Reviews are the heart of Abstract Notebooks. They are the best way to review designs, discuss alternatives, and take action as a team. When your team reviews designs in a notebook, you level the playing field for everyone involved because everyone has access to the same information at the same time. Nobody needs to rearrange their schedule for a meeting or request access to other design files or documentation. Everybody sees the feedback, which leads to more substantive and more informed conversations and decisions. Abstract Notebooks keeps everything organized in one place for everyone to review and take action on together.
Start with a notebook
In order to begin, we need to have a notebook that is ready to review. Let’s start with the notebook we created in the “Collect and share ideas in a notebook” guide. That notebook was created using a design brief for a bank app’s new signup flow and a new design proposal with mockups added from Figma. The designer requested a review of the notebook, asking for feedback on specific areas.
A notebook is ready for review once the designer has put their ideas together to form a cohesive story. It describes the problem to be solved, the proposed solution, and a clear explanation of how and why the solution would work. It could also include some visual designs for added clarity. The designer can change the status of the notebook to reflect the stage of the work, which also gives the reviewers an idea of what kind of feedback is expected. For example, a notebook with an “Exploration” status is likely looking for more high-level, directional feedback than a notebook with a “Wireframe” status.
Discuss the work in the comments
The best way to start reviewing a notebook is by reading it thoroughly. In this notebook, the designer takes us through the issue to solve up front before walking through their proposed design solution. Let’s make sure we understand each point clearly before agreeing or disagreeing with any of it. Have a question? Comments are a great way to ask! The designer can respond in the comments, so all discussion can happen in the notebook with everybody looking at the same material. As they work through the comments, they can resolve comments they've addressed or which are no longer relevant.
Use @-mentions to bring other members of your organization into the conversation. Abstract gives them a notification in the app and in their email whenever they’re mentioned in a comment or review to bring it to their attention.
Request changes in a review
Once you have a shared understanding of the issues and the solutions, it’s a good time to leave your review. These comments differ from the narrowly focused comments we left in the notebook earlier because rather than focusing on a single detail, review comments refer to the work as a whole. We can use these to discuss the general direction of the design and give high-level feedback without cluttering up the other comment discussions.
Let’s say we like the direction the design is going, but have some suggestions for improvements. We can write a review comment explaining what we’d like to see and why, and we can request changes from the designer.
Address comments and approve the design
At this point, the designer can read through the comments and review feedback and address any issues or concerns. They can make some updates based on some points of feedback. If they are using the Figma plugin, they can have their changes in Figma updated in the notebook. When that’s complete, the team can come back to the review and leave more comments, discuss the design some more, request more changes, or approve the design. Let’s say we all agree with the new direction the design is taking. We can leave a new review comment and mark the review as approved.
Record a decision
With an approved design in hand, the team can begin implementing it. Record the decision, close the review, and move the notebook to Done. Doing this lets the team know that a decision has been made and also preserves all the ideas and discussions that contributed to it. You can get as detailed as you like with the decision description to make sure you've included all necessary context.
Notebook reviews are geared towards action. They are a simple, cohesive way for your team to understand, discuss, and approve designs together. Threaded comments in the notebook are a great way to get alignment and understanding on specific design elements, while review comments give your team an uncluttered way to discuss the overall direction of the work. Lastly, change requests, approvals, and decisions let everyone know when the work is complete so nobody is left wondering whether the design is ready to move forward.
Try some reviews with your design team to move from ideas to actions!