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A design review is a step in the product design process. A review serves a very specific purpose where the design is evaluated against its requirements, particularly those affecting user and business needs. It offers an opportunity to clarify assumptions, ask questions, and seek advice. It is an important milestone where the designer shares his or her work and receives feedback. Never skip this step.

I’ve Been Framed!

If conducted incorrectly, these sessions can turn well intentioned collaboration into a farce. Egos and Hippos come into play. However, even a poorly conducted design review is better than no review at all. Framing a review impacts the type of feedback received, which greatly increases the review’s usefulness. Different stages in the design process will require different ways of framing the review.

There are the basics that provide context for the review participants:
• Project goals and timeline
• Stage of the design process
• The level of fidelity of the designs

But by framing the discussion with the type of feedback you’re looking for you’ll (perhaps rather obviously) get better insights on your design.

Kim Lenox, the Director of Product Design at LinkedIn, calls these Divergent and Convergent Design Reviews.

Divergent Design Review

A divergent review is intended to expand the design, uncover opportunities, and come up with many possible solutions. These are more aspirational in nature. The point is to explore all viable design possibilities and ensure that no stone is left unturned.

Divergent reviews typically occur early in the design process because the feedback shapes the direction the design will take. In fact, sometimes feedback can lead to a complete pivot during the next iteration. Remember, decisions are not being made during a divergent design review. This feedback is for the design team to consider based on what is best for the user.

Convergent Design Review

Conversely, a convergent design review is intended to narrow the focus down to the best design option for users and the business. These reviews are more concrete in nature as they’re based on actual evidence from user research.

The design team makes evidence based decisions after a convergent review. They consider the user needs and feedback from their team to refine their designs down to a single solution. As always, the user needs are central to decisions being made

In Practice

With UX Guys, we hold design reviews early and often. Informal design reviews occur with the client up to twice a week with formal reviews often happening once a week, depending on the level of involvement the client wishes to have. We do this so that our clients can become co-designers of their product.

The format and presentation of design reviews vary depending on the project – sometimes it’s an interactive prototype, other times it’s a simple wireframe on a whiteboard. Either way the result is the same: the feedback we’re looking to receive is framed by the style of design review. From the feedback we can make decisions (either independently or with the input of our client) and the end result is a design both parties are happy with and that is ready for user validation.