Advice: Evidence methods

Friends & Family Opinions

What you can learn

This is a method that I've included as a warning. It’s a popular method of evidence gathering you’re bound to come across, it just isn't a very good one. It's the classic feedback that many designers fear: "I've just shown this to my husband/wife/mother/son and they think this could be improved by doing x". Where x often involves re-working the whole project but the client values this opinion so much that they insist on it, trumping any rational, carefully gathered evidence.

It's not just something that comes from design-illiterate clients though. I've been in meetings where well-informed management have suggested changes based on ideas from someone in their family or an old friend. Sometimes they might be right and at its best that outsider opinion could inspire great ideas but they're quite often missing a vital bit of context that means it can't be used.

More importantly, this is not a method you can repeat reliably. It's a lottery that you can’t bank on: you might get something great but it might lead you nowhere.

How to do it

Of course we all ask our partner or housemates for quick feedback from time to time. However in general, opinions of friends and family shouldn’t be a part of your formal evidence-gathering process. It's the laziest and weakest form of research and there are plenty of other methods for evidence-gathering out there (that's what the rest of this guide is for).

To be honest they'll often give them to you whether you want them or not anyway. And if you do push them into giving an opinion they'll probably just say something positive to shut you up and not hurt your feelings.

If you do come across someone else using these opinions in a meeting (usually when you’re least expecting it) just say something neutral like "that idea has potential, I'll look into it" or "I'll be sure to incorporate that feedback into my research". Try and gather any of this kind of feedback early in the design process, in a research phase, and make it clear that late feedback and changes will involve the project taking much longer.

Watch out for

Having said all the above, there are a few times you can pay more attention to a family/friend opinion thrown your way:

Example tools (and cost)

There are no specialist tools used here and the opinions are all (too) free.

How long does it take?

If you’re going to do it anyway try to keep their thoughts very short and focussed for better results.

How often should you use it?





Last updated on 6 March 2017

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Here's another method

User Feedback

How to gather and assess irregular customer feedback from email and phone calls. Learn more

Last updated March 2017

View all the methods in the guide

Note: the examples in this guide are for website design, but most of the content is also applicable for native apps and software.