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A Design Review How-To


Man presenting a mobile app design to stakeholders using a large screen monitor in a conference room.
Design Walk Through

Imagine a designer presenting stakeholders with wireframes and interaction designs for a web application, hoping to get their feedback on the user experience and workflow. But instead, one decision-maker fixates on a single image, color, or word that ends up dominating the entire discussion, and derails the presentation.

As you may already know, it happens. So what steps might ensure a presentation stays on track, providing the buy-in and meaningful feedback designers need from stakeholders?

Steve Schang, a usability engineer and UX designer, shared some tips and tricks he’s picked up over two decades that could prevent your design review from blowing up in your face.

“We’ve all had experiences where we presented something and the whole meeting got derailed. And, you’re thinking, ‘I can’t believe we spent an hour talking about one word that has no significance and didn’t get to all the other stuff’,” Schang said. “You mitigate that whole problem by coming in, setting expectations, providing context, and connecting with your audience.”

Review Existing Documentation

Prepare yourself for the presentation by reviewing discovery documentation, including business and technical requirements, competitive analysis, usability and user research reports. This helps provide a logical basis for explaining the purpose of your design.

Set the Stage for Stakeholders

Before you get to your designs, tell stakeholders what to expect from your presentation, including when you will invite questions and feedback. Also, put your designs in context. Explain business and technological goals or constraints. Describe users, their interactions, expectations, and any problems they’ve encountered.

Walk Through the Entire Interaction (Twice)

You want stakeholders to empathize with the user, to think like users instead of product owners. Even if you’ve only updated a small part of the experience, start your presentation on the homepage or where the user would likely begin and walk through the entire interaction. Talk about the user, why they’d visit the site, and what they’d be doing, as you guide stakeholders through the workflow. This puts your design in the context of the overall site, and grounds stakeholders in the user’s point of view.

Save Questions for Round Two

Ask stakeholders upfront to save questions and comments until after the first walk-through of your design, so they understand the entire workflow in context before they weigh in with concerns or opinions. After one guided tour, walk through the design a second time step-by-step, taking questions and addressing concerns. Assure them that their feedback is critical and set aside ample time to listen and respond to their feedback.


Listen Respectfully

Be an active listener, even if you don’t agree with suggestions. If stakeholders ask for big changes, don’t commit to making them on the spot, and box yourself in. Acknowledge their ideas and offer to explore them. These reviews can sometimes be political and you don’t want to be perceived as a barrier. So, if a stakeholder suggests a small, workable change, sometimes it’s best to make a snap decision and get it done. Either way, be humble enough to admit that your design doesn’t always have all the right answers.

Provide Logical Explanations

If stakeholders make design decisions contrary to your better judgment, it’s your job to explain any risks. Be good stewards of information, and provide stakeholders with all the facts: an analysis of data, user testing, and competitor’s sites in support of well-founded principles and best practices for UX design. Ultimately, stakeholders hold decision-making power and responsibility for the success or failure of the product. And, they will be more receptive to your ideas, if they understand they’re based on careful thought, not just arbitrary opinions.

Present Face-to-Face (If Possible)

Making in-person presentations allows you to make eye contact with stakeholders, and build a personal connection. Present your design like you’re having a conversation with stakeholders, not talking into a screen or at a monitor on the wall. Eye contact encourages active communication. If you must present remotely, screen share so that you control the view.

“Your job is to make that personal connection with your audience, to build empathy, and to keep them focused on the things you need them to focus on,” Schang said. “It’s all about setting expectations. Then there’s no anxiety.”

If you have questions or would like more information, contact the experienced usability professionals at midwoodusability.com.

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