Personal desires vs user needs: how to give effective feedback

12 April 2017 | Amy Mosedale | , , , ,

You wouldn’t think that as a Graphic Designer I like receiving criticism on my designs, but I actually do! We Graphic Designers know that we don’t always get things right the first time; we always want to make our designs better and, crucially, meet the needs of end-users. So we love to hear, ‘this isn’t quite right, because…’ However, what we don’t love to hear is, ‘I don’t like it.’

When giving feedback, it is easy to forget that your audience might have completely different tastes to you. The result is that people give feedback during a design process that’s based on their personal tastes and preferences, rather than the goal of the project or the tastes and preferences of the audience we’re trying to serve. You may not have considered the difference between saying ‘I don’t like X’ to saying ‘X doesn’t work for me’. Or – even better – ‘the user wouldn’t understand this because…’ This option gives us much more detail and helps us to understand the end-users’ needs better and, in turn, help us create more effective learning together.

image 2 modifiedWhen we begin a project, we always ask for Client Branding Guidelines. Having a marketing or branding contact is also vital to us achieving great designs. This ensures we adhere to all the dos and don’ts that form your visual identity as a brand. One of the most common changes we’re asked to make after we’ve created the first round of designs is to, ‘alter the brand colours’, or even, ‘go completely off brand’. But Brand Guidelines are too important to the identity of an organisation, and the learning we’re creating, for us to feel comfortable doing this.

We do, however, want to know if we’ve missed the mark - and it’s so helpful if people are specific. Point out what’s not working and try to tell us why it’s not working. Chances are it has little to do with your branding and more to do with our interpretation of your Guidelines.

Try to remove anything about you ‘loving’ the design. Feedback on design style or graphic elements should set aside any personal opinions on the design or the colours. It’s nice if you can personally like the design, but the goal of a project is to aid the users’ learning, not necessarily to be appealing to you.

A great way to evaluate design, is to think about whether it’s helping to meet the project goals. When you’re giving feedback on an e-learning course, think about what each image is trying to achieve in relation to the learning objectives, then together we can devise ways of better achieving those objectives.

Unless you’re part of the, often very specific, group of people who’ll be using the learning, feedback should only be about whether the design aids the learner for whom it’s being developed. The most important things to keep in mind while giving feedback are:

  • Does this image help the learner to understand the concept better?
  • Does this design help to meet the objectives of the course?
  • How will the end-users (the learners) respond to this design?

If you’re unsure what we were thinking of/aiming for when we made our design choices, then let’s discuss it. We love to explain our reasoning; everything we do on a project has a purpose, and we’re always open to ideas that will make the course better.

Often issues over design details can be resolved through QA. This way we can measure how effective the options are on the target audience – the user. We can always find a way for elements to be combined that meet the project goals.

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Sometimes when suggestions are made, they’re missing an essential component. As designers, we need to know what the challenge is that you’re trying to solve. Not just the what, but the why. This way, we can work together to solve it, rather than you (or us) trying to resolve any challenges alone.

The earlier in the process these challenges are raised, the easier they are to solve. At the beginning of a project we may be able to provide multiple solutions, with additional time given for further review. Towards the later stages of a project, there may be limits to what we can incorporate within the remaining project time.

Receiving feedback and criticism is a vital part of the design process. By hearing your feedback and interpreting it, we can help you to meet your goals for the project. The design process should combine your expertise on the subject matter, end-users and aims of the course, with ours in graphic design. By being specific and explaining your reasoning, keeping the end-user in mind at all times and working with us to come up with solutions, you can ensure that we design something that will work for everyone.