Manage the flow of feedback, enjoy better design reviews
Design reviews are a collaborative way to gather feedback in order to improve and ultimately finalize work. We’ve all sat through some great and not-so-great design reviews. Usually, the not-so-great ones result from misalignment on feedback — when it’s asked for, how it’s delivered, and whether it’s on point or totally misses the mark.
We built Collections to make it easier for you to show all the effort that’s gone into a particular design, and to set expectations with stakeholders in order to get the best feedback, when you need it. And not in the context of a desk drive-by. At a high level, we’ve made the process of asking for and receiving feedback more of a team sport.
We know that every design team has a different structure and culture. We wanted to give design teams of all shapes and sizes a flexible way to share work with the intent of making it a lot better than you’re used to.
The etiquette of presenting and sharing work (and gathering meaningful feedback)
Feedback is critical to improving our work and our process. But getting quality feedback can feel like herding cats. Without one single and reliable place to gather feedback, we miss out on valuable opportunities:
- To show stakeholders their feedback has meaningfully impacted design
- To show stakeholders all the potential ideas we’ve explored and provide context around decision making (and why we may have gone a different route)
- To establish whether or not something is actually ready for review or is still a work in progress 🚧
- To provide more thoughtful feedback, knowing that it will be documented and not lost in a Slack thread or endless email chain
Collections allow you to tell your teammates and other stakeholders the complete story of your work: how it evolved, what were the considerations, and where you could use input.
How to set up a Collection
When you’re looking at a Branch in Abstract, you can create a Collection by clicking on the ••• button that appears when you hover over an artboard and follow the prompt to create a Collection. From there, you’ll be able to set your preference on automatic updates, name your Collection, and add a description to give everyone some context. You can also create Collections at the Master or Branch level by navigating to the Collections tab and following the Create Collection option.
After you’ve created a Collection, you can add the artboards you want to document or share with other people. You can add artboards from the Commit or the Files Tab by right clicking a preview. The easiest way to create a Collection is to use the Multi-select feature to add artboards to a Collection in bulk.
After you’ve added artboards to the Collection, you’ll be able to rearrange them so that they flow nicely. Once you’re done setting up your Collection, just hit the share button in the top right. This will generate a link that you can send to team members for feedback through Abstract’s Mac or web app.
Consider setting up a Collection for the following scenarios:
- For everything you’re actively working on that you’re making meaningful changes to. Use a Collection to set up the context for people who don’t know what you’re focusing on in a particular Branch. This is usually a larger Collection.
- After creating a Branch, for pulling together early work.
- For setting up a flow. Creating a Collection gives stakeholders an opportunity to mimic a user experience. This type of Collection is really useful in a review, or when asking for feedback.
- For showing multiple explorations, you can go back to older Commits and pull artboards from them in order to present different options you could pursue, or to show how an artboard has evolved over time. This is another type of Collection that’s perfectly suited for review or feedback cycles.
Note that today, Collections at the Branch level will not merge to Master, although they are preserved in the Branch Archive. This is on our roadmap as a future update to the Collections flow.
How to communicate around a Collection
When you share a Collection, consider what you’re asking your teammates. Anyone who has access to your Collection can scroll through the activity feed, see which files changed, or go to the Commit tab to review Commits. A developer can even quickly gather all the information they need to implement any design using Inspect, right down to the CSS code by accessing the layer detail view through a Collection.
Communicating with intention and detail around a Collection means you’ll get better feedback on the work, and you’ll automatically create a historic artifact that you can reference for years to come. This is especially helpful if you think about your design team growing and changing, and your organization’s evolving needs.
- Write a thoughtful Collection description for your team: keep it simple, be specific, and consider context.
- Get granular by using annotations and connect feedback to locations on an artboard or layer.
- Involve the right people at the right time, using Review Requests.
Abstract tip 💡
You can add the same artboard at multiple Commits into a Collection to show the iteration of a design.
Reviewing work in progress
When you work in Abstract, you can communicate your progress through Branch statuses:
- Early work (not ready for input)
- Open for feedback (not official review, but open to input)
- Review Request: an official request for feedback
When you create a Branch, a Work in Progress status is applied by default. At this stage, anyone on your team can see that you’re working on a thing, but it’s not at a stage where it is something.
If you want to invite a few people to give you an early stage gut check on direction, you can apply an “Open for Feedback” Branch status to your work. This is equivalent to saying, “Hey, can you take a look and let me know what you think? It’s not super polished, but I’d love your eyes on it.”
To make things “official,” you can create a Review Request (from the big green button on the top right), alerting the appropriate team members of changes that are nearing completion and assign Reviewers to approve or request changes to your Branch.
When it’s time to review work with your team, you can present the Collections on your Branch both formally and informally. Since Collections are surfaced on the Branch overview during review, your teammates will know where to access them during or outside of a formal conversation. To make it an even better experience when presenting work, click the moon icon in Collections to turn on “night mode” 🌙. It’s the best way to present on a large screen during a meeting, or to help people focus on just this content on their screen. If you ask us, it’s a game-changer.
Abstract tip 💡
Use Review Requests to document and get approval on work before affecting the Master. When you add a user to a Review, they’ll be directed to the Branch Overview tab where they’ll see the Branch Summary, Collections, an activity log of feedback and comments, and a list of changed files.
Collections automatically update to your latest work, so once you’ve made changes, you won’t have to push updates from your files.
Looking to capture a snapshot or preserve a moment in the design evolution? You can toggle automatic updates on or off at the individual artboard as well. The great thing about using Collections together with Comment History is that you’ll have all the context, for every decision related to a product, and you can always revisit past work.
By setting up Collections, you’re effectively giving everyone who joins the team now and in the future a message in a bottle, with a map.
Go into design reviews feeling 💯 prepared
We designed Abstract to be open by default, because we know all teams have different needs. Collections help you establish a single, centralized place for feedback so you can go into your next design review feeling prepared and confident. We think you’ll find that by shifting towards Collections and regularly utilizing the Review Request feature for both in-progress and “finished” work, you’ll start seeing higher-quality feedback. And, you’ll give people outside your immediate team a deeper understanding of your work.
Many thanks to Tim Van Damme for contributing to this piece.