The Lazy Designer: Providing Useful Feedback

“How to Submit Feedback that Will Make it into the Game and not the Recycling Bin”

Feedback (re: bug reports, user analysis, critiques) is essential for many creative endeavors, from writing stories or making movies or designing games. Even the most talented game designer benefits from seeing her product through the eyes of a potential consumer. Knowing how to provide great feedback is essential for a designer, preparing them for when they must solicit feedback and respond to it.

Feedback in this section refers to subjective analysis of gameplay, interface, story, et cetera. More straight forward bug reporting will be described elsewhere.

Consider this example:

Your interface sucks more than an vacuum cleaner. It’s stupid and clunky. I hate it.

At best this feedback would become a data-point on a spreadsheet under the column of ‘did not like’. Most likely it would be simply deleted.

Why?

There’s little information beyond ‘did not like’. I don’t care how clever an analogy the tester has constructed, or how intensely the tester disliked a feature, if they are not providing constructive feedback they are wasting the designer’s time, and worse, company money.

An aside. My first edit of the above paragraph started with ‘Because it’s useless.’ Often I have the tendency when providing feedback to be sarcastic or snarky. I (almost) always edit my bug reports to remove such negative bits.

What is constructive feedback? A websearch will provide several definitions, but at it’s core, constructive feedback should be:

Respectful. The moment the designer is put on the defensive they are going to stop listening. Being respectful keeps the door open between tester and designer. This includes being polite and avoiding ‘hate’ words, as well as explaining what did work — good testers do not assume that the designers know what is working well, occasionally a great feature is cut because no one mentioned they loved it, they just assume because it is so good everyone knows it!
Detailed. List the elements under consideration, explaining what did not work with them and WHY.
Comparative. Is there a similar feature in another game that works better? Explain. Provide screenshots of the other game and/or supporting documentation.
Progressive. Suggest ways to improve the feature. Do not be offended if those suggestions are not taken, do follow up if no improvements are implemented.

So, an example of better feedback might be:

The main interface is a little cluttered. I love the variety of features available, but a cleaner presentation would have allowed me to enjoy the game more.
I’ve noticed that you are using a quick bar like GameXYZ. In that game they allow you to stretch the quick bar to any size. I’d suggest we adopt this approach, if possible. Start with a small quick bar and then allow the user to grow it as required, let them control the introduction of ‘complexity’ when they are ready. See attached screenshots for an example of their quick bar in action.

A tester, whether one in quality assurance or a designer providing feedback on another designer’s levels, should never be arrogant or condescending. Feedback is an opportunity to help improve the overall product. And it is essential.


“The Lazy Designer – Providing Useful Feedback” Copyright 2009 by Brent Knowles



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This is a section from The Lazy Designer, Copyright(c) 2009-2014 Brent Knowles

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  • http://www.influencier.com DARING

    Thank you for this. I hope people read it. And use it. Great job, Brent! Heading over to EA to buy more (e)WRITER.

  • Fray Close

    Thanks for tweeting that! I am getting pretty annoyed. I know it is hard on twitter, and I think I sounded whiny today, when I was just asking a question. I tried to clear that up on their Facebook.
    I am always thrown when developers want feedback (or just get it anyway) and what they get back is rude and condescending. Feedback is ‘let us know what we can fix’ not please tell us how bad we suck. Not the same thing.
    I am sharing this on my wall, if that is ok. I think some people around there need to read it too :P

  • http://www.twitter.com/GuitarKat Kathleen

    Yeah, I tend to be more constructive than “that really sucks”… I add more than that for sure…

    Most of the time I don’t even say that it, “really sucks”, I usually ask politely if a certain feature will be put in because others may like it, too. In which case, others have on Twitter noticed it and RT’d it to show support.

    The answer I received was it wasn’t quite priority but something they’ll do in the future. :) In other words, “We’ll eventually get to it… we hope we do, but it’s definitely down the list. Sorry.” And this is something that is acceptable. I can definitely understand that not every feature can get in all at once… things get built up little by little and improved all the time. :) It’s also a very good thing knowing that we can see this going up and up and improving.

    Having a bit of constructive crit goes a very, very long way for getting something that will improve and help the system. :)

    I think like a programmer that way, but I get hurt like a designer sometimes. It’s a curse, but then you can see both sides of the picture. Designers don’t like being hurt and developers don’t like being told straight out that they’re incompetent (just my experience, don’t mean to over generalize). Treat these people the way you’ll want to be treated… don’t tell them they’re s***. They’ll put it straight in the delete pile.

    Also wanted to say that I really liked this post and something I will definitely share with others. :)

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  • http://www.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Thanks for all the comments and feel free to share it. Glad it was useful.

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  • Gerry DUnn

    Respect – especially when making critical suggestions is key!

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Agreed, Gerry.

  • Waco’s Own

    I agree providing an experience for the users is the whole reason you spend copious amounts of time designing and providing content or trying to solve solutions.

  • Business Of Beats

    great info

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Thanks.

  • Miriam Slozberg

    Respect is sooo important when giving feedback, thanks so much for noting this!

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Welcome, thanks for commenting!

  • Ron Callari

    I find that venomous feedback says more about the commenter than the content provider. Constructive feedback worked way before we were exposed to these online social channels and continues to be the basis for writers and commenters to learn from each other to this day.

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Very true, Ron.

  • Vedarth Deshpande

    I loved this info! Thanks for sharing. useful for my website.

    http://www.vedarthdeshpande.com

  • Harold Gardner

    The other issue is that it is tough to soften commentary online. The words stand alone with little context to soften the blow.

  • http://blog.brentknowles.com Brent Knowles

    Yes, very good point.