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5 tips for giving effective design feedback

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

If this is your first time hiring a freelancer, giving design or development feedback is going to be a completely foreign concept. It’s something you’ll never have to do until it’s time for someone else to create your website or app.

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 inaccurate or inappropriate feedback can delay the timeline of the project, confuse the designer (or developer), and result in an inferior final product.

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

1. Feedback Should Be a Discussion

The best feedback doesn’t come from itemized spreadsheets, an email chain with feedback from 20 different people, or a design you marked up demanding changes by end of day. The best feedback comes from discussions between you and the person you hired.

This is all based on clear communication and a freelancer who’s organized and confident enough to guide these discussions intelligently. But even if they don’t initialize the conversation this way, 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.

2. Be Objective

When you give design feedback, try presenting the problem instead of the solution. 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.

It’s the designers job to find the best solution the problem within the project parameters. When you show them respect and give them a sense of ownership, you’ll always receive higher quality work.

3. Don’t Micro-Manage

When you hire someone to do creative work for you, it’s your job to trust them. Once your down payment has been made (you should make a down payment), you can expect to hear from them several times early on while they gather more information. These should be strategic conversations where they collect as much detail about the project as possible.

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.

Then, 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 and the less time they spend actually working on your project. Be respectful of their time and don’t hesitate to establish communication expectations upfront.

4. Avoid Subjectivity

Most clients make the mistake of giving subjective feedback based on their opinion. After all, it’s your project and therefore you’re entitled to have a say in how the fonts, colors, and layout all look or feel or how some of the interactions work.

While, it’s not wrong to have those opinions, it’s your job to trust the person you hire to do their job effectively. They aren’t designing for you. They’re designing for your clients and customers.

It’s the freelancers job to push back when they feel you cross the line, but you can help them out by understanding the care and consideration that goes into every design decision as it pertains to your business goals. That’s why it’s so important to talk about your business at the beginning of the project, rather than haggling over hourly rates.

5. Ask for Clarification

The best way to avoid frustrating and subjective conversations is to simply pose your feedback as a question. This puts the freelancer in the drivers seat and forces them to explain themselves all while making sure you don’t come across as 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 good thing 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 may not match your brand.

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

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.