A Guide to Evaluating Design Projects

Differentiating between objective input and subjective judgement is essential when evaluating design to pinpoint improvement areas and inform impactful design decisions.

It’s essential to know the difference between constructive criticism and personal opinion when providing feedback to a designer. Providing constructive criticism requires effort. The “does it look attractive” and “does it make sense” questions are rarely sufficient. I have a history of providing constructive criticism to my coworkers and the junior designers I mentor.

Knowing what aspects of your design you’d like comments on is also helpful. As I’ve mentioned, the quality of the responses you receive will increase if you provide more detail about your needs.

Having someone email me a design for approval without providing any context for my input is the most annoying thing that can happen. In this piece, I’ll discuss the criteria I use to evaluate designs and why I consider them crucial.

Functionality

Interfaces need to serve more than one purpose when being designed.

They should be logical. Those that use your creations will be doing so to fulfil a need. Usability heuristics provide a framework for UX designers to analyse their work and make improvements. A checklist is a quick and easy way to ensure all the essentials have been addressed.

Knowing that your design at least considers these elements is essential to me.

  • Usability. Is the method apparent for carrying out the desired task? What options do I have if I need to correct something? How can I know whether something I do will work or if there is an issue, even if I do it correctly?
  • Copy. Are you using simple language that is easy to understand? How professional do you think your tone is? Could someone who wasn’t familiar with the field read it and comprehend it?
  • Scope. Does what you’ve created fit the criteria laid out in brief? Do you have features that overcomplicate things when they aren’t necessary?
  • Specification. When I look at your design files, how much do I learn about the inner workings of the design? Where it was necessary, have you included annotations and clarifications? Tell me about the interconnection of your various displays.

Feasibility

Your design must be practical if you’re making something others will construct

A developer needs to look at the designs you send them and be able to use them. Many designers I’ve talked to have told me that interacting with developers is a significant source of stress for them. Finding a happy medium between what we design and what is built can be challenging due to misunderstandings and competing priorities.

Keeping the developers in mind while designing can help ease this pressure.

Something like this is what I’m after personally:

  • Layout. Does the layout follow a grid, and is everything in its proper place? Are the constituent parts of your layout readily identifiable?
  • Use of a consistent style. Is there a distinct order to the fonts? Do the hues all match up with what has been established?
  • Flexible layout. Have you specified how the design should behave when seen from various gadgets? Just where are the tipping moments, exactly?
  • Interactions. What happens if you tap, drag, or hover over specific components? Which special effects and animations might I expect to see? If they’re not worth it, why include them?

It’s more complicated to construct a workable UI; you’ll need to be familiar with the principles of how a developer thinks to do it right. If you are interested in learning more about coding, I have produced an essay that may be of assistance to you.

Familiarity

There needs to be more flux in terms of design norms.

Although design patterns are constant, they are occasionally disrupted by novelties such as dynamic islands. And rightly so. People are resistant to change in technology. When a significant corporation changes its user interface, you should expect an avalanche of complaints.

People have preexisting notions of how interfaces ought to function in their heads. What they’ve seen before has conditioned their thoughts and actions. As a user experience designer, you should cater your creations to your users’ prior knowledge and experiences.

How we construct hyperlinks is an excellent illustration of how familiarity is crucial. Looking at a webpage, it should be reasonably obvious which elements can be interacted with by tapping them. You can make an educated guess, at the very least. As the underlined text is typically a clickable link, you know this is one.

It doesn’t mean we can’t take some liberties with the rules. Other iterations of this pattern can arise from time to time, such as underlines that only show up when you hover. Alternatively, the text may be a contrasting colour. Yet, in general, it’s easier for people to pick up and implement your idea if you stick close to what’s already in the regulation.

Flexibility

As designers, finding the sweet spot where form and function coexist is our job.

You’ll find examples of flawless, aesthetically pleasing user interfaces in a designer’s portfolio. Things look nice there, but that finished product will function differently. Designing a universally flawless display is impossible. Hundreds of screen sizes and resolutions can be used for tablets and PCs. It’s possible to choose from various phone models, each offering features and personalisation options.

 If we want as many individuals as possible to benefit from our products, we must ensure our solutions are as versatile as possible. The effectiveness of your design in the following contexts would be on my mind:

  • Responsive. Using a mobile device against a computer at a desk. Do you use a responsive layout, or does it only function properly on a specific screen width?
  • Translation. Would the length or width of your text blocks cause problems with the layout?
  • Colours. What if they are colourblind or using a blue light filter? But what if they’re in dark mode?
  • Interactions. Will someone using a keyboard be able to get around your layout quickly? Does a touchscreen require anything special to operate? Or using only one hand to gesture?
  • Weight. If your internet speed is slow, how long will this take to load? Is there any movement or extensive photos that could bog down older or less powerful gadgets?

This vast arena and I’ve barely scratched the surface here. Neither accessibility nor a responsive design expert, but I can get by. By deliberately trying to damage your designs, you may determine whether or not they are robust enough to be used successfully in various contexts.

Finesse

To a large extent, developing an appreciation for aesthetics is a matter of practice.

To master something requires lots of time spent doing it wrong and learning from those mistakes. You can’t hasten this process.

Earlier in my career as a designer, I frequently spent hours researching competing digital offerings in search of ideas. I’d re-create them to determine their secret to success, then use that knowledge in future projects. The present-day me is just as guilty of this.

You can find helpful articles with general UI advice or follow industry leaders if you want more inspiration. Online, you can also find advice from numerous professionals in the design field. No amount of theory or research will replace actual hands-on experience, though.

While evaluating the aesthetic quality of a design, I keep an eye out for the following details:

  • Typography. Do the typefaces you’ve chosen complement one another? What do you think of the spacing between words? Can you identify a specific level of superiority among the styles?
  • Consistency. Are all the pages using the same design and concept?
  • Aesthetic. Do you find the colour scheme to be aesthetically pleasing? Do you have high-resolution images and diagrams?
  • Careful focus on specifics. Is there symmetry and uniformity? Did you find any grammatical or spelling errors? Is there a sense of disorder or chaos in the layout?

In my experience, there is no such thing as a flawless design. The more you think about your work, the more flaws you find. On the contrary, I enjoy being in that state and understanding what needs to be adjusted and why it can help you make design decisions that make a difference.