4 tips for getting better client feedback

4 min read
Tim Dikun
  •  Apr 13, 2015
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Ever had a client give you terrible design feedback? Not the “I’m going to crush your soul and everything you stand for because I hate your design” kind of terrible. More like the “here are many vague and subjective things because I’m not good at feedback” kind of terrible.

Because I have. In fact, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in on conference calls with my head on the table because we’re talking about all the typos in the wireframe, instead of the navigation structure. Terrible feedback wastes valuable time, cranks up client–designer tensions, and can even negatively affect the final design. But you know what the worst part about getting terrible feedback is?

It’s your fault.

I’ve learned that if I change my approach to delivering designs to clients, the feedback I get is generally better. Here are 4 things you can try to get more productive feedback from your clientsTwitter Logo:

1. Tell a story

If you deliver designs without a story, clients will focus on what they see instead of what the design does.

The best way to get a client to think beyond what they see is to have a good idea of who your target user is, and craft a story around them. Explain to the client that User A comes to the app to perform action B. To perform that action, User A walks through steps X, Y, and Z, and here’s how the design facilitates that action.

You’ll spend less time talking about the color of that button, or what the call to action should read, and more time on what the button does—and if a button is the best way to get it done.

If you deliver designs without a story, clients will focus on what they see instead of what the design does.

2. Deliver via screencast

At Envy, we use screen-recording programs like QuickCast or Camtasia to walk clients through our InVision prototype while talking through our thought process (even the uncertainty, where applicable) screen by screen. Then we upload the video to Dropbox for delivery.

This was originally a foreign concept to me. Before Envy, my approach was either: schedule a live presentation or deliver via email or Basecamp. With a live presentation, you’re more likely to get half-baked, knee-jerk reactions than valuable feedback. And with email or Basecamp, you miss the chance to provide all that context I mentioned in tip 1.

With a screencast, you’re basically delivering a “live” presentation, by giving the client the chance to digest your deliverables at their leisure. They can watch it 2 or 3 times before responding and really think about their feedback. The client gets more flexibility in their schedule and you get more coherent feedback. Everyone wins.

After you’ve delivered the screencast, get a meeting on the books so you can answer any questions in the context of a conversation.

3. Create supporting assets

Any time you need to demonstrate functionality or interactivity, make a quick prototype.Twitter Logo This lets people experience what you’re talking about, so you don’t have to try to explain it. Just imagine trying to describe the relatively simple GIF above.

4. Ask why

Designers live to solve problems. But most clients instinctively offer solutions without ever stating the problem they’re trying to solve. You’ll hear “move this over here” and “make this bigger” when what you want is to know why they want this moved or that bigger.

When you know the underlying problem a client sees, you get the opportunity to actually solve the problem, rather than blindly implementing a suggestion that might not work. That’s not to say that clients can’t offer good solutions, but knowing the problem helps you make more informed design decisions in future rounds. After all, the problem they’re seeing might be bigger than the single interaction they’re looking at right now.

The most basic yet effective question is one every 4-year-old knows well: why?Twitter Logo When the client asks you to make the logo bigger, and you ask why, you might learn that they feel their brand is underrepresented on the page. And knowing that can help you suggest a ton of other ways to present the brand without scaling the logo up to 600 pixels tall.
Best of all, after you’ve asked why a few times, the client will get it and start highlighting problems, rather than handing you solutions.

Getting better feedback

Whether you’re designing a complex interactive app or a “simple” informational site, the most valuable feedback addresses how the design can make the site more useful. Otherwise, all you’re talking about is superfluous details.

Implementing these tips has helped improve the feedback we get at Envy. Though it doesn’t work all the time, it has generally improved our client interactions—and our products.

Have any tricks of your own? Let us know @InVisionApp!

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