Zooming in Further
Let’s get even more micro and think about why we create personas in UX design. Across discovery, user interviews, and other research, we put ourselves in the shoes of others to understand what they want and how they feel. We’re building empathy for those for whom we’re creating products. We give personas a soul through discovery and user interviews, then ultimately, bring a journey map to life in the same manner.
There’s an intrinsic synergy at play here: empathy and compassion—in both our cultural interactions, as well as the manner in which we create. We must show compassion toward our coworkers and teammates, as well as toward those for whom we’re creating during our design process: it’s about people first.
Providing Positive Feedback
How else can we apply this mindset? Sometimes culture meets design in very explicit ways—such as during a feedback session or a design review. When we align the delivery of critiques to project goals, data, or test metrics, we’re grounding them in objective, actionable discourse that is conducive to evolution—for both designers and their work. In practice, this could manifest as the following positive feedback:
Subjective approach: I like it!
This is nice to hear. It can be affirming or feel good. But what then, after that hit of dopamine? How can I leverage “I like it” moving forward?
Objective approach: This is successful for the following reasons…. Or, this aligns to project goals or test results or data for the following reasons….
Successful ties feedback to supporting points such as project goals that confirm why a given approach works. It’s less “I like it because it’s blue” and more “I appreciate how you integrated blue as the primary call-to-action color among the rest of colors in the client’s brand palette; it organically draws the user’s eye to areas of action.”
Giving Negative Feedback
On the other side of the coin, negative feedback might take the following forms:
Subjective approach: That sucks.
This is a bit of an extreme example, perhaps, but the point is this: feedback that is a variant of “Eh” or “I don’t really like it,” yields zero growth for the recipient.
Objective approach: This doesn’t achieve user or project, or business, or environmental goals for the following reasons….
This feedback is conducive to the recipient’s evolution—in the work, tactics, and strategy. If I’m able to see where my design isn’t aligning to foundational research and our learnings from it, there’s the opportunity for growth. This is less “I don’t like it because it’s blue” and more “we learned from our accessibility testing that reversed white text on the blue tone you’re using doesn’t pass WCAG AA standards. Have you explored other options?”
Being Open to Evolution
Offering feedback from the stance of humility and respect for the individual and his or her approach—rather than shooting from the hip—yields an opportunity for evolution.
Let’s be real—we’re all friends here. Receiving any feedback, even if it’s the most goal-focused, objective, humbly delivered feedback, can sometimes be challenging to digest or even to entertain. Whether you’re advocating for human beings in design, for connection, or just for whatever you think would be most successful, design feedback can be personal because you made your design. You poured yourself into it—even when you’re creating a product at the enterprise level or you’re focusing on data-informed design.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying you shouldn’t defend your work or thought process—not by a long shot. I am saying, make yourself present and available to receiving objective feedback. That’s what it’s all about.
So, just as with our design work, the reason why we talk so much about empathy and strive to connect is because what we’re creating is bigger than us. The ways in which we engage with one another must be complementary. Feedback helps us to evolve our work and ourselves. This is the definition of respect.