The most important part of the design process

Chrystal King
Feb 15, 2019 · 5 min read

Getting your designs in front of people who aren’t designers.

Imagine a table, with your designs in the middle and the people who usually give feedback sat around it. Who are these people? Probably other designers, a product manager, sometimes stakeholders, maybe even a user or two. But how often is it someone from the customer care team, someone from HR or marketing?

As designers, we can identify when something goes against a common pattern and we are great at empathising on behalf of users. But, we’re limited in that we can’t consider everything from every angle. For example, we probably can’t see the downfalls of our design from a customer support perspective as clearly as someone who talks to customers every day.

This is why it’s important to have a diverse feedback table, filled with people from all walks of life and different departments. People who might not be experts in design theory or technique but instead will offer a unique way of approaching a problem.

Every person brings a new perspective to the table, and the more diverse that table is, the bigger the variance of opinions and viewpoints.

Practical ways to get feedback from non-designers

The default way is probably to send an email with an attached deck full of designs. The problem with this is that we all get tons of emails and we definitely don’t open all of them.

At Depop, I’d print out screens of what I was currently working on, maybe a flow of a new feature. I’d label them with a short explanation of what was on the screen & the problem we’re trying to solve. I’d then stick them on a wall in the office. The wall would be in a communal place like the office kitchen so that people had no option to bump into them when making coffee or having lunch.

Often times I’d sit in the kitchen and observe how people would interact with the wall, almost everyone whilst waiting for their food to microwave would have a look and study it. I’d then talk them through it, ask them what they think and get really interesting insights.

The wall became a great reference point whenever we wanted to have a discussion about a feature, away from our desks and if we had users in the office, we could quickly show them what we’re working on without having to load up a prototype.

If the flow you’re working on uses motion to tell a story and needs a prototype, you could do the same but attach a test device to the wall, preloaded with your prototype using a mount like this.

Or you could put a link to the prototype in a QR code that people could scan with their camera. It’s an extra step for someone microwaving their food, but definitely worth a try.

If you want to show work that is UI based

Try creating a tear-off style poll with the different options you’re considering and stick it on a really unavoidable wall. People will become curious, and the majority will engage with your designs. Include the main pros and cons of each option and instructions to take a tear off on the option they think works best. It helps to stay nearby so that you can get in-person feedback — but additionally, on the tear off, include your slack username, so they can slack you with any additional opinions.

Don’t forget to give updates, let people know the option you decide to go with and why it works best for what you’re trying to achieve.

People are invested when they feel involved

When people feel involved they become excited and passionate about how it fits into their own line of work. Someone who works in marketing begins to think ‘We could communicate the product in this way on our social media’ and people begin to understand that design is more than a screen, it’s the entire experience. This is important because every day, decisions that affect a user’s experience with your product are made by people without ‘design’ in their job title.

An additional benefit of getting your work in front of non-designers is that the ‘magic of design’ disappears. This works great as a tool to get the people seeing the value and caring about design company-wide. People will value your craft way more when decisions are exposed and they can see the process behind creating an experience.

Things to remember when receiving feedback

Don’t forget to ask why

You might receive blanket statements as feedback, so it’s important to delve into the meaning of why they’ve made a comment. Utilise the same superpowers you use in user interviews, this will help you turn ‘This doesn’t feel very Depop’ into ‘the colours used feel a bit dull and it could do with more elements of joy to help it come alive’

Remember where they’re coming from

They might suggest that you include ‘a how to take good photos guide’ when people list an item. Remember, they’re suggesting this to you because they work in curation and they spend hours looking for items with great photos.

Pay attention to the things they don’t say

Notice if they don’t refer to something, is it because they don’t understand something? Don’t be afraid to jump in and go over things that might not be immediately clear to people.

Look for the hidden gems

Not every piece of feedback will be immediately useful, but there will be gold dust in the things that are.

It starts with you.

Be open, invite different people to the table. Designs, only being critiqued by designers doesn’t have to be the default. We all know that collaboration leads to a more conscious & creative final design.

Want to know more?

Feel free to message us or stop by our office in London to discuss the topics mentioned in this article.

By the way, we’re also hiring. So if you’re a designer and want to be a part of something special, sign up on our careers page or email and we’ll get back to you.

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