Feedback is an absolutely vital part of any project. Without regular checks to make sure you’re on course, you could accidentally end up miles away from where you had planned to and needed to be. These kinds of errors can be nipped in the bud early though, though carefully planning a schedule and structure for feedback and iteration.
A System For Success
I’m going to break down how I manage feedback with my design clients.
It all starts early on when a precedent is set on how often we will be discussing significant updates; this will usually be weekly. During this weekly session, we’ll run through the work and the decisions that have been made. Then open the floor for any questions, comments or ideas. By keeping things time-boxed in this manner, you save more time for focus and allow a consistent rapport to build that (if you’re doing a good job) people will look forward to every week.
That’s not to say that all feedback happens weekly though, this scheduled meeting is just for the major updates and changes. The rest of the time, you should still make sure that your clients and customers know you are always available for ideas and thoughts by Slack or email. Keeping these sporadic thoughts in asynchronous communication apps means that there isn’t a distraction or break in work for every little thing. They are absolutely essential though, to making you sure get the diversity of thought needed to make something great.
Every good relationship has boundaries, and the exchange between you and your clients is no different. When it comes to feedback, if you always set the stage correctly; the results will be great. But if you don’t, things can spiral into chaos pretty quickly.
So make sure that when you present your work, you open the door for opinions and new perspectives; but also put in place guidelines to help steer things in the right direction.
These guidelines are best set in the foundation of what the customer wants. Because by working with the customer at the core, the results will be the best they can be; and it also means there’s always a “point of truth” to use as a frame for what we do.
Having these rules and reference points means feedback becomes less personal for both parties, and the chances of hurt feelings are reduced significantly. That’s another thing to keep in mind during rounds of feedback. The emotions and thought processes of others (both on the client and provider side). Always be mindful that there is a person behind the questions, comments or ideas. So be nice!
Now that we know that we need boundaries, to keep things locked on solving the problems at hand. Here is a list of the 5 main rules I try and stick to in the feedback for my own projects:
- Keep the customer first.
- Be clear and concise.
- Remember to respect the people you’re talking to.
- Always have a “final” decision-maker on both sides.
- Question everything.
Always Ask Why
The fifth and final rule I mentioned above as part of my boundaries is an important one. No matter the feedback, positive or negative; always be questioning if you’re solving the problem in the best way you can. This can usually be boiled down to responding to basically everything with one question:
While it may seem like an infantile line of reasoning. This question can uncover new ideas and perspectives, weed out feedback that won’t be actioned (usually because it’s subjective, rather than objective), and make sure our approach is perfect for the people we are helping.
Feedback is great for professional growth, learning about your craft, and how to make sure your work always hits the mark. And while that’s great, we actually need to take action on the things we learn during these feedback rounds. It’s important to remember, that once you’re out of that meeting; that feedback isn’t set in stone and needs to be checked further before it is actioned.
Let me explain.
While an average designer would just take the changes and feedback and then blindly follow them, we’re better than that.
So make sure that you are always using the same critical eye and questions we discussed above to iterate and improve on the solutions you come up with, to be the best they can be. This is how you show your clients and customers you truly “get it” and ultimately, delight all parties.
I’ve kept this article pretty short, and to the point, so you can spend more time iterating and gathering new perspectives on your work.
So go. Now. Do that.
Don’t create in a silo, cut off from the world. Every opinion is an opportunity to improve.