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GuidesProduct developmentWhat is a design review, and when should you do one?

What is a design review, and when should you do one?

Last updated

18 July 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Development and design must move ultra-fast if a business wants to stay competitive. But when things are moving that quickly, ensuring the quality and effectiveness of a design becomes difficult. Design reviews can help with this process. 

Design reviews are evaluations that provide feedback, identify potential issues, and work to improve the overall design. A good design review process can help a business improve its product and avoid disaster. 

Here's what you need to know about design reviews and how to incorporate them into your own design process.

What is a design review?

Design reviews are a systematic assessment of design work. Design reviews can happen in almost any industry, from construction to software development. They ensure that the design aligns with the project goals and objectives and evaluate its quality, functionality, and adherence to the requirements.

A design review usually involves a presentation to stakeholders followed by a discussion where stakeholders can provide feedback, raise concerns, or propose design improvements. 

What's the difference between a design review and a design critique?

While both the design review and design critique can provide valuable feedback within the design process, the two have distinct differences.

A design review is a formal evaluation process evaluating the design's viability and alignment with project goals. A design critique, on the other hand, is more informal and involves more subjective feedback. For example, the feedback may focus on the aesthetics or creativity of the design. 

What is the scope of a design review?

It can include various aspects, such as: 

  • Functionality

  • User experience

  • Technical feasibility

  • Compliance

  • Potential risks

  • Scalability

  • Ethical or legal concerns

Always establish the scope of the design review before the meeting. This allows the designers to prepare their presentations appropriately and for stakeholders to focus their feedback on those areas. 

Who attends a design review?

There may be a range of stakeholders at a design review. The more complex a project is, the more stakeholders there will likely be in attendance. Stakeholders could include: 

Having a diverse panel of stakeholders at the design review can help thoroughly evaluate a project and gather actionable feedback on the design. 

Why you should do a design review

A design review is an important opportunity for stakeholders to give project feedback. By involving multiple stakeholders and diverse voices, you can generate innovative ideas for improvement while ensuring the design aligns with the project’s intent and goals. 

The reviews can help catch design flaws and discrepancies early in the project, helping avoid potential disaster after a product launch. This can help save time, money, and the company's reputation. 

These meetings are also an opportunity for collaboration. Bringing all the stakeholders together can help create a unified vision for the project, resulting in a more effective design. 

Design reviews also help build a culture of continuous improvement within the team. Incorporating them throughout the development process creates a culture where feedback is implemented to deliver a better result. 

What are the different types of design reviews?

There are various types of design reviews, depending on the goals and needs of the project. Three of the most common types of design reviews include: 

Stakeholder design review

This type of design review involves all of the project stakeholders, which could include clients, sponsors, and a management team. These reviews will assess the design's alignment with objectives, budgets, and timelines. They may also consider whether the design fits the market or is technically feasible. Stakeholders can influence the design to help align it with the larger company vision. 

Peer design review

In a peer design review, the reviewers will be the designer's peers or colleagues, not the project stakeholders. These reviews can be a great way to collaborate within a team or get a fresh set of eyes on a project. 

They can also be an excellent tool for professional growth and a way to network with other experts in the field. Peers can evaluate the design for technical feasibility and offer suggestions for improvement. A peer review can be a great way to prepare for a stakeholder review

Customer design review

Customer design reviews aim to gather feedback directly from the project’s end users. Potential users can provide information on whether they find the design appealing and user-friendly or whether it solves a problem they’re experiencing. 

Involving customers in a design review can enhance the user experience and ensure the project meets their paint points. A customer design review is one of the best ways to ensure a project meets real-world expectations. 

Five steps to set up your design review process

Want to implement a design review into your project development timeline? Here are five steps to set up a design review with your team:

1. Define the objectives and criteria for the design review 

Decide what aspects of your design you want to evaluate, such as functionality or compliance. Establish the evaluation criteria and guidelines for these aspects to create a consistent framework for the assessment instead of relying solely on subjective opinions. 

2. Decide who should attend the design review

Invite a diverse panel of stakeholders to the review to get the most comprehensive feedback. But remember the well-known saying, ‘a camel is a horse designed by a committee.’ Only invite those with an actual stake in the project who can provide insightful, actionable feedback. 

3. Schedule the reviews

This means more than just finding a time on everyone's calendar. You should consider the overall timeline for the project, including its milestones, and schedule reviews accordingly. Plan for regular reviews to help you catch issues early on, and make sure you look at different aspects of the design throughout the review process. 

4. Keep the reviews structured

A structured approach to each design review will help keep the reviewers focused and make the meetings more productive. Encourage discussion, ask specific questions, and gather actionable feedback. Document the review and note both the positive feedback and the areas that require improvement. 

5. Put the feedback to work

After each review, you should analyze the feedback with your team and decide what actions to take. Incorporate the feedback into your next design, using each review as a learning opportunity to help you continuously evolve and enhance your design. 

These five steps can help you establish a continuous growth mindset within the design review process. You can mitigate risk and ensure the quality and effectiveness of your designs, leading to a more successful outcome.

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