Think about the last design that you made for a client. What type of feedback did you receive? Was it constructive feedback that actually helped you improve the design? Or was it merely personal opinion?

Personal opinions, vague feedback and subjective criticism never helps a design project move forward. In fact, it can create more client-designer tensions, waste valuable time and negatively impact the finished product. But before you throw in the towel and assume that this is a normal part of the design process, rest assured that you can change things for the better. By altering the way you collect feedback from your clients, you can get more productive responses that will actually enhance the project and your experience with it.

Let’s take a look at 10 effective ways to get productive client feedback. By giving your clients some instruction, they will have a clearer idea of what to evaluate.

1. Identify the goal of the project.

When you ask a client what they think of the design, they’re going to give you their opinion of the aesthetics. If you ask them to read through a blog, they’ll tell you if it was entertaining or not. But there’s more to web design and blogs than just looking pretty. They also help your client meet specific goals such as improving conversion rates or generating leads.

Some of the factors that you and the client should discuss are: the target audience, the problem you’re trying to solve and the desired action people should take. Once everyone is on the same page with these goals, discussing what works and what doesn’t becomes much easier.

2. Offer limited options.

If you present your client with too many options, they’re going to feel overwhelmed. When clients get overwhelmed, they resort to emotional feedback rather than looking at the project from an objective point of view. To prevent this from happening, offer limited options. Explain what is different about each one and how they will work to solve the same problem or reach the same goal. Your client will feel included in the project but won’t steer it off course.

3. Ask the right questions.

You’re looking for more than just “I like it” or “I don’t like it” responses, so you’re going to need to ask the right questions. Luckily, you can solicit great feedback just by asking specific questions. Here are some sample ones to get you started.

  • What do you like best about the design?

  • What problem do you think it solves?

  • Did you get bored or uninterested at any point?

  • Were any parts confusing or unclear?

  • What features do you think should be added?

  • What could be removed to make the design more simple?

  • Who do you think the design appeals to?

Hopefully you can see that these types of questions are going to get much better feedback than simply, “What do you think?”

4. Deliver in person or via screencast.

If you can deliver the design in person, that’s great. But most of the time, this isn’t possible due to logistics or schedule conflicts. The alternative is sharing the design via screencast so that you can walk your clients through the design. This gives you the opportunity to explain the design, how it’s intended to solve a problem, why it appeals to their audience and more. You can then use a project management tool so that the client can view the design and make suggestions. This way, all the notes are in one place when you begin making revisions.

5. Back up your claims with data.

Clients become very protective over their marketing materials, and rightfully so. No one knows their audience better than them. At the same time, they don’t always know the best way to get the results they’re looking for, which is why it’s important that they hear you out.

Provide data to back up your decisions. Why did you include certain features? How does the design improve the user experience? Why did you leave certain elements out? When you show your clients the reasons behind your decisions, they will be more confident in your design.

6. Show how the design works with the rest of the marketing plan.

Chances are, the project you’re working on fits into a larger marketing plan. To help your clients understand how everything works together, give them a trial run of the customer experience. For instance, if you’re working on a website, show your client how their customers will interact with it. If you’re working on a landing page, explain how customers will find it. Clients feel a lot more comfortable about the design when they can see things on the customer end.

7. Let your clients know that YOU believe in the design.

Sometimes us designers can get so wrapped up in what our clients are going to think of the project that we lose confidence. The reason why the client hired you is because they trust your experience and point of view. When it’s time to show them the design, exude confidence in what you have produced. The client will be a lot more confident if you are.

Since in person or screencast sharing is best, you should practice your posture, tone of voice, eye contact, hand gestures and more. Your clients will be looking at your mannerisms just as much as the project itself. Remember that you are trying to sell them on the design, so you need to be cool, calm and confident in your delivery.

8. Give your clients time to give feedback.

You don’t want your clients to feel forced to give you feedback, so give them time to return any comments. Most clients need time to look through the project, think about the things that were discussed and envision what the customer experience will be like. After you’ve shown the client the design, tell them to take a few days to look things over and then provide you with their thoughts.

9. Understand the changes that are to be made and why.

In order to please the client, many design professionals will just go ahead and start making the requested changes such as making the logo bigger, the font smaller, the design brighter and so forth. But if these changes aren’t going to help your client reach their end goal, or if they will sacrifice the quality of the project, it’s important to ask why. This will help you better understand where your client is coming from and if the change is really necessary.

10. Welcome feedback throughout the project.

It’s a smart idea to give your clients the opportunity to give you feedback at various points during the design process. This prevents them from getting a finished product that is entirely different from what they first imagined. Present clients with moodboards, wireframes and sections of the design so that they can get familiar with what the end project is going to look like. Plus, if the client just isn’t happy with the design, it’s much easier to work backwards when you only have a small part of the design done.

In the end, it’s important to include your clients in the design process and provide them with ample opportunities to give you meaningful feedback. This strengthens the client-designer relationship and helps the project get off on the right foot. Build feedback time into your schedule so that you have time to touch base with the clients at different intervals. This will help you stay on track with a reasonable timeframe while feeling confident that you’re delivering something that your client will be excited about.

Like this article? Read more like it…