Design critique cards

David de Léon

Conducting good design critique can do wonders for the quality of your interactive design and for your growth as a designer, but it can be hard to take an essay, or a checklist, and apply it. Well, we solved that for you!

Buy the cards here!

Most people are unsure what to look for in a design and most feel uncomfortable putting forward criticism. What if you had a pack of cards with some powerful questions on them? The cards would suggest what to say, and no one would get sore at you for reading a question off a piece of cardboard.

50+ questions

Well now there is such a set of cards. I have authored and collated over 50 questions that are designed to probe and illuminate a piece of interactive design from different perspectives. Some of the questions have even been designed to trigger certain reactions or inherent abilities in the responder (there is more than one Jedi mind trick in the pack). My colleague Hilding Bengtsson has then given them the requisite graphical flourish.

The cards were sent to the printers today. If we are lucky, they should be ready in time for our conference From Business to Buttons. If you aren’t attending the conference you can use the list of questions below or print them out from the pdf – register and we'll send you an email with the pdf.

They probably won’t smell, shuffle and stack as nicely as ours, but they should still help you improve your design.

Ways to play the game

One way to use the cards is to gather a group to critique a piece of interactive design. Set a time limit and deal out a handful of cards to everyone. All of you agree to ask at least one question from the cards in your hand. That’s it. I would suggest you let the person presenting do most of the talking and thinking (for more thoughts on attitudes and techniques conducive to a fruitful design critique see my previous essay).

If no one is around, pick a card at random and attempt to answer the question on your own. Or use them as flash cards. Some prefer to ignore the questions altogether and build card castles. That can be a great way to take your mind off your work for a while.

Here are the questions:

  1. Compared to how things are today, what will be easier, simpler or more fun using this design?
  2. What would you like to have with you at the end of this design critique?
  3. What would you like users to remember from their interaction with your design?
  4. If someone else was to take over your design, what would they change?
  5. How would Apple, Google or Disney solve this?
  6. Does the design reject established design patterns. How and why?
  7. What in the design invites and encourages use? What would motivate your users to invest more time and attention?
  8. Are there things in the design that might bore or tire your users?
  9. What is your most important use case? What is your most common use case?
  10. What is the most important thing in this design? In this screen? Why?
  11. What are you most proud of in your design?
  12. What is most interesting here? Why?
  13. Does the design provide users with a clear and useful conceptual model?
  14. How does this work the first time it is used? After a week? A year?
  15. What in your design helps users learn how to use it?
  16. How would you like your design to be perceived (e.g. perceived as secure, simple, fast, flexible, powerful, polished, fun, wild etc.)?
  17. What expectations do users have? What expectations does the design give rise to?
  18. How well does the design scale?
  19. What stands in the way of the most important use cases?
  20. What makes this design unique?
  21. Are there things that could be solved visually, rather than through interaction, and vice versa?
  22. Are users familiar with the terms and concepts used in the design?
  23. Does the user know what to do? When they have done something, do they understand what happened?
  24. Is the design making assumptions that excludes certain types of users (e.g. assumptions about gender, beliefs, knowledge, culture)?
  25. What happens when things go wrong? What could prevent this from happening?
  26. Which parts of the design are you most uncertain about? Why?
  27. If there were no limitations, what would you do?
  28. If you had to remove something, what would you remove? If you had to remove something more, what would it be? Keep going.
  29. How have others solved this design problem?
  30. Is there some service, product, or other phenomenon, that solves a similar problem to yours?
  31. What do you want the user to do?
  32. How do you want the user to feel (e.g. competent, in control, in a state of flow, creative)?
  33. What is the design supposed to accomplish?
  34. What is your client/boss worried about?
  35. Does the design take users with lower levels of sensory, motor and cognitive abilities into consideration?
  36. What is working well in the design? Can it be made even better? Can it be applied elsewhere in the design?
  37. How does the solution provide value for users? In what ways?
  38. Which avenues, solutions and alternatives have you explored and rejected?
  39. In which ways does your design contribute to reducing the negative impact on the environment and on the wellbeing of people?
  40. Have you taken the context where the design will be used into consideration (e.g. location, lighting, ambient noise, other people)?
  41. What reasons do users have for returning to the product or service you are designing? How often do you want them to use it? What is the ideal length of a session?
  42. Is the design too bland? What would happen if it was more polarising? What would happen if you excluded some groups of users?
  43. What would happen if this was bigger/smaller, faster/slower? What would happen if you rearranged the order of things? What would happen if you removed the most important part?
  44. What are we all taking for granted? What would be possible if the opposite of our assumption was true?
  45. How does the design capitalise on our different senses? Are sights, sounds and haptics used and combined for maximum effect?
  46. How do animations and transitions contribute to users’ understanding and experience of the design?
  47. What are your personal goals and wishes for this design? What effect do you want to have on the world and on your users?
  48. What would you do differently if you could start again from scratch?
  49. What would be a showstopper for your users? How could this be prevented from happening?
  50. What would surprise your users and exceed their expectations?
  51. What theme or key idea runs through your design? How could you make that theme or story clearer?
  52. What activities or services is your design competing with? If your users don’t use this design what do they do instead?
  53. Are we doing the right thing right now?

A big thank you to Hilding Bengtsson for the beautiful work that he did on the graphic design for the cards and box. A huge thank you for feedback, help and additional questions provided by Mikael Aldman, Fredrik Andersson, Tomas Andersson, Johan Berndtsson, Emil Björklund, Ingrid Domingues, Pontus Stalin Ehrner, Jenny Fredriksson, Nils-Erik Gustafsson, Jon Karlsson, Boris Kehr, Claes Källqvist, Henrik Samuelsson, Anders Thid, Johan Thoresson, Patrik Vikner and Kristoffer Åberg.

Buy the cards here!

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6 kommentarer

  • James Mole McConnell

    This is great. What a service giving this superb piece of work away for free. I look forward to seeing them.

    To take them to an even higher level I would like to put them into simple sub categories like "design process", "knowing why" etc. I would also love to have a bit of background on the back of each card to explain why the question should be asked and ideas how to work with it. Version 2.0 :)

    Again, great work!

  • David de Léon

    Thanks you, and glad you like them James!

    You make some good suggestions for version 2.0! As well as refining the questions, addings new ones, categorising them, and providing explanations of what’s behind each question, I would like to explore more ways of using the cards (different kinds of design critique games).

    Before that, however, my next step is to create a smaller set of cards for when we want feedback from our audiences on the presentations that we give. Something that distributes the task of giving feedback on presentation structure, clarity, language use, voice, body language etc.

  • Petter Dessne


    Really interesting, and I'd like to try them on a course in Interaction Design very soon. Is there a way to get hold of them yet?

    Petter Dessne, Lecturer at Univ of Borås, Sweden

  • David de Léon

    Petter, the cards have not come back from the printers yet. When they do we will set up an order form. Meanwhile, you can register for our newsletter and download the cards as a free pdf (link above).

    If you do use them in your course, I would love to hear how it goes!

  • Jeff

    Hello David,

    Love these! Would you give me permission to use these in my own deck of cards?

  • David de Léon

    Thanks Jeff! What cards are those? You have me intrigued. And clarify what you mean by ”use”?

    If you want to print them up for your personal use, then feel free to do so! Feel free to use them or modify them as you will.

    If you are intending to distribute your own deck of cards (physical cards and/or digital), and there are a couple of questions from the Design Critique Cards that you would like to include in your own deck, feel free to do that as well (attribution would be nice).

    Obviously you can’t include all (or a significant quantity) of the cards as part of some other deck that you will be distributing. These cards are already available to the world, and will also soon be available as lovely physical decks of cards as well.