Giving Great Feedback: 10 Simple Steps to Bossing the Design Process

We love feedback, it drives the creative process and leads to a better end result.

While we've been busy solving the pain points of feedback management with our product Conjure, we haven't forgotten how important it is to be good at giving and receiving structured criticism.

Giving design feedback can be tricky. There's a fine line between making your opinions constructive rather than critical. With that in mind, what follows are ten tips we've compiled to help you navigate this crucial element of the design process while preserving peachy relations with your team.

10. Preparation is Key

Make sure the brief is correct and includes all of the project information (even if you're not sure it's relevant).

9. Avoid Contradictions

“Our current user group are in their mid 30's so the design needs to cater to them. But we're also keen to expand and appeal to teenagers, so it needs to work for a younger audience too."

U wot m8?

It's extremely difficult to create a design that caters to multiple user groups or satisfies dissimilar stakeholders. A clear brief at the outset should avoid contradictions later down the line.

If there are multiple people feeding back, make sure you're aligned before passing on the comments. It helps to have just one point of contact between client and designer.

8. Avoid Cliches

“Let your creative juices flow."

“Take it to the next level."

“We want to break the internet."


Three lazy clichés that are guaranteed to prejudice your designer. Try harder.

7. Be Specific

Try not to leave your feedback open to interpretation. For example;

“It needs to be more fun."

'Fun' you say? Are we talking about bottomless margaritas? Even in the context of design, my frame of reference for fun might be a playful font or imagery, yours might be bright colours. There is enough ambiguity here to cause problems.

If there are design elements you don't like, be as specific as possible.

6. Be Honest

Pretending to love a design to avoid hurting your designer's feelings will only leave you dissatisfied with the end result. Of course designers are passionate about their work, but the best ones will always remain as objective and accommodating as possible.

If you're worried about upsetting someone, try framing a negative as a point that needs improvement.

The same applies if you don't have any feedback to add. Don't give feedback for feedback's sake. It's ok if you love the first or second iteration of the design and feel confident that it meets the brief. Forced feedback can actually harm the design process.

5. You're Not Always Right

While you (probably) know your business and audience best, your designer knows design, and should have gone through a thorough research phase to make sure they understand your customers. You may not like a colour they've chosen, but if they explain that it converts better, listen up.

4. Don't Make It Personal

Your personal feelings and preferences ought not to interfere too much in the process. Although it would be nice to have a design with all your favourite colours and fonts, remember this is for your target audience, not to hang on your wall at home. For example;

Don't say: “I'm not a big fan of red"

Do say: “Red is a rather aggressive colour. Could we try blue or something with calmer connotations? I think it would work better for our users."

3. Don't get Stuck on What You Have in Your Head

You might start with a clear picture in your mind's eye of what your website will look like. Don't restrict your designer by expecting them to duplicate that visualisation.

You hired a designer for their expertise and experience - make sure you get your money's worth.

2. Avoid Design by Committee

You may want to share the designs with your whole company. This can be helpful insofar as highlighting issues that you may not have noticed. However, if you ask for everyone's opinion you'll also get a lot of subjective crap to filter through.

In the instance in which feedback from multiple stakeholders is unavoidable, it's a good idea to keep a list. Clear out any duplicates and highlight the important points. An easy way to share everything with your designer is to categorise points into “musts" (i.e. goes against brand guidelines), and “maybes" (i.e. icon or colour changes). Don't forget to keep it clear that not all feedback has to be implemented.

Ideally, reserve the responsibility of feedback for key stakeholders who are aligned on goals and understand the brief.

1. Don't be Dramatic

Choose your words carefully. Remember there's no body language to help communicate your tone of voice when you're providing feedback online. What might be intended as a playful, ironic comment could cause offence on a bad day, for instance. Avoid CAPS LOCK, bold formatting and underlining.

Bonus: Keep It in Context

If it's a website design, look at it on a screen, don't print it out. Try it on different devices or screen sizes. And remember, different screens and brightness levels might make colours look slightly different.

If it's a design that needs to be printed, then try printing it out at the correct size. Don't forget colours are likely to change depending on your printer.

Well, that's more or less that folks.

Remember to prepare, be specific, be nice, listen to your designer and you'll end up with the best possible outcome.

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