome should be. The developers have some unrealistic vision about how the design should look while the project manager can’t stop comparing it to other products. After more than two hours of ideas ping ponging back and forth, you feel exhausted. Not only that, but you haven’t made any real progress.

The design review process, where a team gets together and discusses the design or product prototype against the project requirements can be challenging. If team members don’t understand the goals of the project or the context, the design review can be tiring, inefficient, and a waste of everybody’s time. Worst of all, it can affect your productivity.

Here’s the hard truth: simply meeting with your team and have everyone share their thoughts about the design with no clear goals in mind won’t help you advance the project. You need to create a lucrative environment where the team understands the intention of the project and can evaluate and test the design features based on that.

Simply put, you need a proper design review process in place.

Here’s how to develop one..

Set Up the Design Review Process

If you want a productive design review process, then you need to start preparing it before the actual meeting takes place. Select the participants and set the guidelines for the session. These should include:

  • The project and business goals;
  • The project timeline;
  • Constraints (what cannot be changed, such as the content or the navigation);
  • The goals you hope to achieve during the review process;
  • The devices team members need to bring;

Email the participants you’ve selected for the review session and let them know when and where the review will take place. Make sure to tell them ahead of any constraints and guidelines.

Before the meeting, ensure that any prototype that you plan to present is functional. For example, the team should be able to take the same steps a user would take when navigating the website or app.

The Review Session

One of the most common mistakes designers make during the review process is that they use this time to pitch their ideas instead of focusing on evaluating the current work.

Make sure to restate the project goals so that everybody is on the same page. You could even write them on a whiteboard so that the team can keep them in mind. That way, you can rest assured that the feedback you’re getting is informed, not just a gut reaction.

Don’t forget to write down the meeting goals as well. It may sound like an exaggeration, but it’s an excellent way to ensure that the discussion doesn’t derail.

Present the prototype and give the team about 25 minutes to explore it on their own and gather their impression. Tell the participants that they can note both the negative and the positive, but they should stay away from feedback that doesn’t bring any value (example: the design is ugly.)

Remind them that they should keep the project goals in mind and ask themselves questions like:

  • What would happen if we removed one step/task/page?
  • Can we make this step/task simpler than it already is?
  • Are the steps/instructions clear enough?

Capture and Discuss the Feedback

Now that everyone had a chance to test and evaluate the design, it’s time to take detailed notes on various talking points. As mentioned already, try to avoid feedback that is emotional, subjective, and doesn’t add any real value to the discussion. Focus, instead, on the reviews that contain measurable data and can take the discussion forward (example: it took the page five full seconds to load, and that could affect user experience.)

Don’t let one person take over the meeting or drag the discussion. Give everyone a chance to share their opinion, but move along quickly if their feedback lacks substance. If participants can’t seem to agree with one of the talking points, write it down and discuss it at length at the end of the session.

Keep in mind that the purpose of a design review isn’t to receive compliments for your outstanding work. You want to collect constructive criticism and find flaws before you launch the product. You may not always agree with the reviewers’ comments, and some of the criticism can be hurtful. Put you feeling aside and focus on what’s really important: creating a product that will awe users. So, write down the things that are already working well, but especially take note of the problems that you need to address.

Leave the Review Session with a Task List

We’ll be the first to admit: design reviews can be challenging. Not only that you need to ensure that the discussion doesn’t derail and you collect constructive feedback, but some of the comments can be hurtful. After all, you’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into your work and it can be hard to hear others tear it down.

But, now comes the fun part: analyze the feedback you’ve received and think of possible solutions. Try to address the issues and develop a functional prototype before the next design review milestone.

A design review is an excellent opportunity to gather ideas and ensure you are on the right track. Follow the process above to make the most of it.

How to Conduct a Proper Design Review