Foundation & Product Design Lesson Topics

Our Curriculum

Our lessons bring you the most current, valuable product design information in the following areas:

Influencing Users with Familiarity Bias

Lesson #118Mastering Design Feedback

At ZURB, we utilize psychological triggers and patterns to increase engagement with the products we design. Over the last two decades, we’ve helped over 300 companies find focus and make successful products. In this lesson we’ll be covering how you can use the design trigger of Familiarity Bias to quickly gain trust from your users.

Giving Feedback with Context: Wired Edition

Lesson #96Mastering Design Feedback

In design related fields, feedback could be described as outside input that provides commentary on copy, visuals and/or layout. Here we'll take a brief look into what gets in the way of us giving good contextual feedback and how ZURB applies those maxims to Wired!

Creating a Feedback Format that Sticks

Lesson #90Mastering Design Feedback

The sticky might as well be any Design team's mascot. I mean, seriously, who doesn't use stickies when writing down notes during brainstorming sessions, and user testing or even mapping out a product's features and future? We're exploring the best practices for that whirlwind combination of Sharpie and stickies in today's lesson.

Defining User Goals and Business Needs

Lesson #87Mastering Design Feedback

Sometimes clients tell us what they want. Other times, what they need. Sometimes we spot problems with their websites right off the bat, or bring solutions to the first meeting.

And why not? As business owners, our clients know their products and services better than we. Meanwhile, as professional designers, we want to impress clients with our expertise. Keeping them happy is good business.

But that thinking doesn't lead to lasting solutions. Design isn't just about solving any ol' problem — it's also a process of uncovering the underlying issues. To dig deeper, we need to question everything. Here's how to assess user needs and business goals before you find yourself building the wrong product.

Asking for Feedback Doesn’t Have to Suck

Lesson #69Mastering Design Feedback

Getting feedback is an important part of any creative process. Unfortunately, too often we get as far as "what do you think?" which — let's face it — doesn't give the other person much to go on. You're likely to get feedback on everything and anything, not just what you need.

But there are ways to negate this problem. Here are four ways to ask for feedback that doesn't suck.

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How to Give Meaningful Feedback

Lesson #67Mastering Design Feedback

Feedback is an important part of progressive design. Challenging ideas and discovering false assumptions helps us build better products. But giving feedback is just as important as asking. 

Sometimes — well, oftentimes — people seeking feedback will ask "what do you think?" We discourage such questions because they lead to vague answers. When we do get good questions, giving good replies is just as important. Here's how to help your team with effective feedback.

Photo of a whiteboard covered with notes

How to Hook Users in 4 Steps

Lesson #62Mastering Design Feedback

Habit Testing fits hand-in-glove with the build, measure, learn methodology espoused by the lean startup movement and offers a new way to make data actionable. Habit Testing helps clarify three things: 1) who your devotees are; 2) what part of your product is habit forming, if any; and 3) why those aspects of your product are habit forming.

A prerequisite to Habit Testing is having some kind of product up and running. Of course, before launching even a minimal viable product, it’s a good idea to take a stab at your business model hypotheses and how your product will create user desire.

Illustration depicting user targets

Tips to Kick Off a Project Successfully

Lesson #57Mastering Design Feedback

Projects begin with a fair amount of ignorance. We don't yet know our client's business. They don't know design. Solving both problems begins in the kickoff meeting: a frank sharing of information during which both sides work to define the problems we face. We ask questions. We explore the landscape. We find our bearings and set goals. We do not solve problems — that comes later.

Successful kickoffs provide the foundation for a plan on which to move forward. Here's what to ask in a terrific kickoff meeting.

Summarize Customer Feedback through Affinity Diagrams

Lesson #49Mastering Design Feedback

None of us like to hear our work has problems. Sure, we all want to improve our design skills, but user criticism carries a negative vibe — “here’s something you did wrong.” Ouch.

Good news: You can turn problems into steps that lead to improve your work. Grouped notes — or “affinity diagrams” if you want to sound impressive — give us an accurate gist of what people are saying. The result is something cool you can use to make better digital products, show users that you pay attention to their needs, and even impress your coworkers with your understanding of the problems at hand. Here’s how affinity diagrams help you make sense of users comments.

Photo of a whiteboard with organized sticky notes. I’ve never seen Post-Its marching in formation. Have you?

Capture Brilliant Dry Erase Board Photos

Lesson #48Mastering Design Feedback

Part of getting feedback is sharing your plans, even if they’re in the “rough draft” stage. We love whiteboards for sharing ideas, experimenting with workflows, and letting the Big Picture be bigger than a piece of paper. Recording these ideas is crucial, and smartphones make it convenient. But convenient isn’t easy.

Dry erase boards are reflective. Glare from windows and overhead lights create harsh light spots that mar our notes. Even worse, most cameras underexpose images to compensate for these spots, and produce uneven lighting over wide areas.

We set out to shoot better photos of whiteboards. After some experimentation, we figured it out. The result helps us more clearly communicate our design ideas.

Here’s how to shoot a dry erase board that will clearly communicate your ideas long after the board is erased.

photo of someone using a whiteboard

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Get the Real Picture from User Feedback

Lesson #47Mastering Design Feedback

Iterating on our work requires feedback — and understanding feedback requires analysis. Our surveys that rate customer satisfaction from 1–10 gave us a good idea of how our products and services were helping others design for people, but we wondered if there was a better way. 

In fact, there is. We recently discovered that a single question, rated in a special way, could give us a more streamlined approach to customer feedback. The results are more measurable but just as interesting. Here's how to measure customer satisfaction with Net Promoter.

illustration of ratings

Win Big in Phone Meetings

Lesson #44Mastering Design Feedback

Phone calls, especially with clients, are a critical means of receiving feedback on your works-in-progress. In addition to exchanging ideas, phone calls are a stage on which you present yourself to the client. It's a chance to look professional — or like an unprepared amateur. This lesson will teach you to look (and sound) like a pro. Here are handy tips to conduct a winning client phone call.

Illustration depicting a successful phone meeting

Write Emails, Drive Action

Lesson #33Mastering Design Feedback

When trying to communicate ideas and drive actions by email — say, when asking a client for feedback — a well-composed email means more than good grammar, spelling and a little formatting. Emails can do more than communicate information; they can rally people to action. Here’s how to structure emails that elicit action from your readers.

photo of an astounded reader and a terrific email

Win Over Clients in a Design Critique

Lesson #22Mastering Design Feedback

Now and then, we all crave a little praise. But to improve their work, designers need feedback: A fresh view on their work to expose problems and offer solutions. If you’re not receiving feedback, then you don’t know what you’re missing. Literally.

But learning to give feedback is just as useful. We’ve found that expressing our views trains our brains to think from users’ points of view. And the more we practice, the more we can anticipate problems in our own work. Although thoughful comments sometimes take time, you can learn to give initial feedback on web design in 60 seconds or less.

fancy illustration of a feedback loop

Solicit the Right Types of Feedback

Lesson #15Mastering Design Feedback

Feedback is a vital part of iterating through the product design process. But ask “what do you think?” and will get replies that range from “looks good to me” to “I don’t like it.” Both may be valid, but they lack actionable feedback needed to improve a product or service.

We’ve discovered that asking for feedback properly is the first step in getting helpful input. In this short lesson you’ll learn to prompt answers that put “constructive” in “constructive criticism.”

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Identifying and Dealing With Four Personality Archetypes on Your Team

Lesson #13Mastering Design Feedback

photo of people giving feedback

Everyone has a different take on design. A lot of their opinions stem from where they’re coming from, their experience and their preferences. There are many different types of personalities that might be giving you feedback. You’ve got to understand what each of those are and how best to deal with them. Now, it’s hard to classify everyone. But we’ve found most fit into four broad archetypes. We want to share those types and how to work with them.