Don’t forget critique and review

May 8th, 2010

Over the last few years, my web design process has distilled into something that I would call efficient and effective. It usually goes something like:

  • Gather info and research
  • Content layout & site architecture
  • Sketch and wireframe
  • Photoshop!
  • Cut and code
  • Test and launch

That’s a pretty simplified version, but you get the idea. For a more detailed process, here are two outlines that I admire:

These are all good but I think they overlook an important step: critique and review. For example, Grip Limited includes a note on their jobs section (scroll down) about how important peer review / critique is in their process.

Be your own worst critic

I think that designers are always (or should be) critiquing themselves through the steps of their process if they are any good. I don’t think anyone just opens up Photoshop, lays down some colours and effects and says “good enough” — not if they’re serious about design anyway. However, when only one person is in charge of the entire design, they may miss things that other designers would be quick to point out. When designing alone and being your own critic, even if you’re pretty tough on yourself, it can be easy to get attached to parts of a design that aren’t necessarily the best solution. The perspective of other professionals can be a great way to learn and grow, even as a seasoned designer.

The online design community

When working alone, some designers turn to the internet community for feedback and critique. I am a member of Designer’s Couch which is a community that encourages critique by putting a 140 character minimum on design comments. Membership is also selective and a lot of quality stuff goes on there. I wish I were more active on it, but I work for a design company and don’t always have express permission to post client work. Only certain design submissions are ‘published’ and shown to the public which is another nice feature for giving designers a sense of accomplishment.

I’m also a member at Drawar where a critique section will soon be opening up. I’m looking forward to it, even if it’s a paid option, because at this point I think it’s important to me to learn and share with other designers to make my work just that little bit specialer; from good to great.

Unexpected perspectives

Non-designers can also be helpful sources of feedback to measure the success of a design. Some people who don’t design may actually have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t, even if they don’t have the technical vocabulary for it. In my experience, you have to be careful when listening to what a non-designer is actually saying. Sometimes, it’s just “I don’t like that colour…” to which I’ll ask why. If they have a valid reason, it might be something to think about. If it’s just that they really hate red for example, and you have a good reason for choosing red, then the feedback wasn’t enough to warrant a change. Something like that. :)

Designers: where do you find quality critique and review of your work? Is it part of your process, or does it just go without saying?

1 Comment

  1. I’m lucky that I work in a studio with a fantastic designer and creative director and we’ve got a positive critique and feedback culture. I think I will look into designer’s couch and drawar as well though – thanks for the tip!

    Comment by Birdy — May 9, 2010 @ 5:01 am

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