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5 tips for giving effective design feedback

Find out how to give objective design feedback that makes your project more successful.

If this is your first time hiring a web design company, giving effective design feedback is going to be a completely foreign concept. It’s surprisingly easy to give poor feedback and find yourself drowning in miscommunications.

Whether you’re hiring an agency or a freelancer, it’s important to understand that how you give feedback is critical to the overall success of the project.

Giving subjective or inaccurate feedback can:

  • confuse and frustrate the design team
  • delay the timeline of the project
  • result in a design that doesn’t help meet your business objectives

Here are 5 tips you can use to give better, more objective feedback during your next web design project:

1. Design Feedback is a Discussion

The best feedback doesn’t come in the form of bulleted list of changes or an email chain with 10 people all trying to share their opinions. The best feedback comes from discussions between your team and the freelancer or company you hired.

The design team you hired should communicate clearly and be able to guide these discussions effectively. Even if they don’t, you can help them by making your feedback less of a bulleted to-do list and more of a conversation about how the changes will help you reach your goals.

Subjective changes are any changes you want just because they match your personal style or preference. It’s easy to forget that the website isn’t for you — it’s for your customers!

  • Can we adjust the colors?
  • Can we make the logo bigger?
  • Can we use a different image?
  • Can we change the fonts?
  • Can we try a different layout?

Before firing off change requests like these, ask questions to find out why these decisions were made in the first place. Find out how the design team thinks they’ll help reach your business goals.

2. Establish a Point of Contact

Web design projects are exciting. It’s easy to feel like everyone on your team should have a chance to share their input and feedback.

In reality, there are likely only 2-3 key decision-makers on any given project. A great strategy for giving clear and effective feedback is to establish a single point of contact on your team.

This person should be responsible for collecting feedback from the key decision-makers and communicating that feedback to the design team you hired. This is perhaps the most effective way to ensure success on your project.

woman sitting on couch

3. Be Objective

When you give design feedback, present the problem instead of recommending a solution. You can’t be too prescriptive. Remember the goals of your project and make sure your feedback aligns with those goals.

Don’t just explain what you like and don’t like.

That type of feedback is highly subjective and using your favorite color won’t help you get more leads or sales.

It’s your designers job to find the best visual solution to the problem within the project parameters. Every design decision should have a specific purpose or reason behind it. If you aren’t sure, just ask! Here’s what you should be hearing in response:

  • We chose these colors because they make your business look more trustworthy
  • We chose these fonts because they make your brand appear more established
  • We chose this layout to maximize conversions

When you show your design team respect and trust them to do their job effectively, you’ll receive high quality work that gets results.

4. Don’t Micro-Manage

When you hire someone to do design work for you, it’s your job to trust them — even if you’ve had bad experiences in the past. Likewise, hiring a team to execute your vision just because you can’t use professional design software is a recipe for disaster. The bigger the project, the bigger the risk.

When you hire someone to do design work for you, it’s your job to trust them.

It’s important to mentally prepare yourself for this before hiring anyone.

Once your down payment has been made, you should expect to hear from them a few times early on while they create the first round of designs. This can take time, but they should be setting expectations for delivery and reviews, not you.

Feeling the need to check in too often is a sign you hired someone you don’t totally trust to do the work, let alone help your business grow.

After the first round of designs is done, they should be checking in about once a week and at each major milestone (upon completion of wireframes, completion of design, development, etc).

The more you contact them, the more time they spend reassuring you everything is ok. This is particularly problematic if you’re hiring a freelancer. That’s more unproductive hours chewing through your budget. If you still have concerns, try to establish better expectations for communication until you’re comfortable.

5. Ask for Clarification

The best way to avoid frustrating and subjective conversation is to simply present your feedback as a question. This leaves the design team in control and forces them to justify their decisions (which they should be perfectly capable of doing).

At the same time, it ensures you don’t come across as being too critical.

For example, let’s say your brand is blue and the designer puts a green button on the screen. Instead of telling them to make the green button blue, ask them why the green button is green in the first place.

You might be surprised to learn that it’s green because green indicates that a positive action will happen when the user clicks the button. Or maybe it’s a button that indicates the user is finishing a workflow or proceeding to checkout. Changing it to blue might actually confuse the user even though it matches your brand better.

Instead of asking them to make the logo bigger, ask them if they think your brand name is visible enough to attract new clients and customers. Don’t be afraid to voice your concerns and ask questions, but do it in a way that’s respectful and objective.

About Matt Olpinski
Matt is the President of Matthew’s Design Co. and teachers thousands of freelancers how to succeed through his personal blog and newsletter.