10 Tips for Collecting More Meaningful Design Feedback From Your Clients

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Jami Oetting
Jami Oetting



When we ask for a review of a design or a project, we typically send over emails that read like this:

“I finished up this design last night. What do you think?”

It’s no wonder we are met with confusing, misdirected, and frustrating commentary on the colors, fonts, imagery, layout, etc., when all we really wanted to know what whether the copy worked. Without instruction, people have no lens through which to review the project. So they simply state what comes to mind -- their personal opinion of the project.

This is especially true when you ask for a variety of opinions -- whether that is from within your agency or if you are asking for feedback from the client team.

A diversity of opinions helps you become a better creative, and you need this insight from your client: They know their customers and prospects better than you ever could. Plus, they are the final decision-maker, so their opinion is arguably the most important one. 

Refining your feedback process will help you to gather more constructive, useful commentary, and in the end, you'll create a piece that is clear, compelling, and relevant.

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1) State the goal of the project

Feedback shouldn’t just be about the aesthetics of a design or how entertaining a blog post is. It needs to solve a problem or service an end-goal. Include a summary of the project that includes:

  • The target audience
  • The problem this project is meant to solve
  • The desired action viewers should take after seeing the project
  • The emotion the project should evoke
  • What can’t be change

This will help people to buy into your approach and the creative solution to the problem, such as low conversions or high bounce rate. Once everyone is one the same page, it will be much easier to talk constructively about what works and what doesn’t.

2) Control the environment - Use a Project Managment tool

Email is a terrible way to ask for feedback, especially if you are sending out a visual. The best-case scenario is being able to present a project in front of the client or your team members, but if this isn’t possible, use a creative collaboration platform or project management tool. With many of these tools, viewers can add notes or draw directly on the project. All feedback is then centralized and organized for you to consider as you begin to make revisions.

3) Limit the options

Too many options can create confusion among your reviewers, causing them to become overwhelmed and resort to emotional responses. If you need to, present two to three different options and highlight how they are different and why they will solve the main problem in a distinct way.

4) Provide data to support your design decisions

There are certain types of people who will be more interested in how the site performs than in how it looks or why a certain design element was included. Prior to presenting a design solution, consider running user testing with one of these usability tools. If you can support your decisions based on improved user experience, performance, conversions, and feedback from the target audience, you’ll have an easier time convincing the client that your design is the right design.

5) Present the design as a part of the bigger marketing plan

If you are presenting a part of a campaign, connect it to other elements. Will this be the final email in a workflow? How will people get to this landing page? If it is a website design, create mockups with working links that show how a person will interact with the site. The client will appreciate the design more if you can mimic the experience their customers and prospects will have.

6) Ask specific questions

To get actionable feedback that goes beyond the “I like it” or “I don’t like it”, ask questions that will provide you with insights into why the design doesn’t impress the client or why they think changes are necessary. Here are a few sample questions to get you started:

  • What is memorable about the design?
  • What type of person would this design appeal to?
  • At what point did you get “bored” or feel uninterested?
  • What could be removed to make this more simple?
  • What features are missing that are absolutely necessary?
  • What is unclear or confusing?
  • What problem do you think this design solves?

7) Give people the time to consider and process the idea

For many of us, we need time to consider the alternatives and really think through a project. Ask for feedback, but give people a few days to discuss the project and provide thoughtful feedback. Not everyone thrives on spur-of-the-moment brainstorming and problem solving.

8) Instill confidence in your client

Presenting in front of a group of people can be intimidating enough. Presenting your own work in front of your peers or the client team is called a horror movie in the minds of most creatives.

But you can’t go into a client presentation without a plan for what you will say and how you will say. You need to exude confidence and command of the project; otherwise, your viewers will lack trust in you and your decisions. Your posture, tone of voice, eye contact, the way you move your hands -- these are all read and interpreted as signals by viewers. Practice your presentation, and learn how to connect with your viewers to receive positive feedback and buy-in on the project.

9) Ask why? Keep asking it again and again

Your clients are not design professionals. They don’t always have the language to describe why they don’t like something or why they want something to change. Before you simply start changing colors and making the logo bigger, dig deeper into the feedback. Continue asking “why?” until you can figure out the real reason they provided negative or conflicting feedback.

10) Provide multiple opportunities for feedback

Feedback issues can occur when a client feels that a design is completely unlike what they had originally envisioned. Prevent this by implementing points for regular feedback and collaboration. Present and get approval on moodboards, wireframes, and small sections of the design prior to presenting a final product. This way, the client can claim ownership in the final product, making her feel that her opinions are welcomed and useful. The client will be much more likely to present the work to her boss and secure buy-in when she feels a part of the process.

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Topics: Design Trends

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