4 Tools for Mastering the Art of Collecting Feedback

“We all need people that give us feedback. That’s how we improve”
Bill Gates

It can be difficult working in a bubble. Being too close to your work can mean you can’t see the solutions that may be obvious to others. Bringing in some outside opinions can accelerate and improve your design, but only if it’s valuable.

Why is feedback important?

Bringing in a fresh pair of eyes provides a new perspective that can help refocus or refine your goal. We all have biases that can alter the way we approach our work and it’s important to make sure the outcome isn’t dependent on your own perception.

Requesting feedback is a great way to make sure you stay on track of what you’re aiming to achieve. Bringing in different stakeholders throughout the development process allows them to provide insights that you may not have otherwise considered. This is particularly valuable when requesting usability feedback from potential users, manufacturability feedback from suppliers, or design feedback from clients and colleagues. Your design may require more or fewer features than you imagined, and it’s important to challenge your assumptions.

At IDE, we assemble cross-functional teams for precisely this reason. Including various stakeholders and colleagues with different backgrounds, can ensure that the project stays focused on achieving its goals in the most appropriate and efficient way. 

From left to right : Patrcik Dunn, Bill Karabetsos  and Penny Flicker

From left to right : Patrcik Dunn, Bill Karabetsos and Penny Flicker

How can you make sure you receive the right feedback?

1. Define your goal

When bringing people together, it’s important that they know why they’re there. Gaining feedback can be time consuming for you and the person that you’re seeking advice from. Everyone has to be on the same page to achieve the best result. Communicate with your resource(s) and explain where you’re hoping to go and how you plan to get there. Highlight your goals and expectations early and often. Feedback sessions can sometimes head down an unhelpful path if you don’t define the scope and keep them focused. 

2. Choose the right people

Think about what feedback you want, and then decide who to request it from. A small amount of feedback from the right person is more valuable than a larger quantity of feedback from the wrong people. Are you trying to determine how your design will be used in the market? Request feedback from potential users. Are you hoping to gain insight for manufacturability? Include suppliers and experienced colleagues in your discussion. Make sure the feedback is relevant. 

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all feedback must come from a pertinent specialist. Particularly in the earlier stages of the design process, more opinions from a greater range of perspectives can be highly valuable. Just be sure to remember where the voices have come from and use your own judgement to determine the weight each input should carry.

3. Be specific

Vague observations can do more harm than good. You need specific feedback to do your best work. Instead of asking “what do you think of this idea?” try asking “do you find this procedure intuitive?” or “do you think this colour works well with the design?” An overarching “I like it” can give you confidence, but does not help you determine the successful aspects of your design. “I don’t like it” does not provide enough detail for you to make the required updates. Explain why you are requesting feedback at this point in the process and what you are hoping to achieve. Providing some context will help others understand their role in extending their opinion. If you do receive a nonspecific answer to a question, proceed with further questions to uncover deeper meanings. 

If you are struggling to get feedback from someone, you can present other feedback that you’ve acquired to see if they agree or disagree. This method should be considered as a last resort. You may influence their initial opinion, but sometimes a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ can help the person giving you feedback sort through the options and eventually lead to a conversation that helps you achieve your goal.   

4. Stay Organised

Keeping track of your specific feedback is just as important as the content. If you receive valuable feedback but have no way of documenting it, it will not help you justify your design further down the line. If you want the person you are seeking feedback from to provide feedback in a certain way, be sure to communicate this to them early. 

Feedback is an inherent part of the product development process and makes us all more successful at finding the right solution. Tapping into resources that can provide you with more experience and expertise is essential to all aspects of design. Seek it frequently, but be careful not to let it distract from what you are aiming for.  

Join the discussion over at IDE Connect

Erin Evanochko