Client feedback is one of the most important parts of any design process. In fact, it might be the most important part.
That’s why most designers make a point to ask for feedback early and often.
As a web designer, my process looks something like this: mockups, feedback, revisions, feedback, test site, feedback. You get the idea…
Feedback is an opportunity for me to check in with you, the client. To hear your opinions. To make sure you’re happy. To keep us both on the same page. And to make sure the project is heading in the right direction.
I would love to lock myself in a room with my computer and come out with a perfect website. But that’s not realistic. Great design isn’t created in a bubble.
No matter how experienced or talented a designer is, collaboration is necessary. Effective feedback can turn a good design into a great design.
But how do you give good design feedback?
Knowing how to provide effective feedback is the key to getting your designer to understand your wants and needs.
This can feel difficult for non-designers because they don’t know what to say or how to say it. But it’s not that hard, I promise. In fact, if design feedback is difficult, you’re doing it wrong.
A few simple guidelines is all it takes to craft great design feedback. Whether you communicate in person, over the phone, or via email, these tips will ensure that your designer understands your needs so you get the website you deserve.
1. Be Specific
One of the worst things you can do is be vague with your design feedback. Ambiguous phrases like “make it pop” or “it’s too bland” are difficult to interpret.
Design is subjective. What “pops” to you and what “pops” to your designer could be two different things. You might think “pop” means brighter colors. I might think “pop” means bigger and bolder fonts. Do you see how this can cause problems?
Don’t expect your designer to know what you mean.
Be specific so they don’t have to guess. Tell your designer exactly what you like and don’t like about the website. Is it the font? The colors? The imagery?
Specific language is harder to misinterpret. Your designer is more likely to understand your concerns if you can point out exactly what’s bothering you.
Bad Feedback: It needs more pop.
Good Feedback: The colors might be a bit muted for our young audience. A brighter color scheme might appeal to them and be more on brand.
2. Don’t Micro-manage
This might sound like I’m contradicting my last point, but I promise I’m not.
It’s one thing to share your opinions. It’s another thing to tell your designer exactly what to do.
You hire a designer for their expertise–they know a few things that you don’t. So it’s in your best interest to ask their opinions and take their suggestions.
So how do you give a specific critique without micro-managing your designer?
Present your designer with the problem, not just the solution.
Telling your designer to “make the title bigger” doesn’t give them any context. Your designer has no understanding of the problem. They know that you want the title to be bigger. But they don’t know why you want it to be bigger.
By presenting your designer with the problem, they can understand the why. When they understand the why, they can suggest solutions that you may not have thought of.
Maybe you want the title to be bigger because it’s too small to read. In this case, making it bigger is probably the best solution.
But what if the problem is that it doesn’t stand out from the rest of the text on the page? In this case, there are many solutions: make the font bigger, use a different font, change the color, create white space around the title, etc.
“Make the title bigger,” isn’t the only solution to this problem. And it might not be the best solution, either.
Tell your designer about the problem you’re having, and trust them to fix it. It’s okay to offer a solution. Just be sure to explain the problem as well so your designer has the chance to weigh in on the decision.
Bad Feedback: Can you make the title bigger?
Good Feedback: I’m worried that people won’t be able to distinguish the title from the rest of the text on the page. How can we put more emphasis on it?
3. Give Examples
You’re not a designer, so it can be difficult to express your opinions about design. I get it.
But you don’t have to know design lingo to talk about design. If you’re having a hard time finding the right words, use visual examples to illustrate your point.
I love when clients send me links to other websites. Not because I want to copy those sites, but because it gives me a visual reference instead of a vague description that I could misinterpret.
This happened recently with a client asked about creating “clickable expanding text boxes.” I was pretty sure I knew what he was talking about, but I asked for an example just to be safe. “Like you have on your FAQs,” he said.
This example was helpful for several reasons.
For one, I was able to tell my client that those “clickable expanding text boxes” are called accordions. Now that he knows the proper term, and we can talk about them without confusion.
Secondly, getting a visual reference ensured that I didn’t make the wrong revisions to that site. Had I not asked for an example, I could have wasted my time and the client’s money. Not to mention, I would have caused us both a bit of frustration.
So don’t be afraid to use your resources. Your designer will thank you for providing screenshots and links as an example.
Bad Feedback: This isn’t what I imagined “bold and trendy” would look like.
Good Feedback: This isn’t what I imagined “bold and trendy” would look like. Here’s an example of what I had in mind. The large type and lots of white space on this site is in line with my vision.
4. Keep it Balanced
When asked for feedback, people have a tendency to focus only on the negatives.
I think this is because most people view design feedback as a chance to make corrections. So if something doesn’t need correcting, they don’t bother mentioning it.
Don’t get me wrong, negative feedback is extremely important. But positive feedback is important to.
Positive feedback gives your designer concrete examples of what is working so they can continue to move in the right direction. This actually makes it easier to address the negative feedback.
Aside from that, people just like to receive compliments. Giving your designer positive feedback every now and again is an easy way to keep your working relationship healthy.
Good Feedback: It took me a while to notice the call to action. Can we try to make this more visible?
Better Feedback: The overall layout is clean and easy to navigate. However, it took me a while to notice the call to action. Can we try to make this more visible on the page?
5. Ask Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Feedback should be an open discussion, not just a list of changes that you send off to your designer. Asking thoughtful questions creates a dialogue.
I’ve heard clients say that they don’t ask questions because they don’t want to annoy the designer. In reality, it’s the exact opposite.
When it comes to design feedback, there are no stupid or annoying questions. Asking questions shows the designer that you value their opinion and that you’re invested in the project.
If you don’t understand something that your designer did, ask them about it. This gives them the opportunity to explain the rationale behind their design choices. You’ll understand things better as a result, and they’ll appreciate your interest.
Bad Feedback: *crickets*
Good Feedback: I’m used to seeing websites with the menu at the top of the page. Is there a reason you chose to put it on the left?
6. Don’t Make it About You
It’s easy to get caught up in what you like and what you don’t like. It’s important to remember that your website isn’t about you, it’s about your business.
(Unless you’re making a personal website. Then it’s kind of about you.)
This sounds harsh, but it doesn’t matter if you like it. What matters is if your audience likes it. And if it meets the goals we discussed at the beginning of the project.
Try to put your personal tastes aside.
Bad Feedback: I don’t like that font. Can we change it?
Good Feedback: The font seems playful, but our audience is middle-aged and mature. Is this the best choice?
7. Play Nice
I’d be over the moon if you loved the design so much that you didn’t want to change a thing. Realistically, though, that doesn’t happen often.
Designers are used to receiving feedback. A little criticism won’t hurt our feelings as long as it’s direct and honest. You should feel comfortable sharing both positive and negative design feedback.
That said, don’t forget that designers are people too. Opening your work up to feedback is a vulnerable process, even for professionals.
Be thoughtful about the way you frame your design feedback. Make sure the feedback is about the design, not the designer. An easy way to do this is avoid using “you” in your design feedback.
Constructive criticism is helpful. Personal insults are hurtful. Just don’t be a jerk, and everyone will be happy.
Bad Feedback: Where you put the social media icons doesn’t make any sense.
Good Feedback: The placement of the social media icons was confusing to me. I’m used to seeing them in the footer. Is this the best place for them?