We might not all understand sitemaps, search engine optimization or accessibility functions, but all of us are experts on website design – or so we think. Without question, web design is the first piece of a website that is critiqued by both professional web designers and amateurs alike. As someone that falls into the second category, I tend to say what I like and don’t like, but too often I’m not sure why – I go with my gut. Unfortunately for web designers, this feedback is often shallow and hard to address.
D. Keith Robinson recently wrote an article for Smashing Magazine that helped me think better about how to provide a valuable web design critique and also critique other graphic designs. While written more for designers, the article definitely provides insight for managers, content specialists, social media experts and anyone else who may be part of a web team.
His basic guidelines for constructive web design criticism were:
- Note your gut reaction, but take time to explore it
- Learn to articulate your observations and invite being questioned
- Be specific and offer suggestions
- Always consider context and audience appropriateness
- The most important measure of success is how well it meets expectations
- Subjectivity is fine, as long as it is labeled as such
- Don’t neglect the content
- Study the principles used to judge design
As a novice web design critic I would also recommend letting the designer present the concept before offering feedback. Your impression may change greatly if you know the logic behind each design element – there is often a lot of thought put into each detail. And designers, be patient with us novices, but also recognize that we are often a good representation of how your target audience will initially react.
Take a look at the full article and start being smarter about critiquing web design!