UIEtips: What Goes into a Well-Done Critique?

Jared Spool

October 13th, 2010

Probably more used than any other tool in the toolbox, the critique is the lost orphan of the user experience world. There are books written about usability testing, endless debates on the validity of heuristic evaluations, and hours of lectures on persona development. But, when it comes to developing the essential skills for a good critique, the UX world falls silent.

Yet how often do we hear, “Could you give me some feedback on this design I’ve been working on?” It’s likely to be the most requested activity, but we do little to get better at it. Good critique skills are to be revered, but many of us haven’t learned what it takes, putting our projects at risk and driving walls between team members.

Recently, I’ve been discussing critique skills with some clients and it reminded me of an article we published back in September 2008, What Goes into a Well-Done Critique. It’s an important topic that doesn’t get a lot of attention. So I thought it was worth a second look. After studying the practices of design teams, we noticed that there are specific elements always present in a well-performed critique. Today’s article describes what we’ve seen in our travels.

Read the article: What Goes into a Well-Done Critique.

Improving your critiquing skills is just one of the topics Dan Rubin will cover at the User Interface 15 Conference in November. His full-day workshop, Visual Design Essentials for Non-Designers, will show you techniques for creating an integrated visual design system that will simplify your job, while providing easy tools for selecting the right colors, fonts, and layouts. Learn more about his workshop and the 7 others at the UI15 conference site.

What elements do you think make a great critique? How has your team incorporated them into regular practice? We’d love to hear your stories and thoughts. Leave a comment on our Brain Sparks blog below.

User Interface Conference FifteenExplore Dan’s workshop at this year’s conference. Register for UI15 by October 22 with promotion code BLOGPOST and get $400 off.

3 Responses to “UIEtips: What Goes into a Well-Done Critique?”

  1. Mark Demers Says:

    A good critique of a website to me consists of many things. 1st thing is to know your business. If you don`t know your business don`t expect for people to respect your critique.Then be sure to be honest and straight about what you like and don`t like about a website and show ways and things the website owner can do to improve all the time respecting the long hours and hard work they put into their current design (This is essential).The flow of a website ,the websites goals and expectations must all come into play also .
    Be clear and to the point and most of all again, “Be respectful and even a little compassionate if your critique is to be a harsh one.
    Great post – i liked commenting on this one

    Have a Great Day!

    Mark Demers

  2. Laura Winn Says:

    This is another area where my Fine Arts degree is serving a daily purpose :)

    I agree with Mark, a good critique is honest and respectful. Not only should you be specific about what’s working and what’s not, but you should be able to articulate the critique kindly. Depending on your professional relationship with the person, it may not be the best idea to verbally redesign the piece. Rather, share your ideas and open the floor for edits and discussion. I find that a direct, honest approach that leaves room for response is successful – it leads to the best solutions.

  3. Mark Leta Says:

    Agree, this was an interesting post and great article.

    I especially like the idea of asking questions to help guide the discussion while getting your point across. Having the designer consider the alternatives and come to their own conclusions based on your feedback, is win-win for both the critic and designer.

    This is a classic management technique used for a number of purposes and makes sense that this would work well in a critique.

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