Use interactive prototypes to get your most actionable UI design feedback yet
What’s the difference between good user interface design and really great user interface design? Design feedback. Getting constructive design feedback on design ideas helps even experienced UI designers to reflect, improve and iterate. Design feedback for the win!
That said, getting useful feedback can be hard to do. Tap your colleagues for feedback and they might be too busy to help you out. Family and non-design friends are likely to give you the dreaded “I like it.” Or “I don’t like it.” Either way, not helpful.
What every UI design process needs is an injection of actionable, useful feedback. Getting useful design feedback is an art, not a science, but there are things you can do to maximize your chances of eliciting good feedback.
Let’s take a look at how to use interactive prototypes as a way to get actionable UI design feedback.
Why feedback is an important part of the design process
No man is an island, and when it comes to design, you can take that sentiment and double it. Nothing successful is designed in isolation. That’s because user interfaces have to work for many, many types of users with a wide range of prior experiences. Design feedback is a way to tap into that variety in microcosm and understand how different users will interpret your ideas.
Getting feedback on your user interface ideas will help you figure out if your design looks good to others and, more importantly, achieves its stated functional aims.
How to get design feedback with an interactive prototype
Collaborative prototyping tools like Justinmind can be a great way to get actionable design feedback from different sources. Whether you’re still at the static wireframing stage or have a fully interactive prototype ready to roll out, applying the following tactics will improve the design process, and the final user interface.
1 – Send the prototype to people ahead of time
If you want thoughtful feedback, give people time to think. Sounds obvious, but it’s common for designers to launch their design on colleagues unannounced as they’re on the way to the water cooler. That’s a surefire way to get the feedback equivalent of a brush-off.
Instead, send your feedback targets a link to the prototype ahead of time. If you’re using Justinmind you can save all projects to your online account and share them from there. If you do this 24 hours before you need feedback, people will have time to:
- interact with the prototype on a variety of devices
- leave comments within the prototype, which can be talked through face to face
- test-drive the design in a variety of locations, so long as there’s wifi
Giving people time to contemplate your UI prototype will result in more thoughtful reactions, less empty flattery and more varied comments. This will work towards cutting the number of total design iterations.
2 – Make it easy for people to give feedback on specific UI elements
As any designer knows, generalized feedback is basically the devil. People tend to make woolly comments such as “I like the color”. Ummm ok, but which color? To get anything useful, you need to have people feedback on specific on-screen elements and interactions.
Gently probe peoples’ feelings about specific UI elements. Sit down with them and the prototype and get them to talk through their interactions with it. If they come up with a subjective statement while navigating the prototype, ask them to dig deeper and clarify. This can apply to interactions as much as on-screen elements.
If you’re getting feedback long-distance, allow people to tag and comment directly on single elements with Justinmind’s teamwork features.
“It’s easier to know where to make changes if you’ve got directed feedback. ‘I don’t like black’ is no use because it doesn’t say why. ‘Black is too dark and we need a clear, clean image’ does help.” Elena Roca, Justinmind designer
3 – Teach them your vocabulary
Like any specialty subject, designers have their own lingo. You may think that concepts such as affordance, breadcrumbs, animation and even interface are super obvious but you’d be wrong. Plus specialized prototyping tools like Justinmind have their own vocabulary too. It can be almost impossible for people to give good feedback if they don’t get on board with the terminology.
Don’t be afraid to introduce design terminology into the culture of the organization; by referring to design concepts in meetings and conversations you’ll break down the walls between Design and ‘The Rest’.
FastCo Design tells you everything you need to know about design slang.
4 – Collaborate & communicate in realtime
According to Justinmind’s Elena, it’s “better to invest 2 hours in talking than an hour designing without having collaborated, because that way you could end up doing 10 hours of rework.” Communication and collaboration are vital to an effective feedback process. Introducing prototyping activities that encourage open communication is a big step towards improving the feedback process.
We love OneSpring‘s JAM session approach. Originally an awesome way to stay creative and communicative while eliciting software requirements, JAM sessions can also be used to elicit actionable feedback.
Basically, a JAM session consists of workshopping interactive prototypes in real-time, giving feedback as a group and iterating in real-time. It’s a great way to boost creativity with interactive prototypes, discover new perspectives and reveal design weaknesses.
Find out how to hold your own JAM session.
5 – Test interactive prototypes on target users
For an interface to deliver good UX, usability and user testing have to happen throughout the design process. Interactive prototypes can be a great way to introduced varied testing sooner rather than later. You can run several rounds of tests and get feedback from each one: information architecture tests on paper prototypes, walk-throughs with wireframes or full on tests with interactive prototypes.
During these tests, people will give feedback they might not otherwise have thought of. Plus they’ll go down pathways you didn’t plan and find glitches you weren’t aware of. All this can go in your feedback file for later polishing.
Check out this UsabilityGeek post for tips on usability testing interactive prototypes
Getting design feedback with interactive prototypes – the takeaway
UI design success depends on getting the right kind of feedback. You can never guarantee the quality of feedback you get, but you can take steps to increase the likelihood of being given design feedback you can actually work with. Interactive prototypes are one weapon in a designer’s feedback arsenal – used cleverly, they can help people give targeted, actionable and intelligent feedback. Your design process and your user interfaces will improve thanks to a little feedback magic.