Giving your web designer feedback: A how-not-to guide
Feedback. Criticism. Appraisal.
Call it what you want, we all need to give and receive it from time to time.
If you’re working with a web designer, web developer or brand consultant and you’re starting to get your designs through, you’re at the stage where you need to start giving it.
Now, I’ve had my share of feedback in my time and having spoken to a number of my designer and developer friends, there often comes a theme.
And I’m letting the World know about it here because it really needs to stop, and, World, you gots to know why.
Gemma’s feedback tip of the motherfuckin’ century…
Don’t give feedback that is, or is very close to one of the following:
1. It doesn’t “pop”.
2. It doesn’t sing to me.
3. I’m not feeling it.
Newsflash! What makes you “pop” might not necessarily make your designer “pop”.
Yes, this is something we hear a lot. And we’re not complete idiots, we know that you mean “it’s not quite where I expect it to be”. But when you give us feedback like that without clarifying what it precisely is that doesn’t “sing to you”, we’re left at a bit of a loose end.
Just take a little journey with me for a second (and this may have happened to you already, in which case you’ll know what it feels like).
Imagine that you have done some awesomeballs work, let’s say you’re a writer. You had a great consultation with your client, your initial ideas on the notes for the copy that you sent over were great. You have fabulous rapport and you’re basically saying to all your friends and family, “OMG! I’ve found them!! THE BEST CLIENT EVER! S/he’s amaaaaaazing, and they love my ideas, and I’ve got so many brilliant insights into the business and they’re completely in line with my target market! I’m totally bringing my A-game for this badboy! Eeeeep!”
You have crafted a witty, hilarious, yet thought-provoking piece on the emancipation of goats in Outer Mongolia, resplendent with allusions to the lyrics of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” next to hard-hitting factual accounts from local goatherders. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted to write, you can honestly see this gracing the New York Times Bestseller list (who cares if it’s not a book?! It’s THAT GOOD), and if you’re being really truthful, you can bet Tarantino will be on the phone wanting to turn this bad mofo into a movie with guns and shit.
You shed a little tear as you set your work free into the arms of the waiting client.
A few days later, the client responds with, “Well, I like it, but it can you make it a bit edgier, y’know?”
NO, YOU FUCKING DON’T KNOW.
So. Many. Questions. Which bit doesn’t work? How does it not sound edgy? What the fuck do you mean by edgy?!
Matthew Inman from TheOatmeal.com says is brilliantly, “To this day, I don’t know what “pop” or “edgy” mean in relation to web design. I also don’t know how to design websites based on other people’s feelings”.
Good feedback needs total clarity, otherwise you’re just going to have a back-and-forth conversation without much progress towards the final goal.
So, here’s a few steps to give your web designer (or logo designer, or copywriter, or photographer) the best sort of feedback that actually gets you where you need to go.
1. Don’t only use emotions to describe what you don’t like about something.
OK, I’m not saying “discount your emotions”. You are going to have an emotional connection with a design, especially if it’s for your own business because you have such a vested interest in it.
Just remember that you are the only person that feels those emotions. Not even describing them to someone else is going to help them understand 100% because what you may think is “edgy” may be someone else’s version of “hideous”.
2. Tell your designer what parts work and why
Without knowing which part you liked and why you liked it, it is easy to assume that everything needs to change, where in reality it may just be that you need to intensify the yellow hue, or add a wider border.
Be very specific about the parts that WORK for you, because when you come to describe what you don’t like, your designer may be able to glean some insights from the parts that you do like and apply them.
3. Tell your designer which parts don’t work, why and, if possible, what you think it should look like
For the bits you don’t like, your designer needs ultra-specificity. We don’t expect you to love everything (however much we’d like you to), but we need your guidance here. Why doesn’t it work and what were you expecting? Have you any real-life examples that you think could work, or could be adapted to work in place of it? You are the business owner, you know more about your audience and your business than we do.
4. If your designer tells you why something wouldn’t work, listen to them (and at least think about it)
There are some occasions when you suggest something that, from the experience of a web designer or developer, are likely to not work well or just plain won’t work. They should explain the reasons why it won’t work to you at this point (if they don’t explain to you, then perhaps you’ve hired a web designer douchecano?)
A good designer will not tell you that something won’t work for the good of their health, it’s because it won’t work well for you on your site. Thinking about a Flash intro splash screen? Shit idea. Why? They are the Customer Repeller. Also, 2005 was a long time ago. No. Perhaps you want people to register and use a form that spans five pages asking complex questions about their heritage, their favourite shade of hamster fur and the dimensions of their partner’s buttcrack? Again, wank. Why? If you’ve ever filled in a form like this, you’ll know how much you want to jam a rusty spoon in the creator’s eye socket.
We’re not always right, and again, you know your market better than we know it. If you still plan on an all-dancing, all-singing Flash intro and a 47-question form before the user gets to your juicy content, then so be it. Just listen to why, and really think about how it would help or hinder your website.
In summary, when giving feedback more specifics, less “popping”.