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Do You Know How to Give Feedback About Your Website’s Design?

Dave Linabury

By Dave Linabury | December 2016

The Issue

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Who the heck are we designing for?

Last month in his Creative Morning talk, Jeevak Badve, Vice President of Strategic Growth at SundbergFerar said, “if there is one thing that you must take away from this talk it’s this: It’s not about what you want! It’s about what the user wants.”

While this is absolutely true, this idea is often misinterpreted to mean “it’s not what the creative agency wants it’s what the customer wants.” This is true for the design process as well. Let’s get one thing straight; that’s not what this phrase means at all.

At Element5 we do everything within our power to come up with a digital solution that makes our clients happy. Whether it is a beautiful, user-friendly website or a robust marketing strategy, our goal is to always do the right thing for our clients.

However, at the end of the day, our designs don’t reflect what we want nor are they about what our clients want. We design for what our client’s customers want. Whether it be a website or a tweet, everything we do is in an effort to help our client’s help their customers.

While the majority of our clients would agree that their customers are the ones that truly matter, when it comes time to give a design critique, their customers are forgotten. The consequence: the feedback they give, ends up reflecting the client’s personal preferences.

The Agitation

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What is (not) helpful feedback?

So what is helpful feedback? Well first let’s talk about what it is not. When it comes to a design critique or any critique for that matter, designers are mentally prepared to hear critical feedback. Believe it or not, we actually have no problem hearing “I don’t like this….” The problem arises when the feedback ends with a simple “I don’t like this” period. This sort of comment frustrates a designer not because she is offended by your criticism, but because she doesn’t understand “why” you don’t like it. If you don’t supply them with a “why ” then the constructive criticism simply becomes criticism. And really, who likes to be criticized?

Another common aggravation arises when a client gives absolutely no criticism whatsoever and instead says something along the lines of “it looks amazing! or “I love it!” Don’t get us wrong, if you love it, please let us know. However, if you are just giving praise because you think that’s what you should say, or you don’t know what else to say, well it won’t help us to learn what we did right in the end.

In our experience, when we have finally received feedback, it’s usually too late and now your critique is throwing a wrench in the entire project’s timeline. It also feels like a metaphorical slap in the face to the designer who was under the impression that you “loved” her design.

With all this said, we fully understand if you can’t give us feedback right away and frankly we prefer our clients don’t give any during a design critique if it results in either of the above scenarios. We would much rather you take your time to process the review and formulate your feedback in an email you send us a few days later.

The Solution

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What is the best way to give a design critique?

So, we have finally come to the million dollar question. How the heck do you give productive feedback that doesn’t leave you or the designer wanting to pull your hair out? Well fear not, here are four tried and true methods we suggest always trying to follow:

  1.  Take your time. If you don’t feel comfortable giving feedback during the meeting, say so. It is much better to take another day or two to review the design on your own time instead of saying the first thing that comes to mind.
  1. Don’t assume anything. It is always better to ask, then assume what you think is accurate. No question is a bad question.
  1. Ask a question instead of voicing a snap judgment. Asking questions about the design will allow the designer to explain her thought process. Believe us, a designer will have an explanation for every aspect of her design. Here are a few examples of questions that will not only allow you to dive deeper into the design, but it will give a designer the chance to explain her thought process.

How is this design portraying the tone we had originally discussed at the beginning of the project that describes my company?

Does the hierarchy of content make sense?

Why did you choose to use an accent color here?

             Or simply ask: What was your rationale for (you fill in the blank)?

  1. Practice makes perfect. Giving good, constructive criticism is a skill that takes time to develop. However, if you start with the right intentions, you’ll never stray far from the mark.

At the end of the day, it does really come down to, “it’s not about what you want, it’s about what your users want.” So, if you can remember this, you will be good as gold for you next critique.

Are you interested in learning more about design? Check out this blog post we wrote on understanding the colors behind your website, or this other one here about how your killer design could actually be killing our website!

Are you tired of reading and just want to get in touch with us about creating a beautiful website? Say hi here.

Dave Linabury

Written by

Dave Linabury

Dave has over 20 years of experience in strategy, branding and user experience. He excels at ensuring our clients’ marketing aligns with their business goals.

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