Best Practices for Evaluating Design

For the artistically disinclined, choosing the look that will one day represent your product or company can often be a time of confusion. After all, what constitutes “good” design anyway? Isn’t all of that subjective?

To a certain extent at least, the answer may be yes, but the real goal of any design team is not simply to achieve something attractive — though that too is clearly important — but to effectively communicate through visual means.

With this in mind, we’ve assembled here some expert tips for assessing and critiquing your team’s design.

1. Pay attention to context

As much as art, a great visual experience boils down to science. Consequently, it is hardly sensible to make choices based solely on personal preferences.

For example, smaller fonts may seem like an aesthetically sound decision, but if your audience are primarily made up of senior citizens, it would probably be best to ensure that they are able to read your website.

Similarly, while a dark background is completely appropriate to showcase your video content, a lighter one is usually better suited for displaying textual information. In any case, just remember that context is key, so this should always trump your own natural inclinations.

2. Watch how you communicate

Painfully often, product owners do not realise when they are asking their designers to evolve into instant mind readers. All it takes is a simple “I do not like this colour” or “is this here really necessary?” to inadvertently start a fire.

By giving vague feedback, or even worse, reducing your comments to mere judgements, you miss out on the valuable conversations that can take place when you are willing to express your needs instead.

When this is achieved, not only will your designers be able to finally understand you, but they will also have the means to chime in with helpful suggestions.

To put this in practical terms, try asking questions like “does this serve my purpose?” and “what problem does it solve?” In this way, as long as you have kept your team in the loop, you will find that they often deliver exactly what it is that you needed even before you had a chance to envision it for yourself.

3. Show designers what you like

Much more than you would expect, designers are visual thinkers. As a result, the fastest way to get your point across is to make good use of pictorial references like online images and physical cutouts. This allows your team of creatives to familiarise themselves with your likes and dislikes while simultaneously providing them with a valuable sense of direction.

Just be flexible in your approach and allow your team plenty of wiggle room to freely express their own creative ideas.

4. Prioritise

As a design evolves, it is not uncommon at all to realise that some ideas should simply fall by the wayside. But unless you prioritise your needs, you and your squad could end up with the mistaken belief that every requirement holds equal importance.

Therefore, it is always advisable to come up with a comprehensive list that efficiently separates the must-haves from the would-be-nices. This will help you to discover which requirements you absolutely cannot compromise, and which you would be willing to let go of in order to achieve a better design.

5. Stay involved

Throughout every stage of the design creation process — mood boarding, sketching, greyscaling and refining — remember to remain actively involved.

By withholding crucial feedback, you do nothing but force your designers to function like a sailing ship without a rudder, and consequently, any chances that they will be able to deliver satisfactory results are all but certain to sink.

6. Listen

Finally, because design work is often subjective, you must always be willing to second-guess your own opinion in favour of listening to what others have to say. Of course, in the end it will be up to you to make the final decision. But as a rule of thumb, as long as your team are united behind a common ideal, thinking democratically is rarely ever a bad idea.

No, their thoughts may not always be aligned with your own ambitions, but more often than not, they will. So consider being flexible enough to accommodate new solutions.

For what really is “good” design? Ultimately, it is when you are able to solve a problem so seamlessly, it looks as though it was never there to begin with. By following these simple tips, you are given the tools to attain just that.

David Blackwood

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