It's easy to get lost in your own little world where your opinions, feelings, and personal biases define the quality of your design work. And, quite frankly, this is a very dangerous place to be (from a career/skills standpoint).
Feedback is vital to your improvement and advancement as a designer. It yields an array of benefits, including:
Exposes blind spots. Feedback exposes your tendencies and makes you more aware of the crutches you rely on. Some feedback is more valuable than others, but they can all be melded together to provide a clear understanding of your own blind spots.
Offers direction. One of the toughest parts about designing on behalf of a client is that you don't know which way to go. When multiple options are present, feedback offers clear direction on how to proceed. This eliminates decision fatigue and allows you to focus on execution.
Fuels humility. It's easy to get caught up in your own skills and “greatness.” Client feedback brings you back down to earth and forces you to recognize that you are still learning and growing.
Encourages and supports. Not all feedback is bad or constructive. Sometimes feedback is positive. In these cases, it provides encouragement and support – which are integral and much needed for longevity in this industry!
The key is to get good feedback – meaning feedback that's valuable and constructive. Unfortunately, valuable feedback is few and far between. That's because design work is, by definition, subjective. If you ask a dozen people for their opinions on a specific design, you'll probably get a dozen different responses – some of which won't be helpful.
"I'm not a fan of the purple color."
"That font isn't very cool."
"I like the way it looks."
"I don't like the way it looks."
The problem is that you don't really know if the purple is actually a bad color (if the font is off-target, etc.), or if the specific person providing the feedback just doesn't like the color to begin with.
And herein lies the crux of the problem. Design work is subjective and, as such, tends to yield subjective feedback.
If you don't have a plan in place for how you gather and leverage feedback, you'll end up getting tossed around like a tiny boat at sea.
Most designers have some sort of feedback loop in place – whether intentionally or as part of the normal back and forth relationship with clients – but few have an effective feedback loop that yields powerful benefits and perks.
Having said that, let's take a look at some of the common mistakes you're most likely making when asking customers for feedback (and how you can push past them to get better results).
To get high-quality feedback from your customers, you need to give them the right tools. You simply can't expect a customer to give you high quality feedback over email. It's extremely time-consuming and most people find it hard to properly explain what they mean with just words. With tools like Userback though, you can easily share designs with your customers and collect feedback with video and annotated screenshots. It's a much smarter way to collect customer feedback and prevents the need to go back and forth over email.
It's easy to blame clients for giving impractical and vague feedback, but this lack of insightfulness can almost always be tied to a lack of specificity on your part. If you're asking generic questions – like “What do you think?” – you're wasting everyone's time. Questions need to be specific and pointed.
If generic questions are on one end of the spectrum, you'll find “over-prefaced” questions on the opposite end. These are questions where you unintentionally guide your client in a particular direction by putting ideas in their head.
Here's an example of what it looks like to over-preface a question:
"Do you think the right side of the page is too crowded? Does the line spacing look like it needs to be spread out a bit more to give it room to breathe?"
When you ask a question like this, you're basically telling the client how to answer. They almost feel stupid disagreeing with you.
The key is to ask specific questions without guiding their answers. There will be times when you need to verify if your personal opinions are shared, but don't lead with this information. Try gathering subjective insights from the top and then zero in on your own points of interest and clarification.
Good feedback doesn't arise out of thin air. Most clients will need time to clear their busy schedules, analyze the design work, process it, and then come back with a response. If you're asking for feedback at the eleventh hour, you'll end up with half-hearted insights that do little to improve the quality of your work.
Always give your client as much time as possible to provide feedback – and give them a deadline in advance! This adds a higher degree of importance to the task.
The human brain can do some pretty amazing things, but it's only able to fully concentrate on one cognitive task at a time. Thus, you shouldn't ask a client multiple questions at once. Instead, keep your feedback requests simple and delineated.
Here's an example of what not to ask:
Does the graphic at the top look too big? And what do you think about the gradient at the bottom? Is it transparent enough for people to make out the logo?
If you ask a client this question, they'll almost certainly skip to the last part and leave out the original question. A better way to ask this question would be as follows:
I have two questions for you regarding the graphic at the top of the page:
This primes the client to provide a two-part answer without overwhelming their thought process.
With all of the challenges that exist in the feedback loop, it can feel impossible to garner insights that have a constructive impact on your current projects and future design work. At Userback, we've made it our mission to remove as much of this friction as possible.
Userback is a powerful website feedback tool for web agencies, software companies, designers and developers. See exactly what your customers see and get high-quality visual feedback with video and annotated screenshots.
Userback fully integrates to your existing workflows and the intuitive nature of the tool means there's zero learning curve for clients. This ensures they're able to provide timely and constructive feedback so that you can accelerate approvals and complete projects faster.
Want to give Userback a try? Start your free trial today.