Your design team spends various sprints working on a large project for a prominent client, and the most important day arrives — the big unveiling. Presenting the creative work is exciting and fun (and yes, a bit anxiety-inducing). But what follows is actually the most crucial part: the client’s feedback. How do you get productive design feedback that make the work better?
Creative feedback is the one milestone every design project has in common and a natural part of the process. It both benefits the project and helps your team grow.
Unless you’re in the same field (e.g. designers working with other designers), many people outside the industry have a hard time articulating their thoughts. It can be difficult for clients and collaborators to focus their feedback beyond ‘I like it or ‘I don’t like it.’ The responsibility falls on your team to ask the right questions, and get better design feedback so you can move the work forward.
So how do you prevent the dreaded “I’ll know it when I see it,” and move past surface-level comments? Whether you’re working on UX design, landing pages, website design or any visual work, here’s an actionable list to get better creative feedback from your client. Better feedback leads to a higher quality result and, hopefully, more projects in the future.
What is the decision hierarchy?
While a client may be one company, your client team actually includes several stakeholders within that organization. There’s likely a pecking order. Receiving timely feedback from several stakeholders, often in different roles, can easily lead to a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation. It can also delay the project more than you think.
It’s essential to assign a single owner on the client side, often a project manager, to make sure all feedback filters through this person and they consult every needed stakeholder.
Wayne Pelletier from Resonant Pixel, a small agency owner with 20+ years of experience in brand strategy and client management, shares that giving good feedback is a very individual process. “I now know, after years of doing this, what and how to share.”
With clients that require multiple revisions, don’t just send something off without context, Pelletier advises. He suggests having a meaningful conversation on how you strategically delivered each piece of content, and even including some commentary of your own explaining the “why.” Punchlist is an excellent tool for this, he says, as it consolidates all comments in one place. It also records changes for those that missed a meeting, and keeps a “paper trail” of decision history.
In the end, knowing the owner of the project and the decision hierarchy within the client’s company will deliver those requested changes more effectively and keep the project moving.
Encourage a problem vs. solution perspective
When the client needs a change, they may come to you with a suggested solution. Listen to that feedback and follow it by asking what the initial problem is. Encourage the client to tell you about the problem they see, and your design team can quickly create solutions versus relying solely on the client’s feedback. This allows the trust to grow within your relationship and use your agency’s expertise more effectively — while giving them what they want.
You don’t need a prescription for exactly what to do. You may just need to know the creative challenge, and the constraint — then you can do what you do best.
Keep asking why
Why? Why? Why? That is the question.
While listening is a number one priority during client meetings, it’s also important to understand the why behind the client’s feedback. Before moving to the next item, ask why. Get clarification if needed on the intention behind a specific piece of feedback. Often the issue is easy to resolve — or may not even need to be addressed.
In some cases, if you provide data to support your design decisions, it can quickly resolve that feedback without further changes. Some stakeholders are more data-driven than design-driven. They want to see how this will work within their strategy. For example, how a site will perform with a specific target audience and how these design elements play into that.
Keep asking why and follow up, if needed, with some performance, conversion, or UX data to corroborate your decisions.
If you really want to understand a client’s rationale behind their comments, try the 5 whys framework. This will get you to the emotional root cause, and help you deliver their desired outcome with a creative solution of your own.
Consolidate design feedback — both ways
Consolidating design feedback works both ways when working with clients. After the initial delivery, get the team together and go over it in detail when responding to the client’s points.
“Punchlist allows me to have a productive conversation about the granular pieces of the creative and move past the “do you like it” phase,” says Pelletier.
Consolidating all client design feedback before a call can help get more done during a phone call. And the ability to quickly share a Punchlist URL in a Google Calendar invite makes it easy for the client to access.
Pelletier likes to add comments and mark them up in Punchlist before going over everything on a call with the client. “Punchlist is a game-changer because you can have all that feedback in one place and have a conversation about it. I can screen-share and show those things line by line,” he says.
They can add follow-up replies following the call after consulting stakeholders. No app download nor installation necessary.
Beware of scope creep
They say that there’s such a thing as too much feedback. It’s true.
Scope creep is every client’s (and agency’s) nemesis, and that’s why it’s important to have a clear project owner. Too much feedback that it’s hard to filter through or even rogue emails with tangent ideas can make a project quickly stop in its tracks.
At one point, the client needs to pick a path forward to get the project across the finish line. Before the kick-off meeting, scale back the options intentionally before presenting them to the client.
Non-designers can quickly get overwhelmed with too many options. When you present solutions, you pick up to three and give the pros of each one strategically. Keep the meeting on a good path by clearly stating the options, explaining completed feedback, and action items before moving forward.
The client needs to understand why these are the best options and how to make an informed decision. If required, repeat the project’s original thesis and the options, so they see the whole picture.
Lastly, be mindful of going too many rounds of revisions. Sometimes a freelancer or small studio starting out will offer “unlimited revisions” on creative work. Avoid this trap. Decide early on (and put it in your client contract) how many rounds of feedback you’ll accommodate.
Consolidate comments into specific rounds, and keep your projects within scope to deliver on time.
Keep the feedback loop open
Client feedback is the one constant every agency, studio or freelancer has to deal with. Your design feedback process should be clear, concise, and straightforward for all parties but easy to replicate across projects. It shouldn’t be yet another chore, but a pleasant experience for both sides of the table.
With Punchlist, you can empower your clients to leave detailed feedback and answer your questions all in one place. No more long afternoon meetings, endless email threads, or getting feedback on the wrong version of the file. Punchlist provides an easy-to-copy URL to share with the client and to keep all changes and questions in one spot.
Delight your client and make your design team’s life easier.
Follow these tips to get better design feedback from your client, and help them help you create better work.