Yep, it is hard. It's not just I don't like green. Or it's not just that looks cheap. And it's definitely not ’It needs to pop more’. It takes practice, of a sort. It takes practice after you build a solid foundation of understanding design principles. It's just like any other profession; we should not jump to conclusions about something we don't really understand. It's easy to criticize a plumber working on your pipes/toilet and say you can do it quicker/better, but can you honestly do what they do and as well and as efficiently? Probably not. So don't chastise them by thinking you can.
So why then does everyone feel the same about design and more importantly design criticism? Maybe it has something to do innately with being human and it's just hard wired into our psyche, and that's okay. But where it becomes a problem is when it interferes with our job as designers. I'm not suggesting, however, that we don't elicit feedback or critique from our clients; of course not. I'm merely suggesting we need to prod them for more productive feedback. We've all gotten feedback before where the response is something like ’the CEO doesn't like purple’, or ’that font looks really cheap’, etc. Frustrating, yes?
It's not that the people giving the feedback cannot give constructive feedback, it's that they don't know how to do so. Some of this can be solved through our role as educators in the design/web world, and some of this we'll just have to grin and bear it, at least as best I can tell. Perhaps a ’How to work with agencies/designers’ ebook would go a long way for this? Hmmm, interesting.
All the time unfortunately. And I do mean all the time. Normally, I see it just in static web design critique by clients, but I also noticed this in a recent card sort/user test I was helping our agency run. The client doesn't matter, as what I'm interested in describing is the thought process behind the tests and testers themselves. The basic idea was we were redesigning their homepage & a few other templates (not by our choice, we never prefer to do just a part of a site, but that's neither here nor there) in a short time and had to roll user testing in during the process.
So we designed and iterated and built a working prototype of the clients preferred direction, and then we began user testing. And again, there was nothing wrong with this. However, the questions and tasks asked of the users at this point is where we ran into issues, in my mind at least.
Users were shown the working prototype and another design direction. They were then asked which they preferred, what content did they feel was more important or less important, what content was lacking, and what they thought of either direction overall. (Note: we did not create the tasks -- I had noted my fears of these tasks prior and also suggestions on how to better use this time, but...) So you can imagine where the users went with these.
We got a lot of emotionally based responses from these tasks. Depending on whether users were having a good day or bad could be seen in their responses, and I can certainly understand why they gave a lot of non-tangible feedback. The questions/tasks were not appropriate for this stage of the process, and the users were not pushed to explain their responses to try to get to the basis for that response. Part of this was due to lack of time overall with each user, and part of this was due to just mashing a lot of steps together in a short timeline.
So, long story short; be conscious of the questions you ask or allow to be asked when it comes to design reviews. Ask them out loud and think how you might react immediately and then think how people who don’t do this day-in and day-out might respond as well.
Mused on February 27, 2013