Keeping feedback on track

Feedback-masthead Every designer has been there. The work has been done, the mocks are presented, and the client is happy. But before you can say “Rum and Coke” the client has met with the team and wants to hop on a call to discuss a few "tweaks."

Most of the time, this back-and-forth leads to better work. Nobody knows their business like the clients do, and communication is essential for a good product, right? In most cases, yes. But sometimes, projects can quickly go off track.

Let’s illustrate a common scenario that a lot of designers experience:

Paul is designing a landing page for ACME Paints. The goal is to draw sales for a new waterproof deck sealant. With the client, they both agreed that this would be achieved best by providing a photograph of the product, some value propositions, and a big “Buy now!” button. Paul designed at a simple page with the information laid out in an easily comprehensible way.

Paul’s design might look something like this sketch:

Feedback-Sketch

A few days go by, and the social media team decides they’d like to push their new Facebook and Twitter pages. The marketing team, always looking to build on the customers experience with the brand, decides that it would be a good idea to promote other similar products on this page. They also want to add some vendor logos on the page in case users don’t want to purchase online. A few months go by, and a new set of fall colors come out and they want to advertise. Overtime, the design can end up falling into what I like to call “call-out casserole,” with so many things shouting to a user on a page, that the goal is unclear.

After implementing the feedback, the design could look a little more like this:

Feedback-Sketch2

This might be OK if they original plan was to create a more robust e-commerce website. But for achieving the project’s original goal, which was selling deck sealant, this design isn’t the most clearly presented.

Things designers can do to avoid this:

  1. Meet with all stakeholders on the project.
  2. Get everyone to agree on a clear set of goals.
  3. Don’t start a design without understanding those goals.
  4. Critique work internally against the effectiveness of the design to those goals.
  5. Present work by communicating the way the design achieves those goals.
  6. When feedback comes in, analyze it against the goals.
  7. If feedback doesn’t align with the goals, agree with client if goals have in fact changed.
  8. When the goals have changed, suggest a redesign.

Not every project and client is the same. Some can be harder to keep on track then others. But by stressing the importance of defining goals and keeping them in mind throughout the entire project, not only will the end result be better, but the experience of creating it will be much more enjoyable and stress-free.