Feedback: It strikes chills into the hearts of the biggest egos, and yet it has the power to move mountains.
No matter what you do or where you go, you cannot escape feedback. It is unavoidable. You can be a genius coder with finger tips kissed by the coding gods, but you can still improve with feedback.
We need feedback. We cannot shape our creations into their best possible shapes without accepting that others’ interpretations and thoughts about them might (will) make them better.
I've been thinking about feedback a lot because I am currently a part of a community of learners (#100Devs) where we share portfolios, projects, and other creations with each other. Some of that sharing is being done within the support and comfort of the learning environment where there are boundaries and feedback is thoughtful.
But some of that feedback...well, it's happening on Twitter.
Yep, right out there in the wild wild west of social media.
Design students receive A LOT of pointed feedback through the critique process, and Manny's insights on how the same principles can apply to other industries (namely tech) are sprinkled throughout this post.
Before we jump into all things feedback, you should know this is the first part in a three-part feedback series:
- How to ask for feedback (You are here!)
- How to give good feedback
- What to do with feedback
It’s all good stuff and you are already buckled in for Part One, so let’s gooo!
How to ask for feedback
As in all things, specificity matters.
Let's be real. No matter how gentle or realistic or HELPFUL feedback is, it can still hurt to hear you weren't perfect. It can be jarring to get lots of feedback about features you weren't planning on building or pages you hadn't set up yet. Even more annoying are pieces of feedback that are PURE opinion.
Like, bruh. The fact that my banner isn't your preferred color is not something I needed to know.
So, how does one elicit a response that is helpful, specific, and not hurtful? I AM SO GLAD YOU ASKED.
All feedback requires a filter.
You have to create that filter. And you have make the mesh extra fine.
There are several reasons for this.
- If you ask a general question (e.g. Here is my new website, what do you think?), you will get 50 different responses--mostly opinions--and many of them may not be helpful or related.
- A general question gives people the opportunity to give you feedback that you don't need right now. For example, if there's a feature you are still working on, you don't need 50 people telling you that feature doesn't work yet. You already know that.
- THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT: Narrowing the focus of your question gives you the ability to compare suggestions to each other.
Manny emphasized this point, because being able to pick up each suggestion and say "oh this was arbitrary" or "this is helpful" is way easier when people are responding to one topic.
He also noted that it can help you suss out when something on your site or in your project is an accessibility issue. If people cannot read the text or see the images, you will learn that very quickly if everyone is trying to read, see, and manipulate the same feature.
Ultimately, you get to sort through the feedback and decide what matters to you and what is the equivalent of junk mail. When you ask a specific question, you'll be able to compare answers and summarize that data in a way that really helps you make changes. Otherwise feedback can be paralyzing, demoralizing, and confusing.
Let's try it out.
Take the "Here is my new website" example and make the question you are asking very specific.
One way to do this is to say:
"My portfolio website is a work in progress, and I would like some feedback on how the hamburger menu behaves on mobile. Could you please try it out and give me your thoughts via DM?"
- You set your “feedback filter” by acknowledging the status of your site as a work in progress.
- You asked for feedback on a very specific feature.
- And finally, you gave a guideline for how you would like to receive the feedback.
You could still get some randos telling you about how they love your banner or hate your logo margins (we'll talk about unsolicited feedback in Part Three), but you are probably going to get a handful of thoughtful, comparable DMs on how your hamburger menu functions on mobile.
What a breath of fresh air!
(Just think about all the areas of your life where you could ask for specific feedback and how you might be able to benefit from that?)
It can be a real game changer!
That’s it for learning how to “set your filter” and ask for specific feedback. This should help you get responses that help you make decisions rather than slow you down.
It can take a little practice discerning when and who you need to ask for feedback on specific issues. Polling the entire internet can be fun, or it can be unnecessary when really you just need to ask your bff if they like your font.
In Part Two, we'll talk about how to give good feedback. It's fun to tell people what you think, but how you say it can make a world of difference!
And since we're talking about feedback...
Leave me some feedback in the comments below. Try out the "feedback filter" and let me know how it goes. Did you feel more in control of what you were asking for? Did the type of feedback you received change? Was it more helpful? I'd love to hear it!
Thanks again to Manny Ikomi for the inspiration and insights that got this post going. Be sure to catch him on Twitch where he's working on a financial literacy platform for the LGBTQ+ community among other cool things: ManniMoki on Twitch.