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Tips on Giving Effective Design Feedback

Design Feedback“Everyone’s a critic” is an adage that rings true for a reason – everyone is indeed a critic and has opinions that are valid. However, just because everyone is a critic doesn’t mean that everyone knows how to give constructive criticism. That is especially true when it comes to critiquing design previews. Many times, non-designers are called upon to provide feedback on a design, whether you’re the owner of a business or a project manager. If you keep a few things in mind the design process will go much more smoothly and ultimately leads to the success of the project as whole through development and launch.

 First things first – website design is not art.

The concept of critiquing art can be daunting. I know that there have been several times where I’ve stood in art museum in front of a piece of modern art and was stumped. I didn’t get it. Instead, I would stand there making appreciative noises and then move on to a section of the museum more my speed. At least in the renaissance section I could identify the figures! Back to web design – a website is a solution meant to achieve a goal whether it is to sell a product or service or just provide information about a business. When you look over a website design you should focus on whether or not it meets the business goals.

Consider your business goals and your end user

When evaluating a design, be sure to look at the overall picture. Is your brand reinforced in the design? Will it meet the goals you set forth for the project? Imagine you are the end user first visiting the site.  Is it clear what the messaging is? Is there a clear path or action for you to take? Are you able to determine what this business provides at first glance? We know design and development, but you know your business. We’re going to take the lead from you to determine what messaging is meaningful for your customers and what is not. The web development process is all about collaboration between our team and yours, and working together from beginning to end will guarantee a successful project.

Don’t worry about feelings

I’ve been working in the web development space for almost ten years now. There are times when a client is going to absolutely hate what I’ve created. It happens – fortunately not often, but it does happen. Don’t worry about my or anyone else’s feelings when giving feedback. We’ve got a thick skin and we’re professional. Our feelings don’t get in the way of the process. By no means is this a pass to be rude, but being honest and forthright will allow us to enter a dialogue on why certain choices were made. We may justify our decisions based on our professional experience, but ultimately if something isn’t working for you, we’ll find a solution that does.

Be specific

There have been several times I’ve received feedback from a client who has said something like, “I don’t like this”, “this doesn’t work” or “it needs something…” without any additional explanation. Feedback like this doesn’t mean anything. Always follow up with specific feedback. For example, “I don’t like this because it’s too busy, or the button gets lost”. This kind of feedback is great because it relates directly to the page and the goals at hand. Being as specific as possible will help the designer make adjustments to the mockup and shorten the whole process in general.

If possible, try to avoid designing by committee

It is impossible to please everyone, which is the core issue with designing by committee. Everyone wants to make changes and have an opinion which more often than not leads to a muddled and confusing user experience. Not to mention anytime a committee is involved the process is typically long and drawn out and ultimately cost-prohibitive. Here is a funny example of design by committee at work. The best approach would be to choose a few trusted people to show each design mockup to and cull feedback from them, in addition to your own impressions.  The final direction and decision making should fall on one person.

Design is subjective. It’s easy to critique something that’s in development – either it works or it doesn’t. When it comes to design it’s hard to overcome the initial gut reaction of “this works, or this doesn’t” to then provide meaningful content. By keeping the above in mind you’ll ensure a smooth process when working with your design team and ultimately a superior end result.

Oh, and one last thing – never say “jazz it up” 🙂


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