A Design Feedback Process That Works

May 5, 2017 by Anubhav Tiwari

You’ve prepared your final design and sent it to the client for review. You expect that they’ll request a couple of tweaks here and there before they approve it. Instead, what they say is, “This is not looking good,” or “This is not what we wanted.”

This can be heartbreaking, and you might start to question yourself: what is not looking good? Do the colors look off? Is it the icon set? The fonts used? Or the combination of the elements that’s been put together? What do I do now?

The challenge with feedback like this is that the designer still has no clue as to what the client wants. So how does one modify anything, or move ahead from here to create the design that best accompanies the company’s marketing services?

The reality is, in design, such feedback should not be a surprise. Since aesthetics is something subjective, where everybody feels they have a say, it becomes very difficult to arrive at a design that works!

The key to overcoming this is improving your design feedback process. You need to arrive at a process that will get you meaningful and actionable design feedback, and will help you improve your design. I am listing below a few pointers which will help you sharpen your design feedback process:

Don’t Assume, Ask!

Remember, you are designing for the end users. And despite aesthetic appeal, your design is not ‘good’ if it does not solve the problem of the end user. 

Do not assume anything while you are taking feedback from the client. Do not hesitate to clarify even the smallest doubt in your mind. In most cases, assumptions lead to disaster.

So… ask!

Ask the Right Questions

Getting meaningful feedback is all about asking the right questions. These questions should lead you to precise answers that in turn help you make the right design decisions. Here are a few questions you should not miss:

  • Try to understand the client’s aesthetic sensibilities: Can you share some examples of designs which you like, and tell us why you like them?

  • Discuss the end user’s persona: Who is the end user of the design? How can I change the design to help the end user?

  • Get into the specifics of the design: Clients should get involved in the design process if they are the ones to give final approval. Ask them to be critical about the existing design. What are the elements they like? Why? What could be removed to make this more simple?

  • Understand their doubts: Which design choices/elements are unclear or confusing? Please define what you mean by unclear.

  • Get into colors and fonts, and show some examples: Is there any specific color you do not like and why? What element don’t you like? Is it the type style, the color, the spacing?

Discuss Design Goals

The purpose of design is not just improving aesthetic appeal, but also solving the business problem. So the design briefing, as well as the feedback session, should talk about:

  • the feelings and emotions the design should evoke
  • the expected business ROI of the design
  • expected engagement, conversion, average session duration, and other metrics that the client might want to track

Using these answers, try to strike a balance between aesthetics and business goals.
Design Goals
Image source: http://ui-patterns.com/

Support Your Decisions with Data and Research

While talking to the client, you can’t have vague logic backing up your design. Be precise and ready with the data to support your design choices. Do your homework and don’t leave anything to chance.

Example: “We have chosen the red color for this button because the A/B testing of your existing website suggests that people click 10% more times if the color is red.”

Learn the Art of Saying NO

Don’t say yes to everything that the client asks for. If there is something that cannot be done within the current scope of the project, say NO and give reasons. If there are certain design elements that the client suggests which are not supported by logic or data, say NO.

Say no to everything which is not meeting the end goal of your client, their business, and the end user. Example: “We should not change the design of this section. We should leave it for the users to decide. We should go live with this and see how the user behaves, and gather some data before making any changes.”

Be Empathetic

While taking the feedback, step into the shoes of your clients. You will be able to connect with their demands and feedback quicker.

Limit the Options

Clients can ask for anything under the sun. But not every request is valid and you can’t work on everything within the given time period. You should try to narrow down the choices by presenting 2-3 design options. This will help you achieve your desired goals faster.

Be Time Bound

We all know that it is important to estimate the time and effort required before we start a design project. But it is difficult to estimate how much time will be spent in taking feedback and completing iterations. The client may never want to close the project and keep suggesting tiny changes in an effort to make the design perfect. But you should know that there is no such thing as a perfect design that pleases everyone equally. It’s best to raise the flag and initiate a discussion on taking the design live if you feel the iterations are going on indefinitely. If you follow other pointers in this blog, such a situation is less likely to arise.

Discuss timelines with the client to streamline the iteration process so that it remains a time bound project.

Learn How to Convince People

It is important that you present your design with conviction and back your design with data.

If you are not convinced about your design, the client is never going to approve it. Discuss the logic behind each design decision, showcase supporting data, and convince the client of the reasons why you think it is going to work.

Note: Convincing does not mean that you become adamant, and refuse to accept and acknowledge legitimate concerns and feedback.

Give the Client Time

Your client is not a design professional. They may not be able to give you the best feedback in the first go. So have patience and let them think it through. Facilitate them with stories, links, logic, examples, and data to help them take a call.

Communicate and Communicate Often

The right amount of communication is important. Necessary and timely feedback is critical to get everything right and as desired. So be sure to communicate at regular intervals so that you and your client are on the same page.

Tool Tip: You can use these tools to collaborate and to take feedback: Slack, Invision, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Google Docs

The design feedback process can be very tedious if you do not plan in advance. To prevent the project from spilling over the established timelines, you must figure out a process which helps you achieve the project goals in time, without compromising on the quality of work. In most cases, clients may not know the right way to give constructive feedback. So be prepared with examples, data, and research to help them through this process.

Do you feel the pointers in this blog will help you in developing a design feedback process?

Do you have some other pointers to share that might help us take better client feedback?

Let us know in the comments below.