4 Must have features of a design feedback tool

For any team today working on web projects, design and development are two aspects that need to be moving in tandem from start to finish. Collaboration between designers and developers is essential to complete a project as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Equally important is getting quick and qualitative feedback from clients on the project, otherwise teams can easily end up wasting time working on designs that will later have to be reworked or thrown away.

There is constant back and forth when collaborating creatively. With a small team of two or three, working in the same space and getting together to work on projects is simple and quick. But as teams grow, deliverables increase, the volume of feedback given increases, number of iterations start to rise, collaboration can become a tricky exercise.

A design feedback tool can play a central role in this collaboration

To keep the project on course, teams need to use effective collaboration tools to exchange feedback on designs and communicate. 

A design feedback tool not only helps solve the problem of having a lot of people work together on projects, but also makes it easy for designers to share designs with developers. If developers and designers are not in sync during a project then it can lead to bottlenecks. Developers wait for mocks to come to them so that they can start coding, and designers have to wait for reviews while the prototypes are under work.

If the right kind of collaboration process and tools are in place then feedback can be exchanged quickly and this, in turn, can lead to changes being made faster so that there are no bottlenecks.

But what are the things to keep in mind when searching for a design feedback solution for your team?

1. Covering different project phases

Every team has a different process for how they go about building their projects. Different methodologies, different timelines, different technologies used. So of course, one tool cannot work for every team.

For example, Envato’s team follows an agile sprint process for each iteration. For them, a quick visual design feedback tool works well because it brings together the designers and developers onto one common platform.

On the other hand, Basecamp’s setup for collaboration is a team of 2-3 people that includes both designers and developers. In their case, because of a small team and very intimate communication, they are able to use a simple project management tool.

In addition, make sure the feedback tool you choose covers ALL stages of your project well. It would be inconvenient to use one tool for feedback on mock images during ideation, another one during prototyping and still another one for the live project.

So based on the workflow of your team and project, pick a design feedback tool that covers well all different phases of the project.

2. Scalpel or a Swiss army knife?

What tool do you think a surgeon prefers to use while performing a surgery—a specialized surgical scalpel or a generic Swiss army knife?

Your web team may not perform surgeries, but it is carrying out specialized work. Tools you use should intuitively fit how your team works, without adding unnecessary overhead.

For example, say you’re a freelancer building sites for clients. Tools like JIRA, which need a database setup and don’t have an intuitive UI that clients can easily use, just aren’t an efficient fit for this scenario.

Same is the case for a solution like Excel, even though it doesn’t add the setup overhead. Well, not on the surface at least. The trouble with tracking issues and feedback in Excel is how quickly it can all get lost in the innumerable rows and columns without any way to prioritize or manage the feedback.

Both of these tools are generic (“Swiss army knife”) solutions that miss a key aspect of web design: the visual cue.  Every time you read the issue, you have to come back to your design (or the live website), and spend time figuring out where the issue is..

Rather, there are a host of visual collaboration tools like zipBoardBugherd and InVision that are entirely on the cloud and need no database setup. They provide better context for everyone and make tracking changes faster.

3. Collecting external feedback (early and often)

Many teams will go entire iterations before they ask for reviews and get feedback. When clients point out entire pages or workflows that don’t work for them, that is time and effort down the drain!

Instead, set up your process and tools so you can update versions quickly and get instant feedback rather than wait for a weekly review can help mitigate such situations.

You want to have a possibility to quickly and easily collect feedback from anyone with a stake in the project. Whether it’s the actual client, another outside team, or the end-user of the product you are building.

4. Integrating with other tools

Of course, any development and design workflow consists of more than just feedback, and so there will be other tools, such as design & development tools, but also tools for messaging, version control, storing assets etc.

Tools that can integrate with one another and communicate automatically can save a lot of time and effort.

Most tools today offer a wide variety of integrations and checking whether your intended choice of a design feedback tool integrates with the rest of your tool set, can save you lots of time (and frustration) down the line.

Also, consider fully integrated environments like SiteManager, built from ground up for efficient collaboration. This is because a tool like SiteManager supports design, development, content management and even backend programming within the same integrated platform. This way teams stay in sync effortlessly and can deliver much faster—as they do not need to wait on each other but can collaborate in parallel on the same website.

Conclusion

Whether your team is co-located or working remotely, how quickly it can process feedback and act on it makes a big difference. Bridging the collaboration gap with a good design feedback solution is important for smooth and successful of almost all projects today.

Consider the points made above when selecting what tool to go for. Factors like pricing are also something that will dictate the choice but keep in mind to use a solution that the entire team is comfortable with.

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