Design is a beautifully transformative process, filled with creativity and collaboration — though, collaborating can sometimes be the hardest part. It’s easy for things to get lost in translation between a designer and client. We often have different perspectives and, depending on experience level and comfort, may have difficulty communicating. When things get lost in translation, everyone can be left feeling frustrated and detached from the final product. This is why feedback is an essential part of the process.
Feedback provides the designer with insight into the observer's point of view and reveals if their design is progressing in the right direction. Receiving feedback allows designers to pinpoint the areas of concern and identify the problems that need to be solved. This means, the more constructive feedback we get, the more successful the final product will be.
But how does one give constructive feedback?
Tips for giving great feedback:
Recall the objective of the end product
Take a moment to think about the target audience for the design. Who will be using this site or product? As a client, it can be difficult to separate yourself from the design, but it is important to remember the end user. What is their perspective? Why was this product created? Relate your feedback to how something is aligned or misaligned with the project's objective.
Present the problem, not the solution
The client's job during the feedback process is to point out the problem areas to the designer and provide specifics as to why they feel it isn’t working. Sometimes, proposing suggestions can provide the designer with clues as to what you’re hoping to accomplish, but suggestions should not be proposed so that they can be followed directly. A large part of design is problem solving. If you allow your designer the freedom to use their expertise, the final solution will be more effective.
Be as specific as possible
This sounds as if it contradicts the last point, but they are very different. Be specific as to where the problem areas are and why there is an issue. Vague comments like ‘I don't like this’ or ‘It's missing some je ne sais quoi’ do not give the designer the information they need. Making a comment more along the lines of ‘I don't like how busy this is’ helps the designer understand what the problem is, so that they may address it accordingly. This clarity saves time and frustration on both sides, and in turn, saves budget for the rest of the design process, ensuring you end up with a product you love.
Ask lots of questions
Designers spend time on research and exploration to ensure that the design decisions they make are deliberate and meaningful. Asking questions allows the opportunity to explain the rationale behind these decisions. Instead of ‘I don’t like this here’, respond with ‘Why is this located here?’ or ‘Can you explain why this is important?’. This dialogue will give you insight into the designer's thought process, and if a change is still required, you will both be on the same page for the following iteration.
Balance the negatives with positives
The purpose of design feedback is to find a resolution to problem areas of the design. An unfortunate side effect is this means comments tend to focus on only the negative criticisms. This can cast a negative light on the entire design process. When providing design feedback, be sure to point out the areas of the design you like. These positive comments give valuable insight into how the design process should proceed and provide:
a) reassurance, that their assumptions are correct;
b) confidence, to move ahead with the design;
c) and guidance, to influence future decisions.
Positive feedback can be equally as important as negative in informing subsequent design decisions. Not to mention that this can help to cultivate open communication throughout the process.
Poor Feedback Example: "Rethink card layout"
Good Feedback Example: " I think the text is too big compared to event title. I want the date to be more of the focal point"
In the example of poor feedback, the comment 'Rethink card layout' provides no context to the designer to help guide them toward a solution.
The example of good feedback provides a ton of information. It tells us not only that there is a problem, but aIso identifies why this area is an issue. 'I think the text is too big' tells the designer exactly why the design is not pleasing and gives them an idea of where to go next. 'l want the date to be the focal point' tells us why the design missed the mark and what solution will resolve it. This additional context allows the designer to come up with a layout that will please the client and accomplish the goal.
This is how we do it:
Through the years we at Industrial have established the most effective way to gather feedback. We send our clients a PDF containing all of the designs to date. We ask our clients to comment directly in the PDF on the areas that need addressing, allowing us to collect consolidated feedback in a clear and visual way.
We ask our clients to follow a few simple steps:
- Open up the PDF for review.
- Select the comment icon in the Acrobat toolbar.
- Point and click to add a comment box in the desired area.
- Type your comment and post it. If there are multiple people reviewing the same document, sign your name or initials after your comment so it can be easily traced back if clarification is needed.
- As you go through, make comments on different areas of the site. If there is an area that you love, we like to know that too!
- If there is an area that will require some revising, let us know what you think and why you feel it's not working. An explanation or rationale helps us find a solution faster and more effectively.
Save the edited pdf and change the file name to include Comments_’date’ then send it back to us.
- (ex: industrial_webdesign_v1.1_Comments_November29)
- Request a call with your PM if you would like to go over the feedback by phone, video chat or in person.
Feedback does not have to be a painful process. Through clear and open communication clients and designers can work together and achieve glorious results!