Collaborate Wisely: Gain quality feedback from stakeholders during the web prototyping process

Michael Hawley of Mad*Pow recently wrote an article on UXMatters that hits close to the office here at ProtoShare: Getting the Right Stakeholder Feedback at the Right Time.

We evangelize how important early collaboration is with your team and other stakeholders during the prototyping and development process, but Hawley goes into detail on how to harness stakeholder feedback for maximum benefit.

“Generating consensus and buy-in from stakeholders is a key to success for most design projects….[and] Good designers understand how to provide a meaningful critique of creative ideas and recognize what level of feedback is important at various stages of the design process.”

I couldn’t agree more. Design and UX professionals should share mockup concepts early – before they’re 100% refined and pixel perfect. While you may be the expert on user experience, stakeholders are the experts on their product, company, or being an “average” user and can share insightful feedback before you spend too much time and energy running downfield to the wrong end zone.

But, as Hawley describes in his opener, getting stakeholder feedback can be frustrating or lead you nowhere. You need to tell them what kind of feedback you’re looking for with every iteration and ask the right questions. Hawley’s 5 Steps to Better Stakeholder Feedback (about halfway down the page) is a good list to keep handy.

What I would add to Hawley’s article are these three points:

  • Engage your stakeholders, don’t just throw them a bunch of flat, paper wireframes and expect them to know what everything means (even if they are somewhat technically savvy). Avoid ambiguity by prototyping complex interactions so stakeholders can see what you’re talking about instead of reading what the proposed interactions are in words.
  • Remember, feedback is an iterative process. Start with basic concepts to solve a few queries at a time. You don’t want to overwhelm reviewers with too many questions. You also don’t want to present too many assumptions in the first pass. And as Hawley points out, ask specific questions. Seed the prototype with questions that you want answers to and direct reviewers to answer all the questions listed on pages x, y, and z. (ProtoShare does a great job facilitating this!)
  • Store feedback in a single location. A few Post-it notes here. A phone message there. Email buried upon email. It’s easy to get lost in the pile-up and miss important thoughts. In tools like ProtoShare your stakeholders can leave pin-pointed feedback directly on the wireframe or design so you know exactly what they’re referring to. They can also leave feedback in their own time. Having this single repository is a great way for you to add notes or responses while in a meeting with others. And you can always go back and review all previous comments, recall how and why decisions were made, and close discussions when you’ve come to a decision.

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