Design Walkthrough

A Design Walkthrough or Design Critique is a periodically-held meeting in which stakeholders share their product design feedback. The guide below is written with the assumption that the designer is new to the UX industry or to formal critique of their designs.

These walkthroughs are important for maintaining a clear understanding of your client’s business goals throughout the design process. It also strengthens stakeholders’ interest in seeing your product succeed by giving them a more active role in its creation.

Description

Schedule Time & Gather Materials

Clock Icon

Schedule Time:

  • 1 hour (at each milestone or deadline)
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

  • Presentable version of your product
  • Note-taking Implements

Carry Out This Method

  1. Determine in advance what you need to learn from stakeholders. Stick to one specific flow, section, or aspect of the product – whatever can be covered in one hour.
  2. Choose 4-5 stakeholders to invite based on the focus of the walkthrough. Restricting attendance to only those whose jobs are most relevant will prevent the meeting from filling up with too many questions and ideas that will only need to be tabled for later discussion.
  3. Invite 2 members of your team: the designer, and a meeting facilitator.

The design team lead or a project manager should be your facilitator. They’ll ensure adherence to the agenda, prevent the meeting from drifting too far off focus, and encourage quieter participants to share their thoughts.The designer can facilitate themselves, but that will make for a less effective meeting since they will need to answer design-related questions and ask stakeholders to clarify their input.

  1. Before presenting, the designer should prepare by walking through their design independently, double checking that they understand and remember the reasons for any decisions they’ve made. This will allow them to answer stakeholder questions more accurately and present more confidently.
  2. At the start of the meeting, the facilitator should verbally outline the scope of the meeting.
    • Summarize any feedback from a previous meeting or document that has been incorporated into the current design,
    • If you are looking at functionality, discourage comments about things like color choice; if you are looking at one user flow, discourage comments about other areas of the product.
    • The facilitator should print a meeting agenda handout or write an agenda on the whiteboard.
    • Ask stakeholders to be specific, to be unafraid of speaking up if they have concerns, and to explain their feelings. The more a designer understands a client’s wants and needs, the happier the client and users will be with the final product.
  3. Because design critiques involve looking at your product through the eyes of the user, begin your walkthrough at your product’s first screen and take the steps a user would take to see the part of your product that is being critiqued. This will provide stakeholders with valuable context.
  4. Describe each interaction in terms of the user’s thoughts, desires, and actions, not in terms of visual design. Even if you focus on visuals during this walkthrough, the core objective is always usability.
    • For example, say, “The user would see the Add to Cart button here and click on it to add this item to their cart.” Do not say, “We made this button orange so it would stand out, and it’s two columns wide because one column was too narrow for the label to fit.”
  5. Pause after each major step to ask for stakeholder feedback. Welcome the input – this is not merely a presentation, but a discussion. If stakeholders feel like their input mattered in the creation of the design, they’ll defend your designs to higher-ups at their own company later. Also, because clients will often have a business goal they did not make clear earlier in the design process, the critique is an opportunity to clarify requirements.
  6. If stakeholders ask for a specific design solution, probe for their reasons. If you know the client’s core concern, you can incorporate the suggested solution or recommend something better.
  7. Everyone should think about how each persona would likely – as opposed to ideally – act when faced with these pages and interactions. Take into account the persona’s goals, expectations, and possible use contexts.

Try These Tips

Tips

  • If you need to invite more stakeholders or team members, schedule a longer meeting to accommodate the increased feedback volume.
  • Make sure the meeting scope is well defined and understood by all.
  • For internal critiques, restrict the group to 4-5 people total.
  • Negative feedback is often difficult to take gracefully. Ideally stakeholders will direct their feedback at the work and not the designer, but that does not always happen. If you are the designer, don’t take criticism personally, but as qualitative data that you can use to improve the product design.
  • Positive feedback needs to be taken with grace as well. Even well-received and functional designs might change drastically in the future, and designers must not get too emotionally attached to the work they have done.
  • Designers should avoid defending design decisions. Let stakeholders view the design without any bias introduced by the designer. If your design needs any explanation, stakeholders will ask questions or otherwise indicate confusion. Listen carefully to their concern, making sure you understand it before responding. Answer in a concise manner, even if that answer is something like “I didn’t think of that, we’ll take another look after this meeting and get back to you.”

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