Monday, April 12, 2021

9 Tips to Getting Better Design Feedback

As a project man­ag­er, I’ve learned that almost noth­ing can impact a bud­get quick­er than iter­a­tive cre­ative design. After all, we do this type of work every day, but our clients may only work on these types of projects once every few years. This can, unfor­tu­nate­ly, lead to unnec­es­sary feed­back loops, lack of align­ment on design direc­tion, and delays in timelines.

Yet with some sim­ple coach­ing and guid­ance, get­ting time­ly, thought­ful, and action­able feed­back should be a breeze. Below are 9 of my favorite tips I’ve com­piled over the years to help achieve this goal. This not only sets our agency and project up for suc­cess, but it also ensures our clients are hap­py and feel heard.

1: Clear­ly iden­ti­fy busi­ness goals #

Hav­ing clear­ly iden­ti­fied goals and objec­tives can act as a north star for your project. Some­times I find that clients want to explore dif­fer­ent ideas and direc­tions that don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly relate back to the core goals of a project. And while there’s noth­ing inher­ent­ly wrong with that, how might it impact the bud­get or the time­line? If it’s a prob­lem, you can always point back to the core goals and let your client know we don’t need to explore cus­tom avatar design for the meet the team page because this is an ecom­merce store, as an exam­ple. Let’s focus on putting time and effort into the shop­ping experience.”

2: Invite all client stake­hold­ers to par­tic­i­pate in the cre­ative Dis­cov­ery process #

The Dis­cov­ery process is a meet­ing of the minds that allows the col­lec­tive group to peel back the lay­ers and dis­cov­er the true project objec­tives, chal­lenges, and desired out­comes. This is the time where all par­ties are heard (espe­cial­ly stake­hold­ers who may not be con­sult­ed again) and aligns every­one on the goals and pri­or­i­ties. Every­one has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to weigh in and offer their pain points ear­ly, and start to shed light on their cre­ative preferences.

Addi­tion­al­ly, this gives the cre­ative team the chance to dig in and explore these cre­ative pref­er­ences and gets every­one speak­ing the same lan­guage. For exam­ple, if the client says they want a clean and mod­ern” design, the cre­ative team can ask insight­ful ques­tions to ensure they know what the client means by clean and modern”.

For more about the Dis­cov­ery process and the exer­cis­es we use to keep con­ver­sa­tions mov­ing, read our arti­cle about Discovery.

3: Get client buy-in on a detailed project time­line #

First, make sure you know what is dri­ving a client’s desired time­line. Is it a prod­uct launch or a major event? Is is a nice-to-have by this date?” Share a detailed time­line with the client before kick­ing off the project to ensure it aligns with their expec­ta­tions. Thor­ough time­lines should inte­grate each step of the work­flow, from inter­nal and client kick­offs, all the way through to final deliv­ery of mate­ri­als or post-launch sup­port. Be sure to clear­ly state when client feed­back is due and how it will impact the time­line if it’s missed.

Set­ting clear expec­ta­tions at the onset of a project helps align every­one towards a com­mon goal and keeps the teams focused each step of the way. You’ll be less like­ly to receive stag­gered or late feed­back from stake­hold­ers when the client is aware of the expec­ta­tions, mile­stones, and the impact of delays.

4: Deter­mine one client point of con­tact to be the project own­er #

This will be your day to day con­tact to help the project along. Prefer­ably, this per­son is one of the pri­ma­ry deci­sion-mak­ers. If you can swing it, put it in your con­tract that this is the per­son who has the author­i­ty to sign off on designs. If this isn’t the case, make sure that you under­stand the approval process with­in your client’s orga­ni­za­tion so you don’t get stuck lat­er wait­ing for an unknown stake­hold­er to pro­vide feed­back or approvals.

The client project own­er should solic­it feed­back from the pri­ma­ry deci­sion-mak­ers and pro­vide con­sol­i­dat­ed feed­back to the agency, whether it be a marked-up doc­u­ment, an email, com­ments direct­ly on the deliv­er­able, etc…

Con­sol­i­dat­ing the feed­back gives the client project own­er the oppor­tu­ni­ty to resolve con­flict­ing com­ments received by the larg­er stake­hold­er team and/​or seek clar­i­fi­ca­tion pri­or to pro­vid­ing feed­back to the agency. In the sce­nario that the feed­back trick­les in, remind the client how many revi­sions are includ­ed in the SOW. Late or last-minute feed­back will impact the final deliv­ery date and budget.

Make it easy for this client project own­er to gath­er and pro­vide their feed­back. At Oomph, we cur­rent­ly like to use Adobe XD because it allows our clients to add pins to spe­cif­ic areas of the design where they have feed­back and then pro­vide a writ­ten descrip­tion of what they like or don’t like about it.

5: Always present designs in per­son or over video #

See­ing a person’s non-ver­bal expres­sions is impor­tant to help catch any sub­tleties or thoughts a client may not feel com­fort­able putting into words, for fear of offend­ing the design team. We encour­age all feed­back. This is the time that mat­ters most, so it’s not about feel­ing like the client has to like what we cre­ate, it’s about being con­struc­tive and work­ing togeth­er to get the best pos­si­ble outcome!

A meet­ing also helps to ensure aes­thet­ics and cre­ative think­ing can be shared with the client, and enables the cre­ative team to get quick feed­back and thoughts. Fur­ther, a meet­ing helps the client project own­er relay the design team’s deci­sion-mak­ing process to the rest of their team. They become an advo­cate for the design when show­ing it to others.

Give the client the option to dis­cuss their feed­back in a fol­low-up meet­ing or call, or proac­tive­ly sched­ule a fol­low-up meet­ing if their feed­back isn’t clear. Be sure to have tar­get­ed ques­tions pre­pared to help guide the conversation.

6: Ask for neg­a­tive feed­back dur­ing cre­ative reviews #

Have you ever had a client that only has pos­i­tive things to say about the designs? I’m sure your design team is good, but are they real­ly that good? This can be a major red flag (par­tic­u­lar­ly in ear­ly rounds) that either the client doesn’t know how or feel com­fort­able giv­ing your team con­struc­tive feed­back, even if it might be neg­a­tive, and could even­tu­al­ly lead to a qui­et­ly unhap­py client.

If you find your­self in this sit­u­a­tion, ask the client, If you had to change at least one thing about this design, what would you change?” It may even help if the project man­ag­er or some­one else on the team starts to poke some holes in the design to spark con­ver­sa­tion. Ulti­mate­ly this may set the client at ease and help them to appre­ci­ate that we want and val­ue their com­ments. The more com­mu­ni­ca­tion and men­tor­ing between the agency and client, the less room there is for ambi­gu­i­ty and misunderstanding.

7: Help the client focus their atten­tion by stag­ger­ing cre­ative deliv­er­ables #

Deliv­er a few cre­ative com­po­nents or pages to the client at a time. This enables the client to give their undi­vid­ed atten­tion to a hand­ful of items instead of being over­whelmed by too many things to review at once. For exam­ple, when design­ing a web­site, we like to deliv­er 2 – 3 wire­frames instead of the entire web­site at once. The same con­cept can be applied to copy and design. The client may get hung up on a design ele­ment such as a but­ton and com­plete­ly miss the call to action language.

As a bonus, you’ll be able to apply the feed­back received to future deliv­er­ables mov­ing forward.

8: The final prod­uct is the final design #

This might be the most impor­tant tip. Some­times clients get caught up in the minute details of a design deliv­er­able. What they may not real­ize is that these details are sub­ject to change in the devel­op­ment process — the design is a guide, but it is not the final prod­uct. Clients need to be edu­cat­ed that the final prod­uct is the final design.

What I mean by that is the final prod­uct will not be a pix­el-per­fect repli­ca of the design files. Some aspects of the design may be a bit com­pli­cat­ed to imple­ment and so we leave it to our UX engi­neers to make the best use of the bud­get when imple­ment­ing the design. Also, a design file is flat and lacks inter­ac­tiv­i­ty. Once you can see it come to life on a web­site or app, we will need to apply sub­tle changes that enhance the user expe­ri­ence. This is when we can work out some of the minu­ti­ae of spac­ing, hov­er inter­ac­tions, or what some­thing real­ly feels like once you have real con­tent in place.

9: Stay agile #

As the project pro­gress­es, deliv­er­ables or require­ments may change. If new high-val­ue deliv­er­ables are iden­ti­fied, work with your client to add more bud­get or adjust the scope of the project to depri­or­i­tize less impact­ful work. Ulti­mate­ly, it’s our goal to pro­vide clients and their end-users with the best pos­si­ble prod­uct we can cre­ate for their budget.

These nine tips are part of the frame­work we use to keep com­mu­ni­ca­tion flow­ing, move projects along their track, and build trust­ing rela­tion­ships as we move from UX and design into devel­op­ment. We have found suc­cess with clients that have visu­al­ly savvy mar­ket­ing teams, but more impor­tant­ly, we have found great suc­cess with teams that only approach a design project once in a while. Set­ting the right expec­ta­tions ear­ly, mak­ing sure the right stake­hold­ers are at the table, prob­ing for mean­ing­ful feed­back, stay­ing nim­ble, and advo­cat­ing for the end-users will always be a suc­cess­ful recipe for out­stand­ing outcomes.