How to Effectively Participate in a Product Design Review
- Product Design /
- Product Management /
Regardless of the role you own at your business or organization, participating effectively in a product design review requires some basic essentials above all else–fluid communication, a broad understanding of the design process, and a willingness to collaborate with others. Without these three bases covered, you’ll be hard-pressed to offer sound and constructive feedback with pertinent critique. If your team is already aligned with this strong foundation, there are further design conversations to engage in that will continue to propel you forward. In this article we’ll explore three areas of focus that will better prepare you for having cross-team design dialogues.
What is a Product Design Review?
A product design review is a crucial process in the development of digital products, including websites, software, and applications. It involves a thorough evaluation of the product design to ensure that it meets the product’s goals and objectives. The review aims to identify any design flaws, usability issues, or technical problems that may affect the product’s performance. The design review process typically involves a team of designers, developers, and stakeholders who evaluate the product design and provide feedback.
During the product design review, the team evaluates various aspects of the product design, including its user interface, user experience, and overall design aesthetics. They assess the design’s functionality, user-friendliness, and responsiveness, ensuring that the product meets the needs and expectations of its target audience. The team also checks for any technical issues that may affect the product’s performance, such as slow loading times or compatibility issues with different devices and platforms.
The product design review process typically involves multiple rounds of feedback and revisions. The team makes changes and updates to the product design based on the feedback received, ensuring that the design is optimized for user experience, functionality, and performance. By undergoing a design review, digital products can ensure that their design is of high quality and meets the expectations of their target audience, leading to a successful product launch and a positive user experience.
How Should I Prepare for a Design Review?
Having a successful cross-team design dialogue is essential for any product design review. Here are the three areas of focus to keep in mind to make your product design reviews more effective and efficient.
1. Understand the Design Goals
Understanding digital product design goals involves understanding the purpose, context, and intended outcomes of the product being designed. Here’s what you can do to gain a better understanding within these areas:
- Understand the scope: Product design scopes often focus on a larger design strategy. It is the “Why” behind the product’s design, as well as metrics for success. Following this, features and functionalities, limitations and constraints will also typically be included in the scope. All of which impact the design process. Ensuring proper time is taken to understand what creates moments of delight as well as pain points requires a strong foundational knowledge of user needs. This element is too frequently overlooked in the scope of work.
- Identify user needs: With an understanding of purpose, it’s important to ascertain context around what users are facing in an existing product, or will face in a brand new product. This can be done through moderated and unmoderated user testing as well as stakeholder surveys to a deeper understanding of user requirements.
- Establish design principles: Design principles guide the evolution of any digital product. Optimally, design principles are translations of business core values as tenants for providing the best possible user experience, which help keep the goals and objectives of the product aligned throughout the design process.
- Evaluate success: Once a digital product has been launched, it is key to continue monitoring its performance and success with users. This will illuminate opportunities for improvement. If your product launch was an MVP, it may be time to implement other features that can enhance the user experience as well as grow your customer base. A great way to evaluate success is by implementing channels for feedback.
2. Respect the Design Process
Product design is often a complex and iterative process that requires time and patience. Not all feedback can or should be immediately implemented. Respecting the process also means recognizing that every stage from strategy to UX and UI is valuable. Cumulatively, all of these elements contribute to the overall success of the final design output. Here are a few ways to ensure you’re paying proper respect throughout the design review process:
- Inclusivity is Key: It’s important to involve all critical decision-making stakeholders in the product design review process. This is to ensure that the product team continues to stay in alignment. Without alignment, the design process can often lead to expensive re-work and design debt.
- Ask Questions: Among stakeholders, there is often “the loudest voice in the room” that tends to dictate the course of conversation as well as the questions. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask questions that help you understand the process better or clarify decisions that have been made.
- Be Constructive & Specific: When providing feedback, focus on providing suggestions for improvement rather than simply pointing out flaws. Make sure your feedback is specifically actionable and provides a clear path for making improvements.
- Provide Consolidated Feedback: Having multiple stakeholders involved in the design process means there are a lot of competing voices, questions, and opinions. To ensure alignment is fluid, it’s imperative that all stakeholders involved are aware of the final feedback being provided to the design team. Only then can you ensure that any desired outcomes or requested changes are not in conflict with one another. This will cultivate a sustained alignment.
3. Be Open to Change & Trust the Design Process
Change can be challenging for a multitude of reasons, both psychological and practical. Change requires stepping into the unknown and taking risks which can create feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. Without a clear understanding of why change is necessary or what the end goal is, people can feel uncertain and unsure of how to proceed. This is why it is critical to understand digital product design goals first and foremost.
Despite this, some may still struggle with adapting to a new way of thinking when considering how digital products operate or how audiences achieve intended outcomes when interacting with digital products. This is where the element of empathy becomes an integral part of evolving change. We strongly encourage all of our clients to navigate a process of empathy mapping. Empathy mapping unveils challenges to be addressed. It engages stakeholders to think progressively about the tasks, influences, pain points, goals, and feelings that users have when performing their jobs to be done.
There is a parity between trusting the design process and being open to change. When there is not alignment and a shared understanding, trust in the design process erodes, and projects go sideways. Here are a few common patterns we’ve seen, as well as ways to counter them.
Design decisions become myopic: Sometimes envisioning the big picture can be derailed by focusing through a narrowed lens at the minutiae of specific aspects, features, or functions of a digital product. While it is important to be detail oriented, it is also essential to be mindful that every change, regardless of how seemingly small, may affect the user experience. How to counter this: Listen to the product designers carefully. Product designers do not make decisions arbitrarily. Product designers employ thoughtful consideration of the users, how they will approach the product, and how they will interact with the product. Conducting a user test to gauge performance success will provide a barometer to eliminate doubt.
Other stakeholders are excluded or omitted from the process: Occasionally, the size of a team is reduced during the design process believing that greater efficiencies are created and the process velocity is increased. The problem with this approach is that the influence on the process becomes skewed. One person, or one part of a team can begin to dominate the process, ultimately influencing the outcomes. This can create misalignment of the design goals. How to counter this: Creating check-ins with key stakeholders that are succinct and informative can help keep everyone aligned.
Agitation amongst stakeholders can create tension during reviews: We are all human. It is important that we feel our opinions are heard and valued. Understandably, when stakeholders feel shut down, put down, or ignored, trust erodes and the entire design review process can spiral into a conundrum of chaos. How to counter this: Respectfully ask that all stakeholders involved come to the design review process with an open mind. Create and facilitate a safe space for all opinions to be heard.
Product Design Reviews Can Be Fun
Yes it’s true – product design reviews can be fun! While product design reviews may not always be the most exciting part of the design process, they are a foundational step in ensuring that the final product meets the essential needs and expectations of the users. Initiate and approach reviews as a collaborative and creative process, rather than as a checklist of requirements to be met. Encourage open and honest feedback from all stakeholders. Use the discussion to generate new ideas and explore other exciting design possibilities.
Most importantly, celebrate the successes and milestones along the way! Take time to acknowledge the progress and achievements that have been realized. Recognizing and affirming the hard work that has gone into the design process can catalyze motivation, keep everyone engaged, and cultivate momentum.
These tips and tricks should better prepare you and your team for effective participation in the product design review process. If you would like further assistance with design operations, or a third party to review, consult, and collaborate with you and your design team – get in touch with us at Emerge. We’d love to be part of your product design review process.
Colleen Murphy, Copy Editor