In the loop: Good web design needs all the feedback it can get

By providing a feedback loop, you can make measurable progress with your web design.

Some of the best things you take away from a conference are the chance encounters and unexpected nuggets of wisdom.

At the recent dConstruct culture and technology conference in Brighton, I bumped into Chris Cheshire, an ex-colleague and now a web designer at Government Digital Service.

Amidst a brief info-torrent-exchange between speakers, I recommended Tim Kadlec's Implementing Responsive Design and Chris recommended The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

Wow. It's a business book that reads like a thriller and has moral to its story too - a moral that can be summarised as:

decisions based on data

For me, one of the critical points is that a business requires a feedback loop. The better the feedback loop, the quicker the development cycle.

A feedback loop also makes designers' and developers' jobs so much easier, by ensuring any changes that are made are tested out - I was in a meeting recently where there was a discussion about the placement of a promotional block on the homepage. Without a way to test the effectiveness of its position, the argument boiled down to "I think it works best here".

Another key component of the Lean Startup feedback loop is the Minimium Viable Product — getting something out there which actually works and from which you can glean useful data which informs your next steps.

My friend Dan Buzzo, (lecturer, drag racer, artist) has been inspirational in this regard, not just pontificating over a pint but actually making films and showing them at a local experimental film club in Bristol.

Once you have a Product and a Feedback Loop, the aim is to find and hang on to the perpetual spiral of learning and improvement, to keep on trying, experimenting and innovating.

All the while, the feedback is critical, from your users, colleagues and peers. (Mark Boulton has written an excellent post here on the positive benefits of criticism.) Gathering criticism not only good practice, but a vital part of development process. As the mildly hackneyed aphorism goes, those who don't learn from their mistakes are destined to repeat them.

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