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I don't like your design!

Petr Stedry
November 09, 2012

I don't like your design!

Design critique and you ...

Presented during UX Camp Vienna 2012 on Friday, November 9th.

Petr Stedry

November 09, 2012

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  1. Hi, my name is Peter. 2003 2012 My designer “career”

    started about ten years ago as a professional JAVA developer. I quickly moved from programming to design, from startup to a corporation, to an agency and finally to another startup - GoodData, where I work now.
  2. I don’t like your design! I’ve been hearing this statement

    quite often. That’s because I lead UX design workshops, trying to educate web designers, product managers and fledgling UX designers to respect the human who will be using their software
  3. I always tailor the contents of the workshop to the

    needs of the people that attend it. There’s one single theme, that I did not anticipate. Something I did not know was a part of the UX designer’s skill-set.
  4. Critique It’s easy, isn’t it? Most people severely underestimate how

    important it is and how much a proper critique can improve their design skills. Most people also think critique is easy. But good, meaningful, productive critique is very hard to master. The Dunning-Kruger effect does not help either.
  5. Raise your hands ... ‣ Who criticised someone else’s design?

    ‣ Who used: I don’t like it. Wow! That’s fantastic!
  6. You can agree or disagree with an opinion But that

    will not make it more useful to you as a designer.
  7. What is critique? So what what is critique? Well, wikipedia

    will give you a definition. But the connection to design might not be immediately clear.
  8. Critique is about a systematic and detailed analysis. Critique is

    about critical thinking. About not accepting the world as it is, challenging the status quo.
  9. Argument Argument Argument Argument Argument Argument At the heart of

    critique is an argument. But not all arguments are created equal.
  10. < Opinion Strong Critique > There are weaker arguments, based

    on inductive reasoning, consensus or analogies.
  11. < Opinion Strong Critique > A strong critique in design

    is always based on research or results of usability testing. l always think more about arguments based on research, usability testing and user observation in general. I’m interested in good psychology and design research papers. E-mail:[email protected]
  12. Receiving critique Ouch There are two sides in every critique.

    The giving and receiving end. Let’s start our exploration with your work being criticized. This part is more personal and definitely harder to handle.
  13. It’s important, that a designer knows how to receive critique.

    Why? There might not be enough time to educate the critics on how to perform the critique properly.
  14. Even other designers are not very trained in critique. And

    thanks to the Dunning-Kruger effect, they might not be aware of it.
  15. Intent Let’s start with intent, the hidden motivation behind critique.

    Why have you asked for critique? Did you decide you want to hear it? Has it been forced upon you?
  16. Do you need a hug? Then go to your mom.

    You should not invite critique when you just want a pat on your shoulder.
  17. Did you just want to show off your supreme design

    skillz? Well, why not, but it won’t work as a critique session. Only call for critique if you want your design improved. This has to be your main motivation.
  18. Information The critics need information to base their reasoning on.

    You should present as much information as needed for an effective critique to take place. But there’s constraints you should be aware of.
  19. First you need to define the scope of the critique.

    Without it, people will pick what they want to shoot. Err ... criticize.
  20. It’s good to share Personas, Scenarios and basically any other

    user research you’ve based your work on.
  21. But you do not want the critics to follow you

    in your footsteps. Just show them where did you intend to go - what were your design goals and constraints? It’s a good idea to stop them (show your failed designs) if they’re headed in a wrong direction.
  22. You need them to form their own opinion! It’s those

    aha moments, that provide the most valuable insights.
  23. This means, try not to explain your design decisions! I

    know this sounds hard. And it is, but try it.
  24. Emotional Attachment This is urge comes from your emotional attachment.

    You invested a lot of effort into the design. You have the right to be emotionally attached. It’s natural.
  25. Your first reaction to critique will probably be defensive. It’s

    extremely tempting to rationalize your design decisions – to explain why you did the things the way you did. This is a mechanism to protect your mind from the cognitive dissonance. Look for it and counter this reaction with the conscious mind.
  26. Back off and act as if you are not around

    when critique is given. Let the design fight for itself. Putting the design away for a month does wonders.
  27. Listen actively Understanding the critique starts with active listening. Just

    hearing what the critics have to say is not enough.
  28. Think about it and if there is anything, you don’t

    understand, ask why. Your goal is not agree or disagree with the critics, but to understand where do their arguments come from.
  29. And even if you understand everything perfectly now, you won’t

    remember much of it in a few days. Human memory is not a good tool to hold potentially dissonant information. According to research, you will continue to warp everything you remember so it conforms to your beliefs.
  30. You need to write everything down. If you are not

    able to take notes during the session, ask someone to do it for you.
  31. Giving Critique Need help? On the other side of the

    spear, things look differently. People think they help you, by expressing their opinion. But it looks differently on the other side, doesn’t it? Design critique needs to follow certain rules to be effective.
  32. Intent, again And we’re at the intent. Again, because your

    motivation to critique is crucial. Everything else follows it. What is it you want? Help improve the design or your reputation on twitter?
  33. Congratulations on your redesign! I love the site. When you

    get a chance, I would like to give you some feedback. Can I buy you a beer or send you an email? OMG! They redesigned their site, again. What a #ux #fail Imagine your reaction to these two statements. Which one would you likely respond to? On one side is a offer to help. On the other something entirely different.
  34. Your observation skills improve. And you will learn to better

    differentiate between the good design and bad design. And by doing it, your intuition will get better too.
  35. Right moment The critique has to come at the right

    moment. Is the designer ready to reflect on the design? Is he prepared to what you have to say?
  36. Throwing an email in the general direction of the designer

    usually does not help anyone. How would you personally respond to such a message? Critique without a discussion, does not make sense.
  37. Don’t assume, know. When criticizing someone’s work, you should to

    know their design goals, constraints and target audience. Without it, you cannot objectively evaluate the quality of the design. Yet it happens to be done this way so often.
  38. It is as if you were wandering around city on

    a foggy day, unable to see most of its beauty and flaws. When in doubt, ask. If you do not know what to ask to break that “I’dont like that” feeling down, we’ll come to that in a few moments.
  39. Proposing solutions I’ve seen this so many times. The critics

    want to help by proposing a different solution. That’s not a bad thing per se, but don’t force it. Mention the idea and only explain more if the designer is interested.
  40. Be sure that the solution you propose is aligned with

    the design goals, personas and everything else the designer told you. Handle it carefully. Or there might be unpleasant surprises :)
  41. The Critique Session So the time is right and you

    would like to discuss your design with people.
  42. ? How many people should you aim for in a

    critique round? How many people did you have the best experience with?
  43. I had the best experience with one on one type

    of session. Even if it is more time consuming to go through the design with multiple people this way. They are far easier to moderate than group sessions. Some people behave very differently when in a group.
  44. If you have to do a group session, invite 4-6

    people at most. And it’s a good idea to appoint a moderator, that will keep the discussion civil and on topic. Other helpful tools are - round robin (ask them in sequence) or directly ask questions.
  45. What to ask? Sometimes it may happen, that you do

    not know, where to start. Or you just have a feeling you can’t really pinpoint. You can’t tell, what you like or dislike. These two emotions are just signals from your subconsciousness. This is your intuition speaking.
  46. Who? ‣ Does the design solve a specific problem they

    have? ‣ Does it speak to the customer or just to the designer’s ego?
  47. How? ‣ How can you simplify the concept? ‣ How

    does your solution meet a specific need of the Persona?
  48. What? ‣ What is the main argument? ‣ Is it

    strong enough to satisfy the design goal?
  49. Why? ‣ Why is the other person approaching the problem

    in this way? ‣ Use the 5 Whys to dig deeper. Why had the designer used this particular design element? But use it sparingly. Why questions might provoke the designer to defend himself and start rationalizing. Or the people really might not know why :)
  50. from Seductive Interaction Design by Stephen Anderson If you want

    to critique visual design, then this chart from the book by Stephen Anderson might come handy.
  51. To sum up ... ‣ Be humble ‣ Detach yourself

    emotionally ‣ Be specific ‣ Learn to listen Accept the critique without defending yourself. Get some distance between yourself and your design. Try to get to the point. And learn to listen and understand.
  52. You can reach me at [email protected] | @vorkronor | delicious.com/vorkronor

    GoodCamping :) Source for all images - internet I mean it with the research papers. Thanks for sending me some :)