When design teams create new products, they don’t immediately start sketching and prototyping, instead they start the design process by gaining a better understanding of their customers and competitors during a design review meeting. A design review is a technical meeting that is held at an early stage in the software development process, and generally involves a presentation of a planned software design, at a time early enough in the process to allow for changes.
The goal of the design review meeting is to generate a shared understanding among the team of the proposed design, and identify challenges, opportunities and questions from the team required to effectively deliver the design. Prior to each design review meeting, distribute the agenda to all participants to give them a heads-up on what they can expect during the meeting, and ensure they come prepared.
To help you have the most effective design review meetings possible, we’re including a tried and true meeting agenda template to work with (curated by Sean Harris, a Digital Product Designer based in Denver, CO).
What’s inside this Design Review Meeting template:
1 Overview — 5 min
The first five minutes of your design review meeting should be spent reviewing the meeting agenda and answering any immediate questions.
2 Background — 10 min
The next session of the design review meeting is spent collecting all of the background information your design team needs for the specific project. Background information should include data about your user, value of design to the user, business value and success KPIs. Reviewing the project goals, objectives and requirements as a team helps to align everyone.
3 Conduct the design review — 15 min
The next phase of the meeting is the actual design review. During this time the designated presenter(s) showcase the design while participants capture their feedback on post-it notes to review during the next phase of the meeting.
A great way to organize participant feedback is through a Feedback Matrix, a four-quarter square where participant responses can be organized by “likes”, “ideas”, “challenges” and “questions” to capture the most relevant information. Here’s a description of each category:
- Likes: Was there anything you liked about the design?
- Challenges: Is any part of the design not feasible?
- Questions: Do you have any questions regarding the design? Are you completely lost?
- Ideas: Do you have any ideas on how to make the design better or proposed changes?
Each post-it note should include the participant’s initials and the type of feedback they’re providing so it can be categorized properly.
4 Feedback lighting review and clustering — 30 min
Once the feedback post-it notes have been filled out by participants, each team member adds their notes to the appropriate feedback quadrant. The presenter then facilitates a lightning review of participants’ feedback post-it notes, calling on the author of each post to speak to their feedback for a maximum of two minutes per post-it note. As each note is reviewed, the facilitator should cluster related or similar comments together within their respective quadrants.
The key to this phase of the meeting is to move quickly through the feedback, hence the name lightning review, to keep the meeting on track.
5 Prioritization & next steps — 30 min
The next phase of the meeting is spent prioritizing feedback and determining next steps and action items to continue the project forward. Next steps may require additional discussion depending on the complexity of feedback in order to determine the best way forward.
6 Retro — 15 min (Optional)
The final phase of the design review meeting is an opportunity to conduct a retrospective to measure your teams’ feelings about the meeting. To do this, add three faces to your whiteboard – happy face, flat expression and a frowning face – and invite participants to self-report how they felt about the design review meeting by writing feedback under each face.
This process is particularly important after your first ever design review meeting, but can be a helpful exercise for any meeting to ensure you’re constantly improving the process in order to make the most out of future design review meetings.
4 tips to run effective Design Review Meetings
- Design review meetings should be attended by any team members who have a direction on the design, this includes the development or design team, customer success managers, engineering team members, and any other relevant stakeholders or decision makers.
- It is recommended that an hour to an hour-and-a-half is allocated for each design review meeting in order to cover all the meeting segments and provide time for group discussion. This time may change depending on the number of meeting participants, however a good rule of thumb is to have a maximum of seven attendees if you wish to complete your meeting within the one-hour timeframe.
- If your design review meeting is happening in person, convene in a room with an open wall or whiteboard; for virtual or remote meetings make use of tools that allow team members to work collaboratively. Post-it notes, physical or virtual, are also recommended for capturing and visually arranging feedback and ideas from your design review meetings.
- To make the most out of your design review meetings, encourage team members to be open-minded and receptive to feedback, while creating a space for open and honest discussion. Encouraging your team members to share their thoughts while using this design review meeting format will ensure your design projects provide value to your customers and your team.