How to Provide Feedback To A Web Designer

web design feedback

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First, the TL;DR version …

So you’ve hired a professional designer for your new website. Maybe this is your first time doing so, or maybe you’ve experienced a few issues in the past when working with designers and that’s why you’re here. I’ve been delivering handcrafted websites for over 20 years now, and these are my top 5 tips on how to provide excellent feedback to your designer so that your project is successful.

  1. Don’t rule by committee.
  2. Don’t make it personal.
  3. Keep project goals in mind.
  4. Don’t be vague.
  5. Don’t beat around the bush.

Want to learn more? Good … here’s a general overview of how a web designer should work…

Generally, at the beginning of the project you will go over the primary and any secondary goals for your site. The web designer will discuss how to accomplish those goals from a functionality perspective. I’ve written other articles on determining your target audience and making sure there are clear goals, if you want to get deeper into that. Additionally, you and your designer should be on the same page when it comes to revisions and how those work (is there a limit to revisions, do you get 1 design concept or multiple, etc.) and that should be spelled out in your agreement/contract. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume that stuff will have been sorted out.

Once the design process has started and your web designer is ready to show you the initial concept, they should always discuss up front what exactly it is you should be evaluating and providing feedback on. For example, the home page of your new site. The designer should explain each element of the layout and elaborate on how the choices made for design and placement work to meet the goals and match up with any previous discussions you have had.

Few things are worse than when a designer simply sends you a PDF or a link and basically says, “here’s your new design!” and that’s it. It may not look anything like you envisioned and could create knee-jerk reactions that in turn cause you to provide feedback that really isn’t helpful, but through no fault of your own. After All, you’re not a designer – that’s why you’ve paid a professional who is. It’s the designer’s job to fully explain all the decisions that go into a page or why something was placed a certain way.

It’s also the designer’s job to take the feedback and make changes to achieve the final design. Your job, is to provide that feedback. The better the feedback is that you give, the smoother the whole process becomes.

Still reading? Fantastic! Now, let’s expand on those 5 solid tips for providing feedback…

design by committee

#1: Don’t rule by committee.

Whether you’re a sole proprietor or you work for a company with other employees and have been tasked with the website project, try to avoid too many cooks in the kitchen. Few things are more daunting from the perspective of a web designer than having to deal with multiple people who all have different opinions on what the website design should look like. This is also an excellent way to completely derail your project and end up with something that is far from the original goals.

The best scenario is to have a single point of contact for the project. It could be you or it could be someone else in the company.  If you still have to deal with a committee, make it the responsibility of that one point of contact to organize and filter feedback from everyone else.

Tips for what to do if you’re forced into a committee scenario:

make it personal

#2: Don’t make it personal.

Keep your target audience in mind at all times. It’s very easy to personalize the design by applying what you like. But you have to ask yourself, “Am I part of my target audience?” At the end of the day, you (or your company) may be paying for this service (which makes it very easy to slide down that slope of wanting it to be perfect for you) but in most cases, it isn’t for you. Even on sites that revolve around an individual (for example, a personal fitness trainer) a balance must be achieved in presenting the person/what they offer and appealing to the target audience.

Tips for giving feedback when you’re tempted to make it personal:

web design goals

#3: Keep project goals in mind.

Much like how you should always keep your target audience in mind, you should always keep the goals of the project in mind as well.
How does the design meet those original needs? When you lose sight of those needs, it’s very easy to get off track.

Tips for giving feedback concerning goals:

vague feedback

#4: Don’t be vague.

Designers can be wonderfully creative, but can’t always translate vague input and direction into what exactly will work for the client’s needs. Designers that may have less experience dealing with clients and feedback may have more difficulty when given phrases like, “I’d like to see the design ‘pop’ more.” That phrase can translate to a lot of different things, but in my experience, when a client gives feedback like that, they’re having more trouble with the design that they can’t quite put their finger on. This is often directly related to having fuzzy goals to begin with or a designer just missing the mark and not having a clear call to action on the page.

Tips for when you’re struggling with what to say:

#5: Don’t beat around the bush.

I’ve had clients who were so afraid of hurting my feelings, that they basically just clammed up or tried to avoid actually saying what was on their mind. After the project seemed to be going smooth, I get an email out of the blue wanting to cancel the whole project because they didn’t think it was working out. Of course when feedback such as, “yeah, looks fine” is given when it really isn’t “fine” at all, this sort of thing seems to come as a bit of a shock. The few times this has happened over the years, I’ve been able to get things smoothed out and going in the right direction, but it’s only because I’ve racked up 20 years experience doing this now.  The best way to avoid a scenario like this altogether, is to not be shy about feedback from the very beginning of the project. Speak up.

Tips for when you feel like things are not going well and you don’t know what to say.

The Wrap Up

Remember to always keep your audience and the goals for your site in mind when reviewing design concepts. Provide direct, clear feedback with explanations where necessary. If things don’t seem right, speak up right away. Following these tips will help your website design project run smoothly and help that website be more of an effective marketing tool for your business.


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