Giving feedback is easy, all you need is a point of view. Giving feedback is rarely focused with adequate constraints, and so it leaves us free to cherry-pick whatever comes to mind.
Giving effective feedback is an entirely different matter. Particularly when someone is working on a project for you, and you are responsible for making sure it goes in the right direction.
Is your feedback guiding the project to its main objectives? Or, are you just saying things because they feel important to you? Is it timely? Can it wait? Should it have been brought up earlier in the process?
Effective feedback is an art form.
As a digital agency that has worked on over 250 website project builds, we know that feedback is essential. As much as we back the talents of our team when it comes to producing slick and polished websites, we’ve always advocated for collaboration.
Only through genuine collaboration and a thorough shake-down by our clients and their end-users can we truly say that we’ve landed on the right outcome.
So from our experience, here are four feedback areas to address the next time you undertake a web design project with your agency (note: this can also be applied to website projects that are undertaken internally):
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1. Did your agency deliver on what they said they were going to?
This is straightforward. Did they fulfill the commitments from the previous meeting? Or better yet, what was written in the scope of work?
Did you receive all the artifacts? Was it on time?
Hold your agency accountable to these, first and foremost. The only executable exceptions you should make are:
- If your agency delivers MORE than what was promised (in which case, hooray!)
- If there was an alternative way to deliver, which allowed your agency to better communicate the idea of the design
- If a dependency for that delivery fell through (e.g. perhaps your agency needed access to a photo library from your business and it wasn’t received)
2. Assess the visual design
There is a strong likelihood that you will gravitate to look & feel like a first step. And your views will often come from an instinctual place. A gut feels, so to speak.
It’s not wrong to trust your gut, but it is subjective. As a way of removing some of the subjectivity of this approach, consider getting a quick consensus among your customers/end-users and your peers via a 5-second test survey.
There are also other ways to consider the visual design outcome:
- Is it on brand?
(Note: a common caveat to this is when design decisions prioritise website usability and conversion over the brand, which can impact things like colors and layout. It’s a balancing act that any agency worth their salt will help you achieve)
- Is it congruent with previous discussions?
(e.g. Perhaps your agency delivered a mood board prior to the designs. Do you feel like the designs have interpreted the mood board correctly?)
- Does it feel different?
- Does it feel memorable?
3. Assess the usability
Usability relates to the ease of use and learnability of your website. More specifically, how easily they can achieve what they set out to do (e.g. access relevant information, make an inquiry, make a purchase, sign up as a member, etc.).
From a usability perspective, the age-old proverb that “good design goes unnoticed” often rings true. Your website’s visitors ideally should be able to perform their tasks without their attention being pulled by the design elements of your website.
Usability tests are a great way to get feedback. They’re even better when performed with real end-users. In lieu of that, performing these tests by yourself or with your internal team
can still provide valuable insight.
4. Assess the edge-cases
Some common edge-cases to consider:
- Text on the page – e.g. What if I needed to write more content in this section of the website. Will that impact the designs?
- Choice of imagery – e.g. How likely is it that alternative imagery will be used, once the website goes live? Will this impact the designs?
- Responsiveness – e.g. How will this layout look on a smaller device?
Agencies are trying to impress you and convince you of the merits of their concept designs. And so quite often, the designs of websites are showcased in the best-case scenario. Keeping the edge cases in mind when providing feedback may help prevent any nasty surprises further along in the process.
And finally, avoid this common pitfall…
Ideas can sometimes come to us further along in the process. Some can be minor, like a clever piece of copy, others are more substantial, like a new piece of functionality.
To avoid scope creep, suggestions for new functionality should be scrutinised before they are briefed to the agency. Sometimes, going by gut feeling or doing things because “it’s common practice” aren’t sufficient reasons on their own.
So consider, do you believe this new idea (or a new piece of functionality) will benefit the project’s commercial objectives, like increasing conversions?
Ideas should be rooted in purpose, and having this additional lens over your ideas may help you keep costs down and ensure your agency will deliver your project on time.
If you’re unsure, have an open discussion with your agency. Decide together whether the idea or functionality could be phased in at a later stage and make a point to understand if there will be any redesign/rework required.
- Did your digital agency deliver on what they said they were going to?
- Assess the visual design
- Assess the usability
- Assess the edge-cases
Bonus. Avoid common pitfalls