Effective client feedback leads to happy, healthy products

Educate your client to communicate through brutal honesty, concrete examples and their brand promises.

Giving feedback can be nerve-racking. It can feel stressful, harsh and uncomfortable. Double those feelings if you’ve built a positive relationship with the person receiving the feedback. Getting feedback can be worse. Think feeling-of-impending-doom worse.

Feelings of fear are natural, when your hard work and ideas you’ve grown attached to are on the line, but every designer and developer must realize that, with a positive feedback system in place, these feelings will subside — what will not are the detrimental effects of not implementing a feedback loop from clients within your production cycle.

Many clients, and people in general, are susceptible to using the sandwich method when giving feedback, hiding the necessary feedback between two forced compliments. This is a dangerous norm that creates agreement where there shouldn’t be any, delays the completion of your project and brings your project to a close before it’s at its best.

To encourage effective feedback, your job is to help your client view your work as, to an extent, separate from you as a human being — disagreeing with one will not hurt the other.

We can do this by ensuring our clients and our team are conscious of the overarching goal: to make our work the best it can be. When this occurs, our clients are free to respond to our decisions during weekly meetings, and we are able to adapt. We understand that a client’s voice and insights are imperative to guiding our work. This adaptable process is how we’re able to create products — efficiently.

It’s all about mutually agreeing on a strategy and project goals, and allowing your client to comfortably provide relevant, constructive and honest suggestions.

Here’s how you can help your client provide the most effective feedback to help you create the right thing:

Build Boldness

Let your client know that they come first. With everything you recommend or produce, ask if it aligns with their business objectives, and keep asking for their opinions until they are comfortable with bluntly telling you their opinion. Your own frankness will help create these honest interactions, so if you disagree with your client, educate them as to why. In our experience, this process has worked because it is true and brutally honest throughout.

Bad feedback:

Client: Can we add a shiny gold foil look?

You: Uh, why would we do that?

Client: I just think it’s cool. Like, it would make our brand look luxurious.

You: Your brand isn’t cool or luxurious.

Client: …

You: …

Fist fight ensues

Good feedback:

Client: Can we add a shiny gold foil look? I think that’d look so cool.

You: We can explore that, but it won’t align with your established brand guidelines and doing so would lead to inconsistency.

Client: Okay, how can we make this look more luxurious?

You: When you say luxurious, what does that mean to you? Let’s talk about it.

Productive conversation ensues

Drive Definitive Descriptions

Design feedback can be difficult to master. Work with your client to help them describe any necessary changes — and describe them well — so you can get it right the first time. At AKOS, weekly meetings with our clients are dedicated to analyzing progress and gathering their feedback. Hence, an efficient feedback process saves everyone involved in the project valuable time, and that’s more time you can dedicate to building your client’s solution the right way.

Example Questions:

  • What are some brands you associate with luxury?
  • Can you pull some visual inspiration?
  • Why do you like that website or app?

Refer to the Roadmap

Before the design process has started, you and your client have likely established a foundational strategy and product roadmap for your project. During the design and development phase, refer back to this to help your client understand how you’re progressing, in relation to the core of the project. Encourage them to review the product roadmap before meetings.

Be the Answer

As a good designer or developer, you typically have industry-validated reasons for even the tiniest of decisions. Build the trust between you and your client by being open to any and all questions. Do your best to educate them throughout the process so they can understand what you’re doing, and the quality of your work will speak for itself!


This article was originally seen on AKOS Stories on Medium.