How to get better feedback from your client

We all know how difficult is it to get a constructive feedback from your client.  “Make it pop!”, “I need you to have fun with it“, “Jazz it up“ or the simple “I just don’t like it“. You can find lots of interesting articles about how to get a better feedback but applying some of these tips and techniques can be tricky in practice. Therefore I wanted to explore options or alternatives which would work for our design team.

We have created a standardised feedback form which we can use, as a design team, to help us present designs to our clients and enable us to get the feedback and direction we need to iterate and improve.  This “design feedback form” is purposely very simple and quick to fill out. So how does it work and how did we develop it?

 

How it began

Lets start from the beginning. The project which I am a part of as a support designer, was going very well until we had reached the point where I would say, ”We hit a rock!’’. Translate this situation into the design language, clients use that favourite sentence of ours: “I don’t like it”.

Although it’s hard to hear as a designer, we have to be prepared for tough feedback like this – design is subjective, and clients should feel able to express their opinions. Non constructive feedback is the sort of feedback every designer wants to avoid. The problem was raised when we tried to dip into that and find out where the issue was. The answer was simple: ”I don’t know”. You can’t really get anywhere with this and it makes it even more painful to try any design changes based on this type of feedback.

 

Discovery

We put our heads together and gathered some phrases and words which would help us to get a better direction from client. But the question was: how do we translate this idea into something that would work?

Stage 1

The first stage involved a lot of research and reading on how to get or give better feedback. There is plenty of interesting articles which will give you advices how to present your rationale, how to lead the conversation with your client, etc. I found reading the comments on the certain articles very interesting and useful in many cases.

 

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Stage 2

I then started with some writing. I picked up few basic questions which would represent our start point. Those questions should be helpful to get a better direction from your client and also to make him/her think in different way. Questions may include: ”What can be changed to make it better?”, ”Can you describe exactly what you mean?”, “Have you got any suggestions on how I could improve that element?” etc. I then thought about certain words which would be again helpful to or dig a bit deeper into the specifics around what the client does like of what the client doesn’t like.

Stage3

But what about the actual process? How should we apply this new form of getting feedback into something practical? We knew it needed to be quick and easy. The idea is to give your client two or three minutes to look at the design and focus on what they like and also what they don’t like (what they think doesn’t work or what does work).  You may also ask to rate their overall feeling from this design in scale from 1 to 5, where 1 means “amazing, I don’t want to do any changes”, and 5 means “I don’t like it at all”.

After this, provide the client with your design feedback form – it can be either a wordcloud or a plain list. Give them a few minutes to go through the list and ask them to tick the elements or styles that they would use to describe what does and doesn’t work. Based on the words they’ve picked out, use your help questions to get more information and direction from the client. If they still struggle you may use a more detailed form list, keep refining the list of words with the client until you feel you know exactly what needs to be changed.

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We had everything from the idea to the structure of how this process may look like. But we weren’t sure if  this kind of feedback method would work. So our next stage was to do some some internal testing! For our satisfaction everything went well. We asked project manager, executive assistant, back-end developer and intern to spent few minutes going through this little exercise. They understood everything very quickly and provided us with very helpful feedback.


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To be continued…

Based on their feedback we put some final polish on the form and now we feel we are ready to go and test it with one of our clients. If this goes well it could radically alter the way we request feedback from our clients for the better. What tools / tactics do you use to ensure you get constructive feedback when presenting designs?

 

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