Two goals of giving feedback

Great post by Zach Holman of Github: You Won’t Regret Positive Feedback:

I think our industry does feedback really poorly. I sure as hell do. My first impulse whenever I see a comp is to shit on it. Honestly. Even if it looks great. Especially if it looks great. We instinctively want to pick apart any deficiencies as soon as possible because that’s how product is created. We build things incrementally, chipping away the rough edges until we have a clean polished surface underneath it all.

I think that leads to a feeling that being emotional or cruel is actually helpful during design or code reviews. That the approach cuts away the fat even quicker, which is a great thing since we can get to that finished product quicker, right? Because that’s really all that matters anyway, after everything is said and done: if The Product is unimpeachable, everything was worth it. Sleeping under your desk. Yelling at your coworkers. Pushing to make that final iteration. It’s all for The Sake Of The Product.

Zach makes the point that there is more than one goal when giving feedback…it’s not just about improving the product at the expense of everything else. In many cases feedback should be given appropriately, with the goal of thoughtfully directing the designer in addition to building a great product. And everyone should be part of this process of getting feedback, from junior designers to the designer emeritus. Everyone needs an editor.

Further, I think the dynamic in which feedback happens is important. If it’s a dynamic in which a “design czar” provides feedback to a designer as a corrective device then it’s often a negative experience for both parties. However, if it’s a dynamic in which a designer seeks out feedback from design peers then it tends to be a lot healthier and a positive experience for both parties. When craftspeople push each other to do good work as a matter of pride then good things happen. For some reason the notion of being a Steve Jobs-like design czar has taken hold much more than it should have…what worked for Jobs probably doesn’t work for you and me.

Published: May 1st, 2013

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