Managers & Clients, here’s how to give better feedback to your designers

This post appeared first on HolaBrief’s Community blog.

A designer just clicked the send button. The latest designs are officially off to the client for review. On one hand, they are happy and proud of the work that they just completed, but on the other, they are anxious to hear what the client thinks.

Designers all know of feedback’s importance in their day to work, but for some, it may as well be a four-letter word. Comments like “I don’t like this image” or “Can you move this to the right a little bit” – although they may be well intentioned – often do more harm than good. 

Whether you are a manager or on the client side, here are 5 tips that you can use the next time you need to give feedback to a designer:

1. Be specific 

The feedback that I just mentioned above is the perfect example of this. Should I replace the image with a new one, or get rid of it all together? How much is a “little bit”? When giving design feedback, one should always be able to explain them “why” and ideally share some examples of alternatives.

Feedback is never about just handing the designer a solution – that’s their job – but rather, should give them the inspiration and remind them of the problem that is trying to be solved. 

2. Be clear

Detailed feedback doesn’t always mean it’s clear or easy to understand. The clearer the feedback is, the easier it will be for the designer to implement. The K.I.S.S. principle comes to mind here – keep it simple stupid. To be clearer when commenting on design, avoid paragraphs of text and try to use bullet points. If there are a lot of suggested edits, try to break it up by section, feature, page, etc.

3. Have a conversation

Don’t get me wrong, technology is a wonderful thing, but it has made it all the more “difficult” to have a real face-to-face conversation. With the ability to add comments and track changes in the software that we use in our day to day, design feedback can be simply sent off with little to no explanation. I have had this happen to me several times throughout my career. When it has happened, I often was designing with unclear expectations of what the client or my manager wanted. 

If you are a manager or on the client side, give yourself ample time to review a design. Dedicate the time it deserves and then give the feedback preferably in person or over the phone.

4.Get to know the designer

This piece of advice is more oriented towards managers. When it comes to getting to know the designer, I’m not saying they have to become their best friend, but at least try to get to know them on a more personal level. How do they prefer to work? What makes them tick?

Once they can answer these basic questions, they spend less time on reading the designer’s mind and more time on helping them achieve their goals.

5. Make feedback a part of the process

Meaningful feedback doesn’t come off the cuff. It comes from everything I mentioned previously and having it be an integrated, recurring part of the design process. For those who work with clients, I propose a three-round revision-based approach:

  • Round 1: Client should identify any major issues and communicate them to the agency/designer.
  • Round 2: This round is primarily used to confirm that the major issues have been resolved. If not, the designer needs to understand what the client wants in order to fix them. The client has “one more” chance for feedback
  • Round 3: Approve any last-minute tweaks and move forward. 

If there are more than three rounds, it often means that there is a bigger issue at play (poor communication, misalignment on goals/objectives, incompatibility between team members, etc.).

Feedback can be uncomfortable, but it doesn’t have to be.

When managers and clients strive to give specific and clear feedback, that very feedback pushes the work forward in a positive direction.

Even though everyone may be pinched for time, discussing designs in person instead over an email or Slack message, reaps its rewards. Avoiding sending off the cuff feedback and make it an integral part of your process. Last, but certainly not least, managers, have a coffee or two with the designers and get to know them better.

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Ethan Parry is 

... a Service Designer + UX Researcher at Hanzo. Parry frequently leads workshops around the world on topics such as Google Design Sprints, UX research, and service design. Parry also teaches UX and service design in several universities and bootcamps in Barcelona.