Better feedback

Feedback’s a touchy subject for most designers. So touchy, in fact, that many of us would love to skip that stage of the process sometimes. But we know feedback’s necessary.


We’re all complex beings and so are our businesses. Sometimes perfection doesn’t happen on the first draft (it rarely does). That’s what the revision process is all about.

This article kind follows my previous one bridge ui and developers, so i thought to write about something is still a hard bit to go around.

In my career, I’ve had some really great feedback experiences — and some really horrible ones. So I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about giving and receiving feedback.

Feedback’s a touchy subject for most designers. So touchy, in fact, that many of us would love to skip that stage of the process sometimes. But we know feedback’s necessary.

The spirit of constructive feedback is to create better design work. You know yourself better than anyone, and it’s up to you to choose the language and visual samples to convey your vision to your designer.

Understanding the designer

Design isn’t just a job for us, it’s a way of life. We live, eat, and breathe design. Given a choice between comparable products, we’ll buy the better-designed one. We see every new project as an opportunity to improve our reputation and show our peers what we’re made of.

We always have our eyes on the bigger vision. Sometimes, when it looks like we’re not busy, we’re actually neck-deep in finding a solution. When we are busy, we’re often juggling several projects with due date: yesterday. Which is why we often take on more work than we should. We like to work hard, if only because of our perfectionism.

Now, all of that might make it seem like we’re complicated to work with, but the fact of the matter is, we usually aren’t. We generally prefer things to be smooth, simple, and process-driven.

So, now that you totally get designers, how do you use your newfound knowledge to provide better your feedback?

Better feedback

“I don’t like the type or that picture. The colors are off. I think you’ve missed the point.”

Solid decisions, well-communicated and well-executed are the path to success. Set up a time to go over your feedback, in person or on the phone. Walk through it together. Use the time to go over any sticking points, get clarity, and go over any issues.

The design process is a collaboration. Ultimately it’s up to you as the client to hold the vision for what you want to create in this world, and it’s your designer’s job to figure out how to translate that visually.

Feeling overwhelmed? We know this can feel like a lot to think about if you’ve never had to give creative feedback before.

Most importantly: Design (as well as things like copywriting) are iterative processes — communication needs to happen on both sides to get amazing results. A true professional gracefully welcomes feedback as she wants to do an amazing job that makes the client look good, as well as meet the project objectives.

Critiques are meant to improve output rather than hinder process. Steven Johnson, author of Where Good Ideas Come From says, “Often times the thing that turns a hunch into a real breakthrough is another hunch that’s lurking in somebody else’s mind.” Encouraging the overlap of ideas from multiple people, as in critiques, facilitates these breakthroughs.

Build trust

The best feedback I’ve gotten has come from people I trust. People who care as much about their team as they do about finding the right solution.

A great feedback provider doesn’t just point out changes or take over the design. Instead, they ensure their designer understands how a change could improve the solution — without destroying any sense of ownership. The designer then gets to learn from a more experienced peer, improving the working relationship and building mutual understanding.

Don’t ask for multiple versions

Can we see one with navigation down the left and one along the top and we’ll pick the one we like best?

No, no, no. It’s not about designing multiple mockups and picking the one you like best.

Do let your designer design what they believe will work best for your project, then iterate on that design based on user feedback.

How to ask and prepare for feedback as a designer

Ask for specific feedback

Don’t ask “What do you think?”. Ask specific questions. Do you think the call to action will be obvious to your users? Will users know what this input label means? Does the overall mood and tone match your business and branding?

Ask “Why?” 5 times

For each piece of feedback continuously ask why to get to the real issue. “Why do you want to change it? Why don’t you like it? Why do you not like red? Why do you not think your customers won’t like red? Why do they think red is evil?”. Once you find the real issue you’ll be able to come up with the best solution.

Respect each other

Most importantly remember to have respect for one another. Clients know their business better than anyone. Designers know what works well for better experiences and results online. Both parties are experts in their own way so always listen to what one another has to say and try and see it from their point of view as well.

Photo credits: Vancouver Film School

Follow me on Twitter — @marco08silva