How to give professional design feedback
Professional web designers understand how crucial client feedback is when it comes to the creative process. While web design involves equal amounts of creativity, talent, and technical know-how, building a truly successful website that meets your goals requires a collaborative and respectful dialogue between you and your designer. This is where the knowledge on how to give good design feedback comes into play.
That said, communicating your needs, opinions, and wants to your web designer might not be something that you feel confident doing. Because of that, it’s important that you prepare for your feedback sessions.
Your designer, while experienced and knowledgeable, still relies heavily on your opinion and insights. So, if you have any design feedback questions, keep reading! In this guide, we’ll discuss our top five tips on how to give good feedback to designers.
1 - Work from a place of trust
Like all healthy and productive relationships, the one between you and your website designer should be built on a foundation of trust, respect, and honesty.
Trust is perhaps the most important quality of any successful client-designer relationship. When you trust your designer, you’re able to give them creative freedom, space to produce their best work, and opportunities for exciting designs that they may not have otherwise created.
This process should be a collaborative one. You and your designer both have very different, though equally important, roles to play, and both of you bring necessary skills to the table.
So, when giving website design feedback, start with believing that your designer is invested in and capable of building the best website possible.
Remember, feedback in design goes a long way, so make sure to trust your designer’s intentions. You’ve both entered this collaboration to build a website that reflects your brand’s unique ethos and meets its unique challenges. Trust that your designer has your best interests in mind and that any creative misalignments are caused by simple misunderstandings rather than malice or apathy.
You should also believe in your designer's capabilities. If web design was easy, you’d do it yourself. With that in mind, have faith in your designer's skills and experience. When reviewing their designs, be open to their interpretation and creative input before expressing your thoughts.
2 - Put an emphasis on clarity and specificity
Collaboration thrives on clear communication and specific input. When giving design feedback, always be as clear as possible. With clear, precise criticism and instructions, your designer will be able to fully understand your vision and provide you with a better end product. With that in mind, start using specific language rather than clichés or generalizations.
If you’re still figuring out how to give good website design feedback, here are some ideas on how it's done!
Pinpoint individual elements.
We often hear phrases like “make it pop,” but whether a design "pops" or not is highly subjective. It’s more of a reflection of your feelings toward it rather than anything innate to the visuals themselves. Here are some concrete notes that might encapsulate what you really mean to say.
- “I want more contrast between the background and foreground colors so that the designs are clearly noticeable.”
- “I wish the colors were more vibrant. I don’t think pastels and neutrals encompass the energy of my brand.”
- “I’d love to see more unique shapes. The square boxes and buttons are too uniform, and lack that zany quality that I mentioned earlier.”
Tell them what you’d like to see more and less of.
Tell your designer what you want and love about a design, in addition to what you don’t. For example, “I’m not loving the icons. I’d like to see a curvier, more abstract style, and I wish the typeface had fewer straight lines and square edges to match.” If you don’t know the exact technical terms, that’s okay! Instead, describe a feeling or an impression you wish you had.
Explain why you don’t like something.
Although your personal taste will certainly play a part in what you bring to the design process, it’s best to pair any personal judgments with descriptive reasoning. Be specific about what elements you’re not sure about. Are the colors too bright? Does the large font feel aggressive? Do you find the art style too abstract? This will give your designer a better idea of what changes to make.
3 - Provide visual examples
How do you give feedback to designers who may prefer to see a visual representation of what you want them to do? Sometimes, words fall short, or we don’t have the right ones to express our ideas. And in the world of design, being unfamiliar with the industry terminology can end up being an additional barrier, preventing you from getting what you want.
Beyond that, words are highly subjective. Bold, splashy, elegant, exciting, dramatic - each person that reads this list will imagine different aesthetics, even though they’re all looking at the same adjectives.
The workaround? Visual examples.
If you’re having trouble giving clear and specific verbal feedback, consider using visual feedback. You can show your designer examples of what you like by referencing website designs you admire, color schemes that appeal to you, and specific website elements that you find interesting.
When providing visual examples, don’t forget to explain why you like them so much.
- “I like this website because it gives off a sense of professionalism. It’s very clean, simple, and uncluttered, especially the straight lines and basic geometric shapes.”
- “I love this color palette because the contrasting colors draw my eye to the most important sections.”
- “The cool tones encompass that feeling of calm I was talking about, but the warm pinks and reds still exhibit a playfulness that I really like.”
- “I like this company’s use of abstract icons as opposed to literal ones. I think it would help embody our brand’s creative, expressive identity, but I want the representations to still be clear to our users, so that’s one aspect I would change about this example.”
These are just a few ideas on how to give website design feedback using visual examples. When you give your designer suggestions and clear examples to work with, you provide them a better idea of exactly what you’re looking for. This can streamline and optimize the design process, leading to the creation of a website that genuinely aligns with your needs.
4 - Offer context
How to give feedback on website design and make it both insightful and explanatory? One of the key aspects you should consider here is the critical role of context. When it comes to how to give good design feedback, make sure to understand that every aspect of your website design needs to be crafted with the specific goals, challenges, and trends of your business in mind.
And when it comes to your business and its unique needs and challenges, you’re the expert. That’s why it’s important that you play an active role in the creation of your website.
To make it possible for your designer to bring your ideas to life, it’s helpful to do the following things.
Identify your goals.
Make sure that both you and your designer are clear about your business goals, what success looks like for you, and how you expect your website to help you get there. You should tackle these details at the very beginning of the entire project. For example, you might want a simple design interface because your audience is mostly elderly, or maybe you want to stand out with a highly vibrant and dynamic website because you are dealing with a lot of industry competition.
Align feedback with your goals.
When giving feedback, make sure to keep your goals and motivations at the forefront of your mind. Any suggestions you give should align with those goals. When you tell them the homepage is too crowded, for instance, explain that you think more white space will help your audience process the information you're trying to get across.
Try to stay focused on what’s best for your brand instead of focusing on your personal tastes or aesthetics. Ask yourself, “Will this change help us achieve our goals?” This is also the perfect time to get your designer’s input on that very question. Tell them about the challenge you’re hoping to solve. Then, work together to figure out how you can go about tackling it.
5 - Give your designer space to create their best work
Throughout the design process, you’ll work closely with your designer. But you should always give them the time, space, and creative freedom they need to bring your vision to life.
This goes back to trusting your designer’s expertise, as well as respecting them as a professional. You hired them to do a job they’re trained to do. Now, you should allow them to do their thing.
Still, the balance between taking part in the design process and taking over can be a difficult one to strike. Here are a couple of tips for how to give design feedback without micromanaging the process.
Give thoughts, not solutions.
In the collaboration between you and your designer, your job is to identify the problems within the design and identify opportunities for improvement. However, the responsibility for solving those problems and realizing the potential of the entire project falls on the designer. For that reason, you shouldn't try to couple your feedback with prescribed solutions. Instead, be clear about what you’d like to see and where the current design falls short. Then, let the designer come up with the best possible solution.
Focus on the big picture.
There’s a fine line between giving your designer enough feedback to work with and providing them with an in-depth analysis of every minor detail. Try to look at the design as a whole rather than fixating on microscopic design intricacies, unless you feel strongly that they don’t align with your idea of your brand. If that's the case, communicate openly until they understand what you're talking about.
Don't hesitate to ask your designers some questions. There’s a lot about the process that’ll likely be foreign to you but familiar to them, so don’t be afraid to rely on your designer’s expertise. Asking questions will show them that you trust them and are willing to give them control of the project. This, in turn, will further encourage them to share their own unique ideas.
Give them enough time.
Your designer has a large undertaking in front of them. To fully understand your vision and needs, they may ask a lot of questions, and they might seek further clarification before delivering a mock-up. In the moment, this can make the process feel unnecessarily long. In reality, it saves them from wasting time on creating a design that will quickly be discarded. By taking their time and asking for specific information upfront, they’ll be able to incorporate your ideas into the first version of your website's design, streamlining the entire design process.
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