Giving and receiving feedback is a learned skill that takes time and effort to do well. Working remotely requires an intentional effort to communicate effectively. With these two points in hand, it is important to recognize that feedback, as a form of communication, must be intentionally practiced over time to be effective.
There are a variety of ways to engage in feedback with peers, especially in a remote work environment.
At Shopmonkey, we use Slack for daily communication. There are a few Slack channels where designers congregate to socialize and share. It is perfectly acceptable to share early and often the work that we create to obtain feedback.
We have one specific channel for surfacing designs to our Head of Design for a final design approval. This channel works well in conjunction with our Loom videos which I discuss below.
Using squad channels is also good to ensure others on each team are aware of the feedback. Direct Messages are used infrequently for specific follow-up on feedback that was provided in an earlier conversation.
Loom videos allow designers to walkthrough their work and present their decisions for others to comment on. While these videos often target a few people for feedback, they are open for anyone to chime in with their thoughts. Recently Loom has included @mentions for comments which has improved our conversations greatly.
Often times people will comment directly on the designs in Figma. These comments can focus on a particular element and work well for short, quick communication.
Live audio & video
When feedback requires a more detailed back-and-forth conversation, a live audio or video chat is necessary. Choose a time that works for both parties so that each can focus on effective and insightful feedback.
All feedback should be effective, timely, and as objective as possible.
For feedback to be effective, there are a few things to think about. If someone was known to give only negative or critical feedback, it could be perceived as discouraging which is not effective. Sometimes it is important to provide positive feedback with critical feedback. We have a tendency to think that good work is what is expected, so we may not leave feedback for work well done. But it is important to call out successful designs to build trust with one another.
For feedback to work well, it must be timely. Shopmonkey is a rapidly moving startup and our projects tend to move just as quickly. In order for them to keep the expected pace of stakeholders, feedback must not be the bottleneck. Keep an eye on your peer’s work. When they ask for feedback, do not shy away from this opportunity.
Good feedback should be justified with objective reasoning whenever possible. We all have our personal preferences that effect what we view as good design. Fortunately, we also have a history of principles and patterns that have long established what good design means to the greater whole.
Our designs are precious. We spend countless hours preparing something to share only to have it critically picked apart by others. Well kinda. Receiving feedback is really about an open mind to learn, a willingness to grow, and practice to articulate design decisions better.
Open mind to learn
To receive feedback, we need to prepare an open mind. Not all feedback is helpful or effective, but an open mind is ready to see the positive and learn from even the most ineffective feedback. If the feedback given did not help the design, at least you learned how not to provide feedback to others.
Willingness to grow
One’s willingness to grow enables a strong mental fortitude. Growth is hard, and submitting oneself to receive feedback pushes one toward growth in craft, growth in communication, and growth in relationships.
Articulate design decisions better
Receiving feedback always surfaces opportunity to articulate your design decisions. This is huge for any designer. Always assume positive intent, and practice providing justification for design decisions with grace and kindness.
Our design team at Shopmonkey consists of individuals in Eastern Europe (Ukraine) and in America. The worldviews and cultures of eastern and western societies can impact how we communicate with each other. It is important to take this into consideration.
For starters, Easterners tend to be more blunt and critical in design feedback than Westerners. Westerners tend to use softer language and beat around the bush before getting to the point.
It is a two-way street. While Easterners try to communicate in ways as not to offend Westerners, so too should Westerners realize that we both come from different cultures.
An excellent book to help convey these cultural differences:
The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business
by Erin Meyer.