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Are teammates expressing concerns about your design? Well, that's great!

Hearing about issues with your design suggestion can feel unpleasant and leave a sour taste. There are though other ways to look at this, ways that help you to take the given feedback and incorporate it into the design to make it even better.

A while ago I held a design session with one of our teams to go over the suggested design of a new flow that we want to implement. I will not go into any details right now, but this flow is for us an important one as it is meant to solve a growth issue that we have run into. To validate and test the important parts of the flow then me and one more in the team had done a small proof of concept together in advance. 

Presenting the design

Shortly before the session I had been reading a book from one of the persons I am mainly influenced by. In his book he mentioned that when people see new designs, they are very good at having opinions, to state potential issues or to raise questions about it. But he pointed out that you should not neglect, be worried or feel critiqued about that, instead you should embrace it as a possibility to learn, to improve your design and make it better. He refers to these issues as being "negative branches" that you then need "to trim" or in other words, solve. 

So, when I went into the design session I was aware of this advice. And true to form, when the walkthrough of the design was underway then people started to raise opinions and issues and I made sure to write them all down. I also encouraged people to voice as many issues that they could see which in the end gave us 8 things that were needing to be delt with. 

Working on the raised issues

Since we had time during the session, we then together started to look at what solutions there could be for each of these raised issues. Fairly quickly we found solutions to half of them which not just felt great, they also helped to improve the original design too. Then when looking at the last 4 issues we noticed that 2 of them were similar and could be merged. This left us with 3 issues which were found to be connected to each other, so if we solved one of them then most likely the other two would also be fixed. 

Unfortunately, the time ran out for us but afterwards I couldn't really let go of these issues. The mind does work in wonderful ways so after a day of marinating then the solution popped up and as it was expected that solution solved all our issues in one go. A day later I had then reworked the design of the flow to enter in all the found solutions and for me it was clear. These solutions not just solved the issues that were raised, they also improved the design in general. Another great thing was that the work mainly was done in collaboration with the team. This I hope made the flow both more understood and created a better feeling of teamwork in the design.


What can I then say to summarize this experience which was based on the advice I had read about? Well for me it was great when coming into the design session to be expectant of the issues and raised concerns and have a clear idea of what to do with them. It both helped me to not feel critiqued but most importantly it made us summarize, look at and handle the issues in a structured way as a team. So, my tip for you then is that when you hear critique or raised concerns then try to not shoot it down or feel critiqued. Instead, look at the issues as a way to learn and improve your design and make it even better.


Tonni Hult, Solutions Architect, Cloud Tribe