Introducing Feedback Sense Check — your companion for better feedback

Feedback is a gift, but it can trigger emotions which cause us to make irrational choices. Feedback Sense Check is a free tool I created with colleagues, to help give and receive feedback in a better way.

Tom Hiskey
5 min readJun 26, 2023

I’ve given feedback badly, too many times. Last year, I gave some at 4pm on a Friday while I was feeling grumpy — it was a bad time to do it, and I rushed it. It landed badly, and caused someone I care about to feel bad over the weekend. I felt guilty, and it did neither of us any good.

It’s a classic example of bad feedback.

Not long after, I had an idea — could some kind of tool help us give and receive feedback in a better way? It was the start of Feedback Sense Check — a side project which is now live.

A screenshot of Feedback Sense Check

The goal — maintaining a healthy feedback loop

Giving and receiving feedback well is so important. We have a responsibility to develop the people we care about. A healthy feedback loop builds awareness and helps people improve.

As psychologist Adam Grant says:

Withholding feedback is choosing comfort over growth. Staying silent deprives people of the opportunity to learn. In healthy relationships, honesty is an expression of care.

But it’s not easy. When we receive feedback, a flood of neurochemicals activates in the amygdala — the part of our brain where emotions are predominantly processed. This limits our ability to rely on other, higher functioning parts of the brain. It reduces our ability to process information and think logically.

As a result, we can make irrational choices, give or receive feedback poorly, and break the feedback loop.

The goal of Feedback Sense Check is to manage those emotions and maintain a healthy feedback loop.

How it started

In 2022, with this idea in mind, I started sketching ideas.

A diagram about giving and receiving feedback
An early logic flow

I dabbled away on and off for months, in my spare time — I can be a bit obsessive about such things, and enjoy getting stuck into a problem.

After many iterations, I ended up with this logic tree…

A screenshot from Figma showing a logic tree with content

It’s split into two main branches — giving and receiving feedback.

In each one there’s a series of questions about the user’s situation, and, in the end, an output with guidance, based on the answers.

Refining the content

At this point, I reached out for help from the ever wise and kind Simon Meekings, who runs training sessions on feedback. Simon and I paired on the content — with Simon’s input, it improved immeasurably. And Simon should even take credit for this Medium post, as I’ve re-used many of his words. Thank you Simon!

One choice we faced was how to refer to ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ feedback. As Simon said:

‘negative’ and ‘positive’ tend to be avoided when giving feedback, as they’re subjective and perspectives differ. And ‘negative’ can sometimes set someone up with the mindset that a conversation will be negative, eg through body language.

We considered ‘Consider changing’ and ‘Keep doing’. But we weren’t convinced these wouldn’t be easily understood. In the end, usability won out over precision, and we went with ‘Constructive’ and ‘Positive’ — arguably slightly loaded terms, but ones that we felt would be intuitive.

Fun with design

With the content well on the way, I got my creative juices flowing with the visuals. I gathered inspiration and messed around with ideas in Figma. I wanted something very simple, clear and usable — no frills, but a touch of warmth and reassurance.

A screenshot of a design

I created a simple design system…

A screenshot of a simple design system in Figma

The multi-talented Emma Buckee created the illustration below — it brings such a wonderful, warm touch to the visuals. I love it, thanks Emma!

An illustration of a worried person with emotions represented by squiggles above their head

The build — Thriva Maker Day

I sorely lack the skills to actually build a product like this. But then along came an opportunity — Thriva Maker Day. On 9 March, Thriva’s engineers and designers got together in London, split into teams and built cool things. I’d sneaked Feedback Sense Check onto the list of stuff.

A screenshot of a tweet about Thriva’s Maker Day

Our Maker Day team was:

  • Aaron Conway — engineering
  • Alex Callard — engineering
  • Bryony Watson — engineering
  • Ela Tuns — engineering and content
  • Simon Meekings — content
  • me — content and design

Absolute legends. I had such a great day — I learned loads, and spent most of my time looking over people’s shoulders to see how they were piecing it all together.

A photo of our team during Maker Day

For the tech, Aaron chose SvelteKit, which is a Svelte framework, and tailwindcss for styling. Once built, Aaron deployed Feedback Sense Check to Vercel and left the repo public on Github, in case anyone wants to dig into the code.

That evening, each team presented their finished product, and prizes were awarded. Shockingly, we didn’t win — I assume an admin error.

A photo of me giving a presentation on Maker Day

The wonderful Alex Callard deserves an extra mention as the driving force behind Maker Day.

Try Feedback Sense Check!

Feedback Sense Check isn’t complete — we didn’t get around to building the ‘Received feedback’ branch, and there are a few quirks we didn’t iron out. After all, it was coded in just a few hours.

But Aaron’s put it live, and you’re welcome to give it a try.

What do you think?

I’d love to think that someone out there uses Feedback Sense Check. Have you? If so, please let me know — I’m curious to hear if and how it helped in a real world scenario.

The future

Perhaps we’ll come back and build the rest of Feedback Sense Check, learn, iterate, develop a business model, get funding, grow a team, become a unicorn and have a successful IPO exit.

Or perhaps (and more likely) we’ll leave it as is — a free, incomplete, side project that was a fascinating learning experience, fun to build and, hopefully, helps a few folk give better feedback.



Tom Hiskey

Design manager / lead. I care about supporting people, elevating teams, shaping strategy and putting insights at the heart of design.