The Value of Critique and Integrating it into Your Design Process


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Slides from my presentation with Alla Zollers at Boston UPA's 2010 Conference

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The Value of Critique and Integrating it into Your Design Process

  1. 1. boston upa The Value of Critique and Integrating it into Your Design Process Adam Connor - Senior Experience Designer Alla Zollers - Senior Experience Designer
  2. 2. Let’s talk about… ICE BREAKING   Part 1: What is critique   Part 2: Integrating critique into your process   Part 3: How to critique and run critique sessions Please hold your questions until the end of each part
  3. 3. ICE BREAKING Part 1: What is Critique?
  4. 4. Feedback is Important Feedback is the mechanism by which we understand the response, reaction or impact what we do, or a product we’ve created, has on a person, an environment, a system, etc. So why are so many people afraid of it?   People take it personally   No one wants to be wrong   wrong = failure   wrong = vulnerable
  5. 5. Why do we fear feedback?
  6. 6. Feedback is Important “We need to let go of our egos, embrace uncertainty, and encourage those around us to tell us where we’re wrong” - Dennis Breen, nForm
  7. 7. What makes good feedback? Good feedback…   should identify where, and how a design is meeting it’s goals   should identify where, and how a design is not meeting it’s goals   should be delivered in a form in which the person receiving the feedback understands it and can act upon it to make improvements. This is critique!
  8. 8. What is Critique? Critique is:   a “type” of feedback…   focused on describing what does and what does not work, as well as why.   delivered from the of the audience/users and goals of the design.   a tool for collecting structured feedback…   in which participants give their feedback in the form of critique.
  9. 9. Critique vs Criticism Criticism… Critique… finds fault examines structure looks for problems looks for what does and doesn’t work condemns what it doesn’t understand asks for clarification is abrasive is honest and objective is negative is positive even about what isn’t working is general and vague is concrete and specific
  10. 10. What is Critique? Ways in which we already collect feedback   Reviews   Focus Groups   Surveys   Usability Studies   Etc. Critique does not replace any of the tools we already have. * Image by smannion, from Flickr
  11. 11. The ability to critique well is insanely valuable For Designers   Encourages Designers to “detach” themselves from their designs and examine them objectively   Provides access to new ideas that Designers may not have found alone   Provides practice in listening to and responding to feedback   Provides practice in explaining the thinking and rationale behind design decisions
  12. 12. The ability to critique well is insanely valuable For Design and Project Teams   Helps establish a common framework for discussing designs and ideas   Creates opportunities for more team interaction, building collaboration and trust   Allows for a cross-pollination of ideas for projects
  13. 13. The ability to critique well is insanely valuable   In general, learning to critique well makes us better communicators.   Critiquing well is about understanding what makes for good feedback, how to give it, and how to get it.
  14. 14. ICE BREAKING Part 2: Incorporating Critique Into Your Process
  15. 15. Plan to Hold a Critique Session   Identify 3 -6 people you want to invite   Set one clear goal for the meeting   Set a time limit (30 min – 1 hour)   Find an appropriate room and have materials ready
  16. 16. Room and Materials   Find a room with plenty of wall space   Print out handouts • write down the feedback,   Utilize sticky notes or note cards then affinity sort • “parking lot” area
  17. 17. Traditional Project Lifecycle Early on in the Project Discovery Middle of Project Refinement End of Project Wrap-up of Details
  18. 18. Traditional Project Lifecycle Early on in the Project Discovery Designers Business/ Marketing   Emphasize higher level user/business goals   Do not focus on technical constraints, but flag concerns Example Goals   Get feedback about a set of different concepts / approaches   Explore the designs of competing products   Discuss user flow through the system
  19. 19. Traditional Project Lifecycle Middle of Project Refinement Designers Business/ Development Marketing   Begin to define answers or solutions to issues   Begin to solve for technical and business constraints Example Goals   Compare how different components of a system are designed   Discuss potential usability issues   Discuss products that have qualities you want to achieve   Get cross-functional team feedback
  20. 20. Traditional Project Lifecycle End of Project Wrap-up of Details Business/ Development Marketing   Solidify answers or solutions to issues   Solve for technical and business constraints Example Goals   Analyze design details   Discuss potential usability issues   Get cross-functional team feedback
  21. 21. Critique in Agile Iteration N Involve your team from the beginning Week 1 Week 2   Invite developers and customers Review Stories Hold Critique Sketch Make Updates Plan For Critique Conduct Usability Complete at least one critique per iteration Recruit for Usability Create New Stories   Depending on the goal, you can have it either in the middle or end of the iteration   Make sure to account for critique session during estimation Capture Feedback in a Public Way   A wiki   A feedback board   Attach to specific stories as necessary
  22. 22. ICE BREAKING Part 3: How to Critique and Run Critique Sessions
  23. 23. Critique is a Skill   You will only get better with practice   Start small   Perhaps internal only   Think before you speak   Choose clients you critique with carefully Always make sure to review these (and any other) ground rules with clients to gauge how comfortable they are with them before planning a critique. Also, post the ground rules in the room where the critique will be held.
  24. 24. Ground Rules   Everyone is equal   It is up to the designer to decide which feedback to act upon and which not to   Design decisions are not to be made during critiques   Feedback should be provided from the perspective of the Design’s audience   A great use for Personas
  25. 25. Techniques and Tools for Good Critique   Active Listening / Question for Clarity   Moderators   Quotas   Round-Robin   Direct Inquiry
  26. 26. Things to Avoid   Poor body language   Preference based feedback   Being overly defensive   Problem solving
  27. 27. Dealing with Difficult Individuals   Set expectations at the beginning of the sessions   Make sure everyone understands what critique is   Ask quiet people for feedback directly.   Use personas and documented goals to help ensure everyone stays focused   Request specific feedback from people with regard to their areas of expertise (development, marketing, etc)
  28. 28. In Summary   Learning to critique well improves our ability to communicate with our teams, clients and others.   The ability to critique well will only improve with practice.   Critique focuses on what works, what doesn’t and why, and is delivered from the perspective of a well-defined audience and goals.   Critique can be done both internally and with clients.   Critique is best done with 3-6 people in 30 minutes to 1 hour.   Be sure to clearly communicate the goals of a critique session as well as ground rules to all participants.
  29. 29. Critique this Presentation Here is your chance to get some practice.
  30. 30. Thank You ICE BREAKING Documentation   Slides can be found at: Adam Connor Alla Zollers Senior Experience Designer Senior Experience Designer Twitter @adamconnor Twitter: @azollers