Nowadays world web design is no longer about the visual design, or in other words, making something pretty. It is a powerful tool in the hands of those who realize that the way something is designed impacts the experience a user has with that item. UI/UX design is the communication bridge between the user and the team behind the app. Thus it is highly important to make sure that the design choices work as intended. In order to make the development process flawless, UI design review needs to be performed at different stages throughout the project. It gives the flexibility to adjust the design at early stages and prevents the team from spending their time and effort on something that is not going to work out.
In this article, we are going to take a closer look at the design review process and share useful tips on making highly effective design reviews.
Design Review Basics
What is design review? It is a complex set of actions which can be discussed from several perspectives. First of all, let’s talk about the organization of the process.
How often do we need app design reviews? Some companies prefer to do them once a week, others just make sure to do it at every stage of development without sticking to a definite schedule.
Who do we invite to the meeting? The best option would be to bring new people for each review or at least have some rotation of participants for each meeting. It is also important to invite independent reviewers with different level of expertise. This way we can ensure that the feedback will be fresh and honest. In order to make the communication during the meeting constructive, it is important to have all the participants introduced to the information which will be discussed at the meeting. It will save the time for introduction, plus the people might come up with some ideas prior to the review.
How long should a meeting be? If all the parties are prepared for the discussion, one hour should be enough. The time frame given will allow keeping the opinion interchange intense and lively. As for the number of participants, it is recommended to invite up to six reviewers at once. This way everybody will have their say in the discussion and it will be possible to keep it on the constructive side.
As mentioned above, the introduction of the participants is important to be able to bring out the maximum use of the meeting. Here is a design review checklist which includes the information which has to be shared with the reviewers:
• date, time and location where the event takes place;
• the goals and the timeline of the project;
• the current state of the design matters of the project;
• important restrictions or conditions the design is limited by;
• the expected result of the meeting (the goals that should be achieved by the end of the meeting);
• tools or devices which the participants need to bring (if any).
For the person who will conduct the meeting, it is important to prepare all the media files and devices beforehand to be able to pass the meeting flawlessly. Taking care of email reminders for the participants will lessen the chances that someone will forget to come and will show the professionalism of the person. As we all know, the devil is in details.
Inside the design review
In terms of process organization, the meeting stages may differ, however, the general plan looks more or less like this:
• the lead designer shares project goals and lists existing disadvantages; they should be available for all the participants throughout the meeting
• the reviewers get to see the prototype and receive all the relevant information
• the reviewers explore the prototype on their own for about 20-30 minutes, takes notes and make up their minds. As for the notes, it is better to keep them informative, as objective as possible (including both pros and cons), reasonable and sorted according to the priority
• feedback review: it is important to give each reviewer a fair share of time to deliver their ideas; if there are ideas that the people do not agree on, voting could be a good solution
once the discussion is over, the lead designer makes a conclusion and finalizes the meeting; a follow-up email for the participants will be a great idea for summarizing the event
In order to keep all the feedback generated throughout the meeting organized and to be able to revisit it later, it is recommended to leave the comments within the prototyping software of your choice.
After collecting the solutions suggested during the meeting the designer analyzes them and tries to implement in his further work in order to make the progress on the project. It does not mean that the designer is committed to applying all the suggestions and most probably there will be some that will not work out when actually applied. However, there can be valuable ideas which will allow to step out of the comfort zone and make an okay application really amazing.
Bringing out the best
Now that we have discussed the way the process is organized, let’s check out some tips on how to make the communication process effective from both reviewer and reviewee perspectives.
Being a reviewer
If you are invited to a design review, here is a piece of advice for you:
First of all, be active! You were invited to bring in quality feedback, you have accepted the invitation, so there is no point to keep quiet. Take the chance and share your honest opinion on the product to help to improve it.
Secondly, try to put the target audience first when judging the product. We all sometimes take things personally, however, if you are not the target audience, it is better to try to think of the future users’ needs and comfort.
Pay attention to the design goals and restrictions. There is no point in rushing into something that is not yet being discussed or turning the conversation into the restricted direction. It brakes the structure of the discussion, distracts other participants and kills the vibe if you will.
Provide actionable feedback. Although designers really try to please their audience, they are not mind-readers thus the feedback which suggests what to do to improve the situation is the best one you can give.
Try to ask as many questions as possible to collect the amount of information which will be enough to address the design choices wisely.
No pressure. Although you are bringing in the quality feedback, it is up to the designer to implement and to think how exactly the solution will be executed. So, respectful attitude is a must.
Don’t forget to appreciate the effort and thinking which were put into the product you are looking at, whether it is mobile application or web interface. If you like some ideas the designer has already implemented, let him know. Although the critical design review allows us to grow, the positive one gives us the inspiration to continue working in the right direction. And besides, it is really useful to know for sure that some particular design solutions are positively received by the public.
Conducting the review
If you are questioning how to run design reviews successfully, here are a few suggestions:
Make sure to be clear and concise about the design goals. Existing issues and ways of improvement should be the main priorities when composing design goals for the meeting.
The review process and meeting schedule are to be transparent and shared with the participants in advance. This will help them to concentrate and make use of the time given.
Wireframes above all. Sharing the wireframes is the best way to start the thinking process running. And it allows to concentrate on the bigger picture instead of drowning in minor details.
Make sure that the core of the troubleshooting process is the user. Distantiate from your personal taste or vision and try to embrace the way of thinking of the potential user. Also, as the leader of the meeting, make sure to share this way of addressing design solutions with the reviewers. Putting the needs of the end user first is the top priority for successful design review.
Design reviews done right can be a great source of useful feedback and inspiration for the designer. It is also a wonderful opportunity for the reviewers to defend the needs and demands of the regular user. It enables the designer to provide both functionally and aesthetically striking solution which is the primary goal of each design project.