What is a Design Critique and How Can it Improve Your Designs?

What is a design critique

Collecting feedback is an integral part of a product designer’s work – one which allows them to make sure that the product they’re designing is both intuitive and adds value to users’ lives. However, it’s not just about asking fellow designers, stakeholders, and developers for their opinions, per se. It’s about getting the most out of design feedback – and here’s where a design critique procedure is the most effective way of doing this. 

Design critiques offer a tried-and-tested approach the opportunity for their prototypes to be explored and for user experience flaws to be quickly identified and fixed.

What is a design critique? How should you structure your design feedback sessions? Why is feedback so important for making better design decisions? In this article, we’ll cover everything you’ll need to know to improve your product designs through targeted design critiques!

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What is a Design Critique?

In product design, feedback is key. It leads to good design and positive culture in which designers can flourish. Design critique simply refers to the process of analyzing a design or prototype to determine if it meets the criteria and requirements of the project.

What kind of feedback or pointers do designers seek from design critiques?

  • The design or prototype’s alignment with business objectives: Does it solve the user’s pain points? Has the designer implemented the features and capabilities outlined in the product strategy? Does the design adhere to the company or client’s branding? 
  • The usability of the product and user flow: How accessible is this design? Is it intuitive and easy to use? How well does the prototype meet basic usability principles? Is the user flow clear?
  • Judging the technical feasibility of the design project: Simply, can this be built with the development team’s resources and the project timeframe? Will this application be able to run on end-user devices? 

Remember, design critiques aren’t brainstorming sessions or usability tests. They’re a method for designers to get specific, actionable feedback from stakeholders about prototypes, wireframes, and other deliverables, so they can give constructive feedback and find the perfect design solution. 

The primary goal of design critiques is to improve the product design – and so, the discussion should be focused on the objectives of the design project.

What does design critique look like?

Design critiques usually take the form of meetings or round-table discussions where designers share their prototypes for discussion. A design critique panel is made up of a handful of designers, developers, analysts, or other key stakeholders. 

There are two main types of design critiques. These are:

  • Standalone critiques: Purpose-planned meetings to gather feedback on one particular aspect of a design.
  • Design reviews: Fuller evaluations of a prototype to judge its success in achieving product design heuristics. These tend to dive deeper into the usability, creative process, and project goals. 

These days, design critiques don’t need to be held in person, or even at a set time. With real-time collaboration tools like UXPin, design critiques can be delivered asynchronously through iterative feedback. 

Why are design critiques important? Can they really help you make better design decisions? 

Are design critiques worth the hassle? Do they really improve the product’s design and usability?

Absolutely. Design critiques help break down silos, where individual designers or teams are disconnected in their approach from other colleagues and the wider business objectives.

Incorporating stakeholder feedback from the early stages of a product’s design process helps focus the features and objectives of the application. Here’s how: 

  1. Critiques reinforce the business objectives and pain points: Many designers get distracted by the visual design and lose sight of its strategic aims. A design critique is a great opportunity for stakeholders and product owners to remind designers what the product should be capable of.
  2. Find a consensus between teams: By analyzing a design and sharing actionable feedback, designers can work collaboratively. They also use critiques to reach a consensus with developers on the features and functionality that should be included in a product. This results in a far more seamless development process.
  3. Promotes an agile, iterative design ethos: Critiques allow design teams to quickly identify and correct problems. This fast-paced approach to product design helps dramatically cut down development time.

Who should be involved in a design critique?

What roles are important to implement to ensure a successful design feedback session?

Here are a few key ideas: 

  • Facilitator: They are responsible for conducting the design critique and leading the session. A facilitator will define the scope of the critique and set out what sort of feedback should be collected. This is usually an executive, such as a VP of Design or Lead Designer. 
  • Presenter: This is usually the designer that created the prototype or design that’s being critiqued. They’re responsible for showcasing the design, providing the necessary context, and discussing the goals of the prototype. A great presentation results in better feedback.
  • Critiquers: These are the people with the opinions. Remember, critiquers don’t need to be designers. They can be anyone who may have useful feedback on the product design – for example, developers, other executives, or clients. They’ll need to be specific on what’s not working and provide constructive pointers on how to improve.

How big should a design critique panel be? It’s important to get a variety of viewpoints, but larger groups are difficult to facilitate. We recommend anywhere between 3 to 7 members. 

Step-by-Step: How to Structure a Design Critique

There are three key steps to a constructive design critique session. Let’s discuss them:

Step 1: Set out the goals and scope of the design critique

Before a design critique session begins, the facilitator should set out clearly what the scope and expectations of the critique are. This should be communicated through a written meeting agenda

Here’s what it should clarify: 

  • What design is being critiqued? 
  • What is the scope of the feedback? What areas of the prototype should the feedback be focused on?
  • How long will the session last? How will feedback be collected and minuted?
  • What specific roles do panel members have? How should critiquers use their expertise to guide their discussions?
  • What are the main goals and business objectives of the product? Who is the primary audience? What are the problems and pain points you’re trying to solve? What KPIs are being measured here?

It’s also important for presenters to prepare the presentation and share the prototype with the rest of the panel. before the meeting to gather their thoughts!

Pro tip:  We recommend letting critiquers explore the design solution before the session takes place. You can do so by sending over the designs in an interactive, collaborative tool like UXPin. Your participants will be able to easily add notes and ideas they’d like to cover during the meeting.

Step 2: Ask the right questions to encourage relevant feedback

How can you make sure you’re getting the right feedback? NN Group’s Chief Designer Sarah Gibbons suggests using one of these two key approaches during Q&A sessions: 

  • Round robin: Participants take turns explaining their perspectives and asking questions until everyone has contributed. They can then ask follow-up questions once everyone has had a turn. This ensures that each panel member has a chance to share feedback.
  • Filling feedback quotas: Some participants may struggle to give their point of view, fearing it’s too harsh. A facilitator can transform it into a constructive criticism sessions, asking panel members to share a set number of positive and negative observations. This is a great starting point to find critical points. You should find that a more natural conversation will result where participants will carry on sharing their perspectives freely.

Step 3: Don’t forget about follow-ups

A key tenant of agile and iterative design is collecting follow-up feedback. Presenters should regularly keep a panel updated on how their feedback is being implemented in design iterations. 

Why is it important? 

  • Participants will feel motivated by the use of their feedback. This will boost the overall effectiveness of critiques across your organization.
  • Panel members can provide follow-up pointers if they believe their feedback has been misunderstood or ignored. 
  • The iterative changes can generate new feedback – positive or negative. 

With UXPin, it’s easy to share prototypes and collect feedback directly on your designs. As a result, you’re able to speed up your design iterations.

Among others, UXPin helps team work better together:

  • enables real-time collaboration – you can see how others interact with your designs as they review them
  • allows easy access to the prototype – you can share the link to the prototype via email. Your design critique participants don’t have to be UXPin users to ick on the link and they can start providing feedback
  • lets you ping and send email notifications to specific team members to ensure that you’ve collected all insight, so you can derive the highest quality insights. 

Unlock agile product design and facilitate critiques with UXPin

Actionable feedback guides to great product design. Many designers struggle to break out of silos and worry about sharing their unfinished work with others.

Design critiques are a brilliant way to formalize this and turn it into a regularity. With good critiques, designers can easily collect relevant and actionable feedback on product prototypes. By incorporating designer and stakeholder feedback into the UX design process, you can reinforce your business goals and design products that better meet user needs.

How should you structure design critiques? The role of the facilitator here is crucial, as defining the scope of exploration can help designers get the most useful feedback from critique sessions.

To support the collaborative approach that design critiques and agile feedback promote, it’s worth using a collaborative design tool. With UXPin, you can build interactive designs easily and invite your team and stakeholders to collaborate on your projects.

Try it out for free and see how it can help you improve your product design process.

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by UXPin on 31st October, 2022

UXPin is a web-based design collaboration tool. We’re pleased to share our knowledge here.

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