Time to read: 8 minutes.
With every design and creative job there are a number of points throughout the process where you as a client will give me feedback on my work.
Whether it’s initial concepts, design or brand identity development, templates in a browser, or checking over a final website build, there will be something to check and feed back on.
This can often be the point in a project where things drag. Either the time it takes to pull together feedback, or the ever-growing back-and-forth of creative minutia.
In an attempt to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of this part of the process I have put together some handy hints, so we can both get the most out of these crucial stages.
Stakeholders, or anybody that gets a say when it comes to signing things off should be involved in the project from the outset.
This saves your boss striding in at the last moment on our go-live day and saying “no, I don’t like any of the colours. Can you change them please?”
So before the feedback even starts, we should be clear on who will be giving feedback.
Include All The Stakeholders And Collect It Up
In the same respect, when you are required to send me feedback, please make sure you gather feedback from *everybody* who has a say in the project *before* you send it to me.
This way, I’m not getting lots of bits of feedback one after another, and any feedback with contradicting views can be addressed, before I implement it (and subsequently have to revert changes).
Take A Step Back
Generally projects will involve a couple of rounds of feedback at most key stages, but if we end up going beyond that and having lengthy back-and-forth conversations about the minutiae of something, it’s worth taking a step back.
Step back and take a look at the context. Rationalise the importance of what we’re discussing, and consider its importance to the user.
You may find that our discussion on whether we’re using a 1 pixel line or a 2 pixel line becomes incredibly petty in the end.
Consider The User
As with everything linked to the design process - the user should be forefront in your mind when feeding back.
Whether or not *you* like the blue I’ve used is almost irrelevant. The real question is does your *user* like the blue? How does it make *them* feel?
As hard as it may be to remove yoursel from the equasion, I highly recommend keeing that in mind for context.
One of my first challenges as an agency designer was being thrust in front of the client and challenged on things I had thought were rudimentary.
“Why did you use those colours?” “Why did you chose that font?” or “Why is that higher up the page?”
The first time it happened, I was sweating, I had no answers, and mostly stuttered “I think those are your brand colours”, “I liked that font” or “it seemed to fit that way”.
After that first time, it did not happen again - I learned a hard lesson about justifying design decisions.
As a result - I have come to learn that almost every single decisison I make as a designer needs to be justifiable (and more often than not, linked to the user).
So I ask, that instead of wasting time questioning why I’ve made the text a certain size, or put the content in a certain order - just trust that after spending over 10 years making design decisions and justifying them, that I have good reason for everything I’m showing you.
Sure, we can discuss the merits of the type size, default styling, resolution and anything else you like, but let’s make sure it doesn’t get in the way of our feedback sessions.
Generally I'll present you with one design to view and feed back on.
When I design for clients, I may work on a number of options and variations - but I will almost always only present you with a single option.
That one option will be my suggested design. The most effective solution to your problem.
You may be keen to ask me for variations. "Can we see it with 3 different colours?" for example.
The problem here is that I've chosen the current colour for a reason, and selecting 3 more colour options to try needs to be justified well, since just "trying" them out for the sake of it is not productive, nor gives us any justification when we select a new one.
The other problem that arises with showing you multiple options or variations is that 99% of the time you will like elements from all of them, and want to combine things.
This only leads to a cluttered Frankenstein's Monster of a design, and almost always ends up coming out worse than had we just gone with a single option to develop.
For Website Design
When we’re looking at website design specifically, there are some things to consider.
Firstly, consider that the website will be responsive, and be aware that despite getting a static image you’ll be looking at a site that can expand and contract to a screen or browser’s width appropriately.
Some concessions will have been made to account for that in future.
Secondly consider that the website will be dynamic in nature - some things will have interactions, hover-states, movement and so on.
You may also notice things like widget functionality is lacking too. Comments area or share buttons may change in appearance based on the plugins that we end up using, so they may be unstyled placeholders.
Copy/Content Changes On Website Designs
The content you see (images & text most likley) may be subject to change. It will possibly be dummy content, so may not completely reflect the true nature of the final site visually. You can combat this by making sure I have the content as early in the process as possible.
With this in mind, if one of your feedback items is to ask me to change the spelling of something - it may not be worth the effort. Especially if you’re going to end up getting an admin or CMS (Content Management System), where you can make text and content changes yourself.
At least hold off on making changes to things like spelling and wording till the build stage, since those changes are far easier done in the code, than on the images.
For Brand Identity & Logo Designs
When you look at possible logo designs that I’ve sent over, there are a few things worth doing.
Try printing out the logos and looking at them in print. This will give you an idea of how they feel in real life (not just on screen).
If you have the time, live with them for a while - stick them on the wall. How do you feel about it after a day or two? Noticed anything you didn’t catch on first glance? What about upside down?
Zoom in and out on the screen - It’s important to make sure the logos hold up at smaller and larger sizes. Consider how small the logo may end up appearing at the top of a site, or in a social media profile picture.
Think about elements in the logo and how they may end up being used elsewhere in the branding. Angles, letters, colours and such can be echoed out across other mediums and applications.
A logo should work in a single colour, however remember the logo *can* be coloured or even white on a pattern (or photo), not just a single colour all the time.
Make sure you think about all the possible different places the logo may appear, from avatars to business cards, letter-heads to the website. Will there be a way to get the logo working in all these situations?
How does the logo sit with other logos you like? Does it feel "up to par"?
Look at the logo for 20-30 seconds and then try to draw it from memory without looking - a good logo should make that possible in a fairly short time.
For Website Build
When it comes to the build of a website, you will want to test this in a number of ways.
Firstly, you will want to check the site in a number of web browsers.
Then you’ll want to check it on any mobile devices you have (and perhaps other browsers on those!)
Providing Me With Detail
When you send me an email that says “Hi Alex, the site looks a bit odd in Firefox, can you fix it please?” I guarantee you’ll get a reply asking for more detail.
Usually when something doesn’t work - it’s down to a unique combination of elements. Things like the screen size, the browser type, the browser version, the operating system you’re using and much more.
If you can’t find or don’t know all of this, then there are very useful sites you can use to send me this information. Just visit them with the browser you’re seeing the problem in, and you can send me the info I’ll need:
If you’re struggling to communicate an idea, a design or something else, it helps to get visual.
As a designer and creative, I often find seeing sketches, mockups or visuals helps to instill an idea or help along a suggestion.
Don’t be afraid to get a bit of paper and a pen and sketch what you’re talking about.
And “I’m not very good at drawing” doesn’t work as an excuse. You don’t need to be - all you need to do is try. I have had the worst drawers and illustrators communicate ideas very effectively this way - your skill as a draughtsman is irrelevant.
If you’re really struggling - why not crack out Microsoft Paint, or try laying it out in Powerpoint? I don’t mind as long as I can open the file.
The Actual Feedback
When it comes to sending me the actual feedback - the best format is a bulleted or numbered list, via email, with any images or references attached (or linked to)
This is simple, and allows me to address each issue separately. It also allows me to keep track of issues, instead of speaking to you on the phone or Skype, where I may not be able to write them all down at the time.
It also means I can reply with structure too, and address each of your points with the solution.