If you have a chance to ask all the designers who compete in Topcoder what is the most important thing to winning a challenge, I guarantee you all that the answers will be related to feedback! Well, let me explain before we focus on reviewing feedbacks.
Compared to other crowdsourcing sites, the two round format with checkpoint prizes stands out and brings many new members to try their luck and compete, especially in the Design track. Basically design challenges, in two round format, mean you can submit your initial design based on the requirements listed on design specification page. Sometimes we called it a Checkpoint Round which are open to any Topcoder members who register for the challenge. At the end of the checkpoint round, all of submitting designs will be presented to the client by the Project Manager (PM) and/or Copilot. When the client is done with their reviewing process, they will select checkpoint winners—usually 5—and provide feedback for all the designs. This feedback will be posted and everyone can see it!
So, I found this feedback very helpful for a newcomer like me back then in two ways. First, if I win a checkpoint prize, that will be my incentive/mood booster and I will definitely continue in round 2. Second, if I didn’t win a checkpoint prize but get very detailed feedback from client/PM that ignite or give me deeper understanding about the problem and my design, I would definitely try my hardest to continue in the final round! Now the questions is as a designer, what is the best way to treat that provided feedback so we could win a challenge? Let’s start revealing the secret!
Live design-review process to provide feedback on all submissions at the TCO17 Regional Event Yogyakarta
Review your individual feedback carefully
Even if you are winner or not, you should check your individual feedback carefully. Sometimes you are missing some elements in the first round. Client will pointed it out and tell you which elements go well and they like, if not they will ask you to change it or remove it. My favorite part is to see which level I got, good or great start, is something like a compliment to me. Well, be careful because the complement can stray you away from winning. So treat the compliment as a reminder and continue with negative things that you need to fix for the final round.
The best way to review your individual feedback is by putting your design side by side with your individual feedback. Revisit your work and use the feedback as a guidance. You’ll notice sometime the client didn’t like your color, or your font size is seriously too small or ridiculously gigantic, visual hierarchy is confusing, or you use the wrong branding. Just listen to the client because you’re solving their problem, right?
Then make a personal list about things to do for the final round. By doing this, you’ll find yourself prepared. Make a picture in your head about the revision you should made based on your review process. Is it enough? Nope! Let’s continue to next tips.
adroc providing a live feedback session so everyone can enhance their design in the final rounds.
Read the overall feedback
You’re not the only one who is competing in the challenge, right? That’s why reading the overall feedback is very important to grasp what client wants for the final round, because a mid-stream adjustment can be always be made. If you’re missing this update, your final design might be look different in a bad way. For you didn’t listen to what the client says, it may cause you to lose in that challenge.
Overall feedback summarizes individual feedback. So if you have no time reviewing competitors feedback, read overall feedback thoroughly to give you a sneak peek then write down things you need to apply in your design.
Peek on your enemy
Depending on your time and how many other individuals posted, it is a good thing if you can spare time to read other competitor feedback. By doing this, you’re extracting key features that client likes, new ideas you might not have explored yet, strong points that competitor had that you can incorporate in your final submission, or weakness that you must avoid.
Reviewing competitors feedback also is recommended if you didn’t win a checkpoint prize and plan to continue in the final round. You’ll see the reason that client didn’t choose your submission by comparing your individual feedback with the winning one. When you get a complete understanding and get inspired, go on and try your best and luck. It happened several times that a designer who didn’t win a checkpoint, can win a placement in final round.
So peek on your enemy, get into the client’s mind, adjust it and you might win client’s heart!
tgerring and hmehta answering questions from competitors regarding on the feedback
You read all feedback and noticed, ‘hey! I can’t figure it out what the client wants me to do’ since you felt that you already did your best and seems client might have made a mistake by telling you to remove this element, change the way you show notification or navigation, or any thoughts that you feel you need to defend. If you feel so, post your question about your doubts that come to your mind as soon as possible. By doing this you are clarifying your view with the client. Sometimes your ideas are not what the client is looking for and that’s why they ask you to remove or change it. A healthy interaction between you and the client by posting your question in forum with client answering all your questions, will provide a new perspective for you and other competitors.
If in doubt, just ask it. Anyway, did anyone tell you that by posting question in forum, will increase your number of post below your profile every time you visit a forum?
If you notice, some members looks so active in the forums by keep asking questions, even if the question looks like very simple and you think you already know they answer, but hey, they did right! Never assume what the feedback is about. Clarify with the client if you have the same thought.
What Other Members Say
I asked several members about their own process in reviewing feedbacks. Let’s hear what they said:
1. Do you have any strategies or techniques on reading the feedback? Please describe your thought process while reviewing feedback from a competition.
Gh3ablo: I just make a simplified checklist of what works or not, for example: lighter background, larger text, etc. So in most cases, I try to implement everything in the feedback where applicable. Though if I feel that my feedback is insufficient, l spy on the other feedback and try to get into the client’s/reviewer’s head. It’s like a fun guessing game.
Ariefk: I believe this strategy is generally also used by other members. If feedback is posted via forum, then we can see the contents of feedback for other. Usually I combine all feedback and make a list of all the positive and negative. And then, imagine what are they designing. I think everyone can imagine that.
ToxicPixel: Create a list of importance…weigh it against what I want to still accomplish. Proceed. Personal feedback > General Feedback
yoki: I also collects all feedbacks from other competitors and make them as check list so i can take the advantage and track my progress.
iamtong: So basically I would first look for my submission ID and start from that, (If I get checkpoint feedback). See how I was doing with the checkpoint, list all the good/ bad items that need to be taken care of, then continue to other feedbacks ( general and other checkpoint feedbacks). Evaluate all feedbacks, figure out good things other submissions have (sometimes these are clearly revealed). See if there are specification updates, direction client wants to see, etc. Then again list those items/ what to apply for final submission.
Universo: Google translate! Hahha (that’s my secret)
ssp555: During review process for the feedback of any challenges, I always try to figure out the bad signal in the feedback (eg: -This technique is not appreciated), like in any feedback I am just curious to know about what I did wrong, but whenever I get good feedback, it’s really hard for me to figure out what I missed. For me, good feedback is directly proportional to more efforts. But in every feedback mostly, I tried to shortlisted the common mistake which was done by all designers.
Chekspir: I always read the overall feedback first, and then my personal one. Then I read everyone feedback before starting to implement my updates and fixes. Is always necessary to review again the requirements and see if there are new requirements on feedback or if something has changed.
Ravijune: So I personally don’t have any strategies but I just make a checklist of the requirements that are added after the first round and make sure I would include all of them for the final round if they fit in the better UX. Because I think most of the times, client would change his/her mind regarding the approach towards the solution after the checkpoint round. And I make sure, I include all the necessary features they are looking for.
2. What is the most important items you focus on while reviewing feedback?
Gh3ablo: I mostly focus on things that the client/reviewer didn’t like and fix it. For those that they did like, I leave it as is until I fix the negative issues. If there’s time left, I try to find ways to simplify or improve the positive ones.
Ariefk: I think all the items are very important. But the main thing is focus on UX and interaction. Come on, everyone can create good UI, but UX will occupy a larger portion in each challenge. So, start from UX and you can use your own pattern UI.
ToxicPixel: Possibly different in that I review the “tone”, skimming an emotional response off the top of the feedback(all the feedback). If I don’t win checkpoint, I go with my level of irritation with the competition. So I don’t approach this in a linear way… a – b – c (1 – 2 – 3) doesn’t give me the fuel to sacrifice 2-3 days of work. Or the confidence to continue trying something new.
yoki: The negative ones :’D, some missing items or something I didn’t have in my design.
iamtong: The most important items would be key items on what client likes or doesn’t like.
What to do/ adjust/ add or remove to push the submission in final round in order to get a chance to win.
universo: Focus on negative feedback instead of positive feedback.
ssp555: While reviewing feedback, first I always focus if there anything new that client want. Second, I just try to figure out whether my execution is on proper way or not.
Chekspir: The most important thing on a feedback to me is to know if I’m on the right path or not. Also is important to me if the main requirements from the challenge specs were fulfilled or not in my design.
Ravijune: I think the General feedback plays more important role than one’s individual feedback. And I believe the most crucial item to focus while reviewing feedback is not just designing what client is looking for, but also suggest any new approach/features that would help the Application/Design gives a better User Experience.
What Copilots Say About Feedback
Have you ever wondered what the copilot says about checkpoint feedback? This video will walk you through the process:
Now you know the secret on reviewing feedback, head to the challenge page and pick one challenge that attracts your attention the most. Compete and apply the secret that you get from here. Good luck and see you around!
This article is part of the 5 Weeks to Learn Topcoder educational series. Want to learn more? Check out the entire series and all the helpful content here
eriantoongko is a designer and art-addict from Indonesia. He likes to watch movies and maintain his nature tanks and garden apart from the design world.
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