2011-03-28

Future Design Software: Streamlining Critique

Critique is important for designers to judge the appropriateness of their designs and to progress in their craft. Unfortunately for the working designer the pressures of budget and time and the difficulty of finding people to critique work mean that critique rarely happens. Future design software could change that.

Ideally designers should get critique from designer peers, clients and the target audience. Each brings a different perspective to the work that is important for different reasons. Client critique is usually built into the design process because it is the easiest to do – there is often a single client representative who critiques before they signoff work.

Critique from peer designers is more difficult to come by. There are design communities like Behance and DeviantArt that will critique but those communities are too public for pre-release design and the level of critique is often not high – despite being enthusiastic. Design critique should come from experienced people whose opinions you trust. These people are probably already in your social network (like Facebook).

Research I co-supervised for Kerrin Meek’s Honours work looked at how social media could be used for designer critique. While in the early stages, many good ideas were explored. The central idea is that by extending critique notifications into the activity stream of others and making those critiques easy to accomplish, peer designer critique might become more successful.

Facebook already allows for posting images and collecting comments. This can functionality can be extended by adding semantic differentials, alternative image voting, and critiques where hotspots can be highlighted for comment. This can be done via a third-part website that integrates tightly into the Facebook experience using the existing Facebook API.

Target audience critique is a more difficult to organize – especially with the speed demanded by many design projects. Market research companies already have large databases of willing participants sorted by demographics that are used to working online. The missing piece of future design software is a website where designers can place their work for critique in standard forms (comments, votes, surveys, questionnaire, semantic differentials), assign a budget, and have that targeted towards a particular demographic. If the process was thus streamlined through future design software then costs could come down and turn-around times improved. As costs and time decrease then the feasibility of adding user critique to a project increases.

Future design software has the potential to revolutionize designer peer critique and make target audience critique more affordable both in terms of time and money. Would you consider expanding critique in your projects?

(This is another article in the Future Design Software series.)