Give Me Feedback (But Keep Your Opinions to Yourself)

If you are responsible for creating great outputs and working in a team, chances are you are often sorting through a sea of feedback. Feedback is a beautiful thing that should ultimately lead to a better product, but that is not always the case. A creative director I once worked with advised me to draw a distinction between feedback that makes something different vs. feedback that makes something better. Those are wise words, and they’ve stuck with me, but how do you do it? I’ve found it valuable to identify and label the different types of feedback. The below categories help me to guide, understand, and incorporate the right feedback. Hopefully they can help you too.
 

User Feedback

This is how individuals experience your product. It’s incredibly valuable because as the creator of a product, it’s impossible to experience it for the first time. It helps to have a diverse selection, so you can identify trends.
It typically sounds like this:
 
“I wasn’t sure where to go from here…”
“I couldn’t find…”
“I was immediately drawn to…”
“I wanted more information here…”
 
Designers especially love this feedback because it often doesn’t come loaded with prescriptive feedback and allows them to do what they do best–solve the problem.

 

Content Feedback

This comes from the experts who know the subject matter and eagle eyes that help you find imperfections. It brings integrity to your work.
 
Whether it’s systematic,
“It actually works more like this...”
“The hierarchy is not represented accurately.”
 
or detailed,
“Technically, this should be capitalized.”
“In the field we would call that…”
 

Individual Feedback (Secretly Opinions)

As a general rule, the more people involved in the process, the more feedback you will get. Why is that? This is because a good portion of feedback is actually opinion, which is as diverse and unique as the people that offer it. Opinions can be helpful if you can pull out trends. If four out of five people involved don’t like the color scheme, it’s something to respond to. Opinions sound a lot like,
 
“This really bugs me for some reason.”
“I really (don’t) like...”
“It reminds me of...”

Everyone has opinions and they can be hard to separate from the other, more substantive, types of feedback. However, I’ve noticed great executives typically give input at a high level and don’t bring their personal preferences into the conversation. I give my opinions last and couch them as such, so the designer can decide if they agree, want to validate with others, or disregard.
 
You can use these categories to guide the type of feedback you are looking for: “We’re looking for content feedback only from this group.” Process the feedback you receive: “They are not the target audience for this, so let’s validate that user's experience.” Or make decisions: “I respect that opinion, but it’s not validated by others, so I’m going to make the call.”
 
Hopefully this makes giving and receiving feedback more productive and truly elevates your end product. If you have identified other categories that have been effective for you, I’d love to hear them.
 

Kathryn Jarrell is the Chief of Service Delivery at XPLANE.
 

XPLANE's xBlog has been up and running since 1999. 

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