WriteTheDocs 2017 – You have already succeeded. Design critique guidelines make feedback easier

Speaker: Christie Lutz

Feedback is something we all need for written documentation. Design critique guidelines are meant to explain three things:

  1. How to ask for feedback
  2. How to give feedback
  3. How to deal with feedback

Feedback is terribly useful:

Feedback leads to better working relationships. By admitting what we don't know, we invite feedback and also invite others to invite feedback. Feedback works. It makes things better.

How to request feedback

  1. Identify stakeholders: Who is involved
  2. Create a scope statement:
    • I am sharing [early/mid/late]work
    • Around [the problem(s)]
    • Because [why is it a problem]
    • And I am looking for feedback around [specific areas/topics/questions]
    • At this time, I don't need [other topics]
  3. Write down feedback guidelines expanding upon the scope statement (i.e. "Let me know if I use contractions
  4. Have the right mindset – Do not feel the need to please your reviewers, just use them.

How to receive feedback

  1. Listen and repeat: To make sure you got everything right, repeat/rephrase feedback.
  2. Replace "But" with "And instead" in the beginning of sentences
  3. You don't need to sell your work. Take in feedback.

How to get people to give feedback

  1. Now throw a feedback party!
  2. Consider limiting feedback explicitly to a role (i.e. negative, emotional, … feddback)
  3. Play with stickers (ie. give stickers to users and let them put them up on questions) or choose similar methods of engagement
  4. Gather feedback anywhere (hallway, …)
  5. Talk to your team. Take up time in meetings. Discuss your questions.

How to give feedback

  1. You're a person. Be a person. Be yourself and give empathetic feedback.
  2. And begin and end with something positive.
  3. Ask many questions. Pose your feedback as a question
  4. Your role is the Defender of the Goals (of the project). Always support the goals of the project. Defend your feedback to yourself before giving it.

Remember the following distinctions:

  • Criticism passes judgement — Critique poses questions
  • Criticism finds fault — Critique uncovers opportunity
  • Criticism is personal — Critique is objective
  • Criticism is vague — Critique is concrete
  • Criticism tears down — Critique builds up
  • Criticism is ego-centric — Critique is altruistic
  • Criticism is adversarial — Critique is cooperative
  • Criticism belittles the designer — Critique improves the design

How to you deal with feedback

  • It is not about you.
  • Write down your feedback. It will make the reviewer feel taken seriously.
  • If your reviewers do not point out positive parts, do it yourself (to yourself)
  • Feedback means your work is relevant
  • Ask the reviewer about why they gave that feedback (understanding it better, and taking pressure off yourself)
  • Take breaks

How to measure your results

  • Follow up, both with new people and reviewers
  • Ask yourself for every feedback: "Is it in scope? Does this support the goals of the project."
  • Not all feedback is correct or relevant. Trust yourself.
  • Feedback is a discussion, not an opportunity with a takedown.
  • Document your reasons for accepting/rejecting feedback

How to report your results

  • Thank your reviewers
  • Frame your reporting with respect to the goals
  • Feedback goes both ways – give back feedback
  • Be honest instead of nice
  • Your goal is not to make everybody happy, your goal is the goal

Now go on and teach this to your team. Feedback requires braveness, be brave!